I find my life boring. I like to watch movies or play video games where people do exciting things and go on adventures, but when I compare it to how I live my life, I find it very depressing. I'm a software engineer at a big company, but honestly most days I just browse the internet. I stay fairly late so it looks like I'm working hard, and then I go home. I'm single, and sometimes I go on Tinder dates, but nothing ever seems to pan out. And honestly, some of those dates are as boring as my job. 

I'm starting to get depressed. Is this all there is? 

This reminds me of my first job.

I worked in a huge cube farm. The office had once been a mall, but someone had gone and ripped out all the stores so there were cubes as far as the eye could see. Each cube was a dull blue grey, a color that seemed designed to drive your mind into a state of depression. There were windows, but only higher ups and managements got to sit near them. Most of us were stuck in the middle of this monotony. Occasionally, someone would put up a poster, or a lava lamp, or a huge collection of beanie babies but for the most part, one area was the same as another.

As I sat in this cube farm, I was forced to confront a horrifying possibility; maybe my whole life had been a mistake. I had worked so hard to perform well in the maths and sciences, in part because I was a woman and I wanted to prove that women could do math too. Or something. I had spent much of my high school years studying instead of socializing, I had gone to MIT and worked my ass off and... for what?

So I could be one of the very few women to work in this de-saturated monstrosity of an environment? I had thought I wanted what men had, but what men had turned out to be shit. Who would do this to themselves? Who would work here willingly? Why hadn't I just committed myself to having a bunch of babies, at least that would have felt... alive. This job just felt dead.

I was sitting complaining about it to a friend one day, and he turns to me and goes, "you know, you could quit." Somehow, the idea of quitting had never entered my mind. I had worked my whole life to excel at whatever I was doing, no matter how miserable or awful I found it, that it just wasn't in my nature to quit. But, he was right. I could quit. And I did.

And... things were better after that. I've worked many jobs, some that sucked a lot, but none were that boring ever again.

What I realized was, away from the monotony of work, you actually don't need things to be as exciting or a video game to feel meaningful. I think we jack up the intensity of our entertainment to compensate for the blandness of our corporate lives. This, in turn, further traps us because we convince ourselves my life could never be that exciting as that. But, when you're not bored out of your skull all the time, you don't need your life to be as exciting as a video game.

If you don't enjoy your life, you can change it. Truthfully, I think everyone fantasizes about this from time to time, but you could actually do it. It's possible, you just have to get outside the brain trap. You could go live in a monastery, or join the peace corps, or volunteer on one of those ethically questionable organic farms. You could live somewhere cheaper and work less, or find a commune, or whatever.

The trick is though, you have to seek out other people. If you go and move to a new city and you don't meet anyone, you will get lonely and depressed, and it will be the loneliness that drives you back to work. You have to find community to support you, and if you are religious or open to being religious, religious community is one of the most dedicated support structures I have found in the modern world. My Zen community has been one of the most supportive and stable communities in my life, but I'm sure there are secular structures that support this too—like volunteer work, for instance. What's important about volunteering though often isn't the volunteering it's meeting the other volunteers.

So, my advice is, get the fuck out. Find new people, people who are living lives you'd like to be living, and see how they did it and how you can join them.
Published on Wednesday April 4, 2018