A friend of mine recently dropped out of graduate school. He was studying to be a physician assistant. School was eating all his time, so he didn’t have time for art—not for creating it or for enjoying it. Now, that is not actually why he dropped out of school, but it’s worth noting that, for some people, the actual job they’re putting exhausting amounts of work into might have involved the same limits. If it had turned out to be his passion, that would have been something he could have figured out how to deal with. And apparently the job would’ve entailed considerably more free time, once he got through the schooling. But for Just a Job, he was going to be much happier with the kind of Boring Office Job that has been vilified in Hollywood for decades.
Personally, I’m on disability (which is why I spend so much time hyping my Patreon and Ko-fi!), which theoretically means I have all the time in the world for art. In practical terms, you know, I have children. But my partner works retail. He’s fortunate enough to work forty-hour weeks, plus being in the Army Reserves, and that’s enough to have actually bought a roof for over our heads instead of renting. And you know, working in receiving sure isn’t his passion. But when he’s done with his forty hours, plus one weekend a month, he’s done. One of the selling points of this house to us was that it came with a studio, where he can hide and do his art.
The fact is, a lot fewer people are really able to follow a passion in their employment than Hollywood seems to believe. And I think that’s because, you know, screenwriting is a passion. I’m willing to bet that every screenwriter who’s ever written someone who hates their job and wants to do anything but that job is a screenwriter who hates their job and wants to quit and write movies full-time. And you know, that’s understandable. It’s just that a lot of people don’t really mind having those kinds of jobs.
The fact is, even if we move away from a system where everyone has to have a job, we still have a lot of jobs that have to get done. Somebody’s got to do tech support, as the last year has made abundantly clear. Graham and his fellow receiving clerks have been dubbed Essential Workers. (A year ago, he was installing appliances, and let’s be real that’s something you don’t want to stop having available.) A bunch of my friends work in grocery stores in one way or another. These are jobs we need, jobs someone has to do. But I wouldn’t say any of my friends are exactly passionate about them.
But you know, in the Before Time, my partner and I were able to afford to go to the movies pretty regularly, and the thing mostly standing in our way was childcare. We own a bunch of movies on disc. I own well over a thousand books (accumulated over decades, and often bought used or received as gifts, but still). Today or tomorrow, I have to pick up some sewing I had framed, that I’d made myself, and I’m hoping to frame some of my partner’s paintings as time goes. Most of this is financed by my partner’s working a job he doesn’t really care about.
Oh, yes, it’s true that it was also for quite some time financed by his working a job he hated. Hated so much. And I don’t want to claim that all jobs are good. We met working at a call center, and not only was that not the passion of pretty much anyone working there, pretty much everyone working there hated it. It was an awful, soul-sucking job. It’s the last job I worked before being determined to be disabled, and one of the few joys of being disabled is that I’ll never have to work a job like that again.
Yet it’s not one of the jobs you tend to see in Hollywood media about terrible jobs. Mostly what you see is the Boring Office Job. However, half the people I was working with were hoping like crazy to end up in a Boring Office Job. It would have paid better. It almost certainly wouldn’t have had actively abusive supervisors. And the thing about a truly awful job is that you can’t leave it at work, because you’re dealing with the stress even when you’re not there. You never fully relax.
In a way, that’s part of why Office Space has a happy ending. Yes, Peter’s job is full of petty annoyances—imagine working in a call center with someone with that chipper phone voice—but where he’s really happiest is not being unemployed. It’s having a job with no responsibility, once he leaves work. He’s outside in the fresh air. No one’s yelling at him. Presumably he only has one boss. It’s work that a lot of people wouldn’t enjoy, and a lot of people would say he’s Wasting His Potential. But he’s happy.
Let me conclude by linking you to a song I grew to love, back when I still had a job. Enjoy!