Of late it’s become increasingly difficult for me to picture myself climbing the corporate ladder as set out by the prescribed formula for normal life. Ever since I finished studying, I find more and more people trying to dictate to me which path I should choose to find happiness, and to be honest – I’m quite sick of it. I have to state plainly that at the heart of the matter, I am an artist – and that is a problem.
These days my life is comprised of looking at a computer screen for 8 hours a day (and more when I am required to work late), after which I trek home on two taxis if they are still in operation after 6:30pm – I have walked home on occasion, a full two hours. When I arrive home I seldom have the energy or will to work on my artistic projects. The office has allowed me little time to accomplish my goals.
Most people see nothing wrong with this Babylon lifestyle and actually encourage living inside the rat race no matter how screwed the system is. I suppose I feel somewhat like Thomas Anderson, scratching away at that proverbial splinter in my mind – but the madness won’t seem to disappear; perhaps it’s because there’s no method to it. They always say you should work at entry level for a minimum of one year doing someone’s dirty work, just so that you can tick work experience off on your CV – the things we do to be normal.
When I was a full-time musician, I craved stability and a fixed income (perhaps this was because everyone was telling me to get that 9-5, be like everyone else you know) – now I just want to escape all the dullness. Week in, week out it’s the same thing – I can almost bet what email will be in my inbox first thing tomorrow morning and from who.
Please understand that I have no delusions about a life in the arts, but my pursuit thereof is something I cannot simply disregard in the way someone would when changing jobs and in so doing, changing directions. I do however think that corporate workers are under some kind of messed up delusion that deems it okay to get stepped on by a man with shiny shoes. It is with this in mind that I have titled this piece Living in Two Worlds, one in the corporate and one in the artistic. Below are some examples of what I think is wrong and why I think suppression of individualism in the workplace is a load of hogwash.
Dekat TV Shoot
Two weeks ago I took off early at work to attend a shoot for KykNet’s Dekat magazine TV show, where the cast of Skalie Skinnerstories Tref Stoffontein (the musical that we took to the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival in April) was recorded for a piece that will be aired sometime in July. On said day, I had planned to leave work early at around 1pm – everything was arranged with my superiors. In a fashion characteristic of corporate culture, about half an hour before I had planned to leave – a pile of unforeseen work was dumped on my team members and I. Needless to say, I did not make my 1pm mark; but I was fortunate enough to have caught a taxi promptly and happened to arrive just in time at the shoot venue.
Two Fridays ago I was called into the boardroom to discuss my affinity for wearing the wife beater vest to work, which was deemed inappropriate (granted that casual clothing is the norm at my office and that female employees are not reprimanded for displaying cleavage – perhaps the frequency in which cleavage is displayed is too inconsistent to justify a disciplinary scenario).
I had jokingly started wearing the wife beater to work for three consecutive Wednesdays and unbeknownst to me, management had an issue with this. A colleague had christened my midweek ritual Wifebeater Wednesday and management was alarmed that my display of manliness would catch on amongst my co-workers. I had almost started an epidemic it seemed. My supervisor assured me that she had no problem with my wife beater, but that it ran the risk of destroying the office’s corporate culture. In that case I recommended implementing Birthday Suit Friday as a fitting alternative. This was not amusing.
Last week Wednesday I’d overheard a conversation at the lunch table wherein two of my colleagues expressed their interest in joining the Wife Beater Wednesday epidemic (as predicted by my supervisor), before discovering that it had sorely and prematurely been shut down. Another colleague then expressed his disdain for any such initiative.
Social Life, What Social Life?
On the same Friday when Wifebeater Wednesday was shut down, a good friend of mine whom I’d studied marketing with invited me to catch up with her over some drinks. We’d initially schedule the meetup for 6:3opm that evening. Guess what? It didn’t happen.
You see, my friend works for one of South Africa’s largest fast moving consumer goods retailers and she was pressed to finish a deadline that evening. She was recruited straight out of university by said company on a recommendation by the lecturers.
In today’s economic climate it is foreseeable that bosses working employees to the bone is a staple of corporate culture and after all, companies aim to cut corners and expenditures wherever possible. This would include recruiting interns to work for free, paying employees less than what they’re worth and assigning four or more job specifications to one individual if possible (as is the case with my supervisor – who is technical officer, publications manager, product manager, HR manager and sometimes even content editor).
Do I see this lifestyle as my own for the next 30 – 40 years? No. So why do people insist on telling me what I should be doing, with MY LIFE!