One of the traits that I notice about “working professionals,” or the people who dwell in cubicles, is that they have a curious pride in being under stress.
Talk to any cubicle dweller for long enough. You will inevitably hear them brag about all sorts of strange things, like how many unreasonable tasks they were asked to complete, how many hours they spent in their cubicle and how they burnt their free time in the said cubicle.
If cubicle dwellers were to form a single nation, they would probably be the most patriotic nation. Cubicle dwellers get particularly snooty about people who do physical labour.
If you tell a cubicle dweller that you do physical work and leave the paperwork to others, they will inevitably tell you that you have it easy.
My current employer, for example, likes to tell me that I have it easy because although I might strain myself in the sun, I get to go home and empty my mind whilst he continues to face all sorts of pressures.
He has often reminded people that he has spent half a decade begging me to study to get qualified for Cubicle Land, and I have refused.
It’s not that I am ungrateful for the stint I had there.
I needed a steady income to build CPF reserves, which helped pay for my home, and Kiddo was growing then.
But eventually, I bailed out.
It took a poor excuse of a human who engaged us in an assignment for me to understand that the “career riches” that Cubicle Land promised were not worth the drudgery—the time spent poring over what the awful creature wanted me to look through robbed me of the time I could have spent with Kiddo and my second income at the bistro. Being expelled from Cubicle Land was a happy moment.
Copyright Mike Kiev – Cubicle Land, a place people proudly go to in search of stress Cubicle Land Dwellers believe they are getting rich and take pride in the misery of their jobs. For me, the price wasn’t
Modern life, particularly in an urban jungle like Singapore, means that one inevitably needs to have some connection to Cubicle Land, and so I try to keep myself on its periphery.
I do what I need to do to justify earning my keep from Cubicle Land.
So, when the people of Cubicle Land need me to carry boxes and run errands, I do so with joy. I treat every trip to a construction site or a warehouse as a new journey of growth and discovery.
As mentioned before, one of the best experiences I ever had in Cubicle Land was an opportunity to work with the Ah-Peks-in-Shorts.
The experience of working with this group was an eye-opener. I got to know the people who make Singapore great – small-time traders with a nose for opportunity.
This was a group that didn’t need top-down corporate structures to function. They were individuals who came together, pooling their various skills to make their projects work. They looked after their people, and I grew to admire their thinking, which was free of constraints.
Cubicle Land is significantly less enjoyable – no, it is downright disgusting. The act of looking at documents and creating spreadsheets, which have no meaning otherwise, fills me with a sense of self-loathing.
It’s hard to explain to people who have come to see a standard office job as normal, but the “normalcy” of Cubicle Land frightens me.
It’s like this: when you hang out with the Ah-Peks-in-Shorts, you feel energised. Their mindset is about how to cut through the crap and maximise profits so that there’s more in the pie.
Hang out with Cubicle Land Dwellers, and the conversations are inevitably about how long they spend in their little part of Cubicle Land. I suppose that is logical when you consider that Cubicle Land Dwellers believe in being paid for the hours they spend looking at a screen regardless of whether there’s any profit for the person paying them.
But I can’t live in Cubicle Land forever. I acknowledge that I am close to the half-century mark, and with nothing to show for it, I need to generate things based on whatever I have. Staying beholden to Cubicle Land is comfortable, but it’s also the surest way for someone to be moaning on their deathbed about the things they wish they did.
A version of this article first appeared at beautifullyincoherent.blogspot.com