I hate to say it, but the shine is off the apple. The fuzz is off the peach. The weird hairy stuff is off the rambutan. I’ve employed all of these common fruit-based metaphors here because I am hungry. And also to indicate that I’m having second thoughts about this whole environmental nonprofit thing.
I’ve been struggling to make ends meet. Scratch that. The ends…they are not meeting. Not even remotely. Plus, it’s winter, which means there are few opportunities to get out in the field. So, what I have is a part-time office job that doesn’t pay enough to meet my basic expenses. Living the dream!
In December, I was approached about applying for an office job that is nearly identical to the one I quit (after much hand wringing) just over a year ago. The pay is excellent and I am well qualified for the role. In my early euphoric days at the environmental nonprofit, I would have said no thanks, confident that I was pursuing a higher and more patchouli-saturated calling.
But last month, the idea was seriously compelling. Christmas was around the corner, and I was struggling to find room in my budget to buy all of the obligatory plastic doodads to put in stockings. So, I was vulnerable to the sweet siren call of a full-time, high paying office job.
My internal dialogue went like this: You know how poor you are right now? Well, here’s your chance to start buying loads of stuff again! Yay! But what about all that effort to transition from an office job to find meaningful work in the environmental sector? Meh. Your fancy environmental gig is really just an underpaid office job. And if you’re going to work in an office job, why not one that pays? True, but what about flexibility and doing work that makes a difference? Sorry, was looking at this jacket. What were you going on about?
I really couldn’t argue with my logic, so I went in for an informational interview.
I rode the elevator up to the office and thought about the joys of working in a luxury building featuring heat and reliable plumbing. I was ready to be done using a staff bathroom employing the Mellow Yellow system of water conservation. What about back splash, people?
When I got off the elevator, I was all ready to blow my potential boss. Away, that is. With my skills and experience and smiling. But as I walked through the office, I got a familiar sinking feeling. The entire floor was uncomfortably quiet. Everyone was squirreled away in their cubicles, heads down, tapping away on their computers. The whole place felt sterile and lifeless. I’d worked so hard to get away from that kind of atmosphere, and yet here I was running right back into its familiar embrace.
I ended up having a perfectly nice informational interview. But when I got home, I couldn’t bring myself to write a cover letter. Over the course of the next month, I talked myself into and then out of the job at least 842 times. I would open up a document and start to type. But I never got past the first paragraph. When the application deadline passed, I was relieved.
I’ve got some changes to make (sigh) to bring my ideals in line with the reality of my spirit-crushing debt. However, that doesn’t mean skulking back to my old life. And I can cut coupons and wear burlap underwear until I figure it out.