Whoever said “the best things in life are free” probably didn’t have an insatiable need for books and annual rent increases. Though the sentiment is certainly true—friendship, family, love, and all the things that make life worth living don’t cost money—the rest of the stuff that we basically need to survive does. That means most of us have to get a job and be a productive member of society. Sometimes—no, a lot of the times, those jobs aren’t very fun. You don’t have any privacy, you maybe get two weeks of vacation that your boss never wants you to take, and your cubicle mate makes maddening small talk. But you gotta start somewhere, and very rarely do you start with your dream job.
I worked my way through college, and even some of high school, so I have had my fair share of employment, and I can’t exactly rave about the experience. I’ve worked through the holidays. I’ve been yelled at by someone who wanted a McDonald’s coffee—while I was working at Starbucks. I’ve literally cleaned a customer’s poop off of a bathroom wall. Needless to say, I’ve developed some resilience and honed a few techniques for getting through some bummer work days.
1. Listen to music.
The She & Him Christmas album got me through many cranky customer phone calls this holiday season. I recommend making playlists for those never-ending days when you just want to tune out the world, and plugging in at your desk whenever possible. What if you work in retail, you ask, and you can’t play your own music? Make playlists for your breaks, and your journey to and from work. Even these interstitial moments can be enough to pump you up or help you shake it off.
2. Find a work buddy.
Having someone to vent to who is experiencing similar frustrations is important, and it can be the best medicine. Disclaimer: Do try and stay out of as much office gossip as possible. Take it from a pro, “unloading” can go wrong, and you want to be careful about what you share with a colleague (like your salary or how you really feel about your boss) unless you know you can trust them 110%. You don’t want this information to backfire, and you never want to be on bad or awkward terms with someone you have to see pretty much every day. Also, you’ve heard this before, but your work email is very likely being read so keep personal and work-related complaints off of there.
3. Treat yo’self!
Have to work on your birthday? Make sure to plan a dinner with friends to look forward to. Working overtime? Splurge on your favorite coffee to give you that extra energy you need. Just having one of those days? Start looking into your next vacation. Even if you can’t afford to take it for another nine months, studies show that we are never happier than when we are looking forward to a vacation. It doesn’t have to be an unaffordable trip to Santorini to be relaxing. A rental with friends, a weekend in a nearby city, the closest beach you can go to—get it on the calendar now, and remember that you deserve it.
4. Get a hobby.
Do you work to live or live to work? Everyone’s different, but a lot of us would answer: The former. Your job isn’t your whole life, so try to make time for other things that matter. Are you into comedy? Join an improv team. Do you love sports? Join a softball league. Do you paint? Do you garden? Are you super into baking? For me, it’s always been telling stories. I’m happiest when I’m creating, so I set aside about an hour a day to just write some of my ideas down, whether for short stories or scripts or simple journal entries. The possibilities are endless, but what is important to remember is that your job doesn’t have to define your life.
5. Remember, nothing is permanent!
This has been my mantra as of late and it’s been helping me get through all the adult tasks I’ve had to accomplish. We all have to start somewhere. Lucille Ball was known as the “queen of the B-movies” before she changed television forever. Julia Child couldn’t cook until she was 30. Oprah got fired from one of her first jobs as a TV anchor. Oprah got fired. That’s right, if you’re under 30 and have a job right now, you’re kind of one-upping Oprah.
If none of these suggestions help, then maybe it’s time to look for other work. The economy is slowly rebounding, and while I don’t suggest quitting in a dramatic Jerry Maguire-style huff, there’s likely less reason than you think to stay anywhere that you are truly miserable. It’s easier to find a job while you have a job, so look around, get the word out, and explore your options. And speaking of Oprah, I’ll leave you with a quote of hers to get you through another day: “Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.”
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