The worst jobs I’ve ever had have involved cubicles.
Cubicles are to humans what blinders are to horses. They block out all unnecessary distractions–things like the sun, the sky, and the air, so one can focus on the task at hand. Sort of like prison. Not many distractions there, except for fighting for one’s life, of course.
If your current job involves spending hours in a cubicle and you think that’s just delightful, this article is not going to help you much. However, if you’re tired of feeling like factory-raised livestock, here are five things I did to make the existence more bearable:
1) Fill your cubicle with candy and quirky toys to encourage your coworkers to visit. (Of course, you’re already crammed in what amounts to a beige cardboard box, so this tip is not for the claustrophobic.)
2) Get a pet fish. The fish is already in captivity, right? It won’t mind. And as you watch another live creature search desperately for a way out by swimming in circles, you will feel an odd sense of kinship.
3) Cover your cubicle walls with posters. You may be spending most of your days in a box, but no one said that box has to be beige.
4) Spend as much time as possible outside your confinement. Long lunches and short days? Inexplicable attacks of stomach flu? Might as well. And if you’re working at a place with cubicles, they probably have plenty of meetings. Freedom, blessed freedom! Oh, wait…actually, meetings aren’t that much fun. Scratch that last one.
5) Present a puppet show atop your cubicle wall to entertain your coworkers. (Yes, I really did this. Obviously I was on a fast track for promotion.)
If you’re the perceptive type and realize these suggestions will only provide a brief distraction from your misery, here’s how to brave the outside world and leave your cubicle behind for good.
1) Come up with a plan. What could you do that other people would happily pay you for? What gives you the most joy? (I’m willing to bet it doesn’t involve spending hours upon hours in a beige box.)
2) Save, save, save. Put aside at least six months of living expenses–maybe even a year’s worth or more in a bad economy, but be careful–this step can easily be a trap as well, because you’ll never have “enough” money to quit your job. No one does, unless they’re independently wealthy. And if you have a spouse and children to think about, clearly they have to be factored into your plan.
3) Start taking baby steps. You know that idea from point one? Begin putting it into practice, a step at a time, while you’re still gainfully employed. You are laying the foundation for your great escape. This is a test, so use this time wisely. Are you really happy doing this kind of work? Will people really pay you for it? If not, go back to step one. Just the fact that you are doing something will give you the momentum you need to move forward.
4) Get comfortable with your decision. Make pro and con lists. Discuss your plans with those closest to you, but be prepared for resistance from the risk averse. Take courses if need be. Make use of your benefits and credit as an employed person while you still can. You may want to take out a line of credit for emergencies (I said emergencies!). Make sure you have the insurance you’ll need once you lose your employee benefits.
5) Realize that no one is ever ready. Escaping your cubicle takes plenty of guts, but remember–someone once escaped Alcatraz. It can be done. There will be bumps along the road to freedom, but you’ll never regret it.
Life is too short to live in a cage.
This post is part of the April A-Z Blogging Challenge. If you’d like to see the list of participants or join in the fun, click here.