If you haven’t had the distinct displeasure of working in an office park, you probably don’t know the true meaning of dreary. In addition to sprawling concrete, speckled with the archaic gum blobs of 9:00-5:00-ers past, office parks tend to encompass more business casual and concentrated misery than your average plot of land. Second only to Azkaban’s crankiest clique of Dementors, it always seemed to me that office parks have the unparalleled ability to stifle the soul.
With soul-stifling in mind, working an office job simply didn’t have the same draw for me as being a journalist in the field or a columnist out of a coffee shop—careers that seemed attainable when I was choosing my major at 16. However, shortly after graduating with my journalism degree (regrettably, during a tough time for the industry), I had to work an office job or two to get by. Throughout the years, I’ve frequented my fair share of bland cubicles and windowless lunchrooms, and contrary to my predispositions, my soul remains very much intact. Office jobs have managed to take me—a flighty millennial with no real stake in the world around me—out of a constant state of transit, and it was only after I truly settled in that I could reap any rewards.
Here are my takeaways:
1. Office jobs forced me to slow down and give my full attention to the task at hand. They allowed me to work on bettering the skills I already had rather than being constantly distracted with propelling myself into what was next. By truly focusing on what was in my job descriptions, I realized what my strengths were and weren’t. This helped me to market myself better as a freelance writer down the road.
2. Being in an office environment taught me the importance of downtime. A definite perk of the 9:00-5:00 format is that you’re not meant to take the job home with you. Being able to fully exit work-mode gifted me occasion to enjoy moments with my family and friends, take up hobbies, and recharge a little bit every evening and weekend. I soon learned that, while I rejected the 9:00-5:00 day in theory, I still needed some semblance of work-life balance in order to deliver the best quality work possible to my clients.
3. Working office jobs taught me to live in the moment and stop expecting my life to start just around the corner. When I was fresh out of university and hunting for journalism jobs, I was always waiting for my big break—though I was unsure as to what that big break might look like or whether I’d have a big break at all. In hindsight, I realize that big breaks don’t always initially present as such, so waiting around for that *perfect* opportunity was counterproductive. Working office jobs forced me to derive value from the work at hand, rather than expecting to have value handed to me.
4. Office jobs built up my confidence. Even though the 9:00-5:00 grind wasn’t what I wanted for the rest of my life, in the moment, being valued at work was something I could take home with me every night and feel good about. For me, building confidence was an exercise in trusting my own competence, and office jobs helped me to achieve that.
5. Office jobs helped me to make room in my life for creativity. After working consecutive office jobs, I began to notice a creative void in my life. To rectify that, I began to read and write more in my spare time. I started free-writing on the notepad in my phone during lengthy commutes, and eventually (with much revising) those nonsensical musings began to resemble articles. Some of those articles even got published and played a part in jump starting my freelance career.
Conveniently, NBC’s The Office is my favorite show of all time. Amidst copious amounts of greige and button-down shirts, The Office taught me something important about work and life in general: What you take from your experiences, even the mundane ones, is entirely up to you.
There is so much to be said for working a job you don’t love. It humbles you and forces you to appreciate the small things that get you through the day, like snagging a rolly chair with decent lumbar support, an office Christmas party catered by Spring Rolls, a genuine giggle shared between desk neighbors, or a co-worker turned ally turned friend. Though it’s been over a year since I last worked an office job, I draw parallels between office work and being a working writer every day.
Being a writer has everything to do with the ability to find an intriguing vantage point when there isn’t an obvious one. Oftentimes, deciphering a unique story angle is about how you choose to view things, rather than what they initially present to be. Not every story begs to be written, much like how not every job is a dream job, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value to be found.