Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2023/ Work Lifeless

As I write this I have had my job for about two months. As I write this I am also exhausted. That is no surprise; I spend a lot of time exhausted these days, especially when I am not at work.

It may take me a few days to write out my thoughts and feelings about work, but maybe it will be worthwhile. I am still under an NDA, which I continue to take extremely seriously. Thus I can't say much about work itself, but I can (I hope) write a few things about how work has affected me and what my life is like now.

Sleep Schedule

This has been the biggest surprise for me. I have been a night owl for decades, and had real fears I could handle a job with normal working hours. Fortunately my hours are not quite 9-5, but they are close, and given that I routinely used to sleep in until 2pm, I was worried.

I am still not a morning person, but my sleep schedule has shifted dramatically. I used to stay up all night; now I am tired by 10pm and wiped out by 11pm. I used to be able to sleep through the morning despite house noises from my housemates; now my body wakes up when they wake up. I used to be able to sleep through the afternoon; now my body won't let me sleep past 10am no matter how tired I am. It is uncanny how my body has shifted. I still don't understand it.

Honestly, I miss being able to stay awake at night, especially on warm summer evenings after the mosquitoes have died down. Walking around town or cycling empty streets at 3am is really peaceful and relaxing, and I miss it.

Sleep is super-important these days. There are marked differences to how well I function when I get five hours of sleep vs six hours of sleep vs seven hours of sleep vs eight hours of sleep, and yet I am not getting enough sleep on enough nights. An inability to function well makes my work days even more difficult. A few times I have gone to work after five hours of sleep, and those have been disastrous.

Shadow Work

On weekdays, I estimate that I get 3-4 hours a day (at best!) to do non-work things. Usually I am at work for eight hours (and sometimes more). It takes me about 90 minutes to commute back and forth. Every morning I have to wake up and shower, and many days I have to shave. (Incidentally? Shaving sucks. I have never shaved regularly before and I dislike it.) Before going to bed I have to lay out my clothes for the next day and prepare my lunch.

I suppose cooking dinner is not directly related to work, but preparing food takes time too. With all that there is not a lot of time left for doing other things, so I have dropped most everything.

Sometimes I resent this. But millions of people hold down full-time jobs and have families and don't complain. But I have not held a full-time job since 1996 for a reason, and I am finding the adjustment really difficult.

Goodbye Pasttimes

Many of the pasttimes I had during my unemployment were stupid, and I am best to be rid of them. But I miss other things. Some of the things I have dropped since working include:

Bike Stress

Because I am commuting to the office, I need transportation, and for me transportation consists of my bicycle(s). It is comedic just how stressful it has been to get a single reliable bike so that I can make it to work each day. As I write this I have one (1) bike that works out of three (3) that I own. Something will break on one bike, and then I fix it, and then something breaks on another.

I am rich now, so maybe the right thing to do is throw money at this problem and get a brand new bicycle. I am not at that point yet, but I have spent more on bike parts and supplies this year than I have ever done before.

This, of course, is one common reason poor people stay poor. They get a job, but then cannot get to their job reliably, and thus get fired. I do not want that happening to me.

Money Stress

Now that I am rich, I should not be worrying about money any more. But boy howdy is inflation doing a number on me. As I wrote earlier I do not want my spending to get out of control, and I am failing miserably. Emotional eating is often costing me five dollars a day, which is ridiculous. I feel stressed about money almost all the time (and buying bike parts has not helped). I was taking extra money out of the bank when I first got the job so I would be able to stock up on work-related expenses (good clothes, primarily). I have made pitifully few of those purchases, but the extra money I took out has still evaporated.

On the other hand, I am rich, and so in some abstract sense I understand that as long as I am working I will be able to afford rent and even food. That is a huge relief. Money does not solve all problems but it solves a lot of them. I complain about inflation but I do not know how people on OW or ODSP are managing, and I do not know how I would have been managing if I had not lucked out with this job.

Time Stress

There is the stress of having reduced personal time, and also the stress of time at work. Eight hours seems like a huge block of time, and it is, but the workday passes quickly, and all too often I look back at how little I have accomplished, and I despair. Meanwhile there are deadlines looming and I do not know whether I can meet them.

The funny thing is that for the most part I am staying focused at work and not goofing off, at least for now. Anxiety eats away at some of my attention but I am putting in an honest effort to work while I am at work, and it is not good enough.

The weekends are another story. Sometimes I have to do work things on the weekends and that makes me grumpy, because I feel I give a lot of time to work as it is. 40 hours per week feels like so much time to me. But it is not helpful for me to be stingy with my time either.

Because I am trying to hold on to bike rides on Sundays, I am cramming most of my home life (shopping, cleaning) into Saturdays. That makes the week seem even longer and more packed.

There are a bunch of small errands I want to run (including making a single printout!) and I have not made the time to do so because my workday uses almost all the hours businesses are open. In principle I can sometimes shift work hours to make time for appointments, but in practice that would mean working extra hours in the evenings.

Because I only have a few hours to myself, if I make one mistake like falling down a Twitter hole then my evening is shot and I will have gotten nothing done on the personal side of life.

Falling Apart

I am barely holding on, honestly. I am trying to put up a brave face at work (and not really acknowledging that I am falling apart to the people in power) but I do not know how much longer I can keep this up. My hope is that taking vacation days off will help, and that things will get more manageable as I learn the rhythms and expectations of my new position.

I knew that anxiety would be a factor when I was working, but it has been overwhelming. At least twice a day I feel overwhelmed enough that I have to take a break and walk around (and usually eat junk food).

Speaking of junk food: I am eating pretty much all day, and that has had a bad effect on my weight and my health. Again, this is an anxiety reaction. I do not know how many pounds I will gain thanks to this job but it will be considerable.

All of this anxiety is my own fault and I know it, but that does not help. In principle the company has good policies that should bring my anxiety levels down a little, but in practice I do not know how well those policies actually apply, and I know full well that I am on probation.

Unlike when I was unemployed, this job provides good mental health benefits. If I wanted I could probably see a therapist without having to pay much. But I am burned out on therapy and I don't feel I have either the time or the mental space to carve out for doing that kind of emotionally-draining work. It makes me quite angry. I have to find some way to curtail the emotional stress of work if I want to keep this job, and I do not know what that will be.

The fact that this job is permanent makes it difficult. Other jobs (in particular teaching) are also quite packed and stressful, but when I was teaching sessionals I knew that my contract would be over in four months (and believe you me I counted down the days). That does not work for this job. In principle I could set a target in my head for how long I want to work here and then count down from that, but that is not a good strategy either. This job is not a stepping stone to something better; it is a lifeline so I can pay my expenses.

I am desperately trying to hold on to a few hobbies and rituals. Primary among them are KWLUG and my Sunday bike rides. I do not know whether I will be able to keep the latter up, because I cannot afford to be tired on Mondays. Nonetheless I continue to try for now, even though giving up Sunday bike rides and stretching out my home duties over two days is probably wiser.

Being Rich

I never had much solidarity for the poor, but I can feel whatever I had left evaporating. This is not good.

Paying taxes feels strange. A large fraction of my paycheque goes to the government now. Everyone I have talked to is convinced that putting money into an RRSP is ethical, but I am still not sure. Some part of this calculation has to do with how long I expect I will be able to keep this job. If it is a short-term thing then I should maximize my RRSP contributions and keep as much money as I can, because there won't be more where that came from. Otherwise maybe I should not care. As usual I am leaning towards immorality, and putting a significant but not maximal amount of money in my RRSP.

I still behave like a Poor in many ways. I do not want to give those ways up, because there is a good chance I will become a Poor again, but some of my habits are clearly bad.

I have not been generous with my money and I am not sure I will be. I am planning to make a few larger donations, but I still feel stingy and under money stress.

Whenever I make a bad financial decision I excuse it on the basis that I am rich now. That is a bad habit to get into.

It is a big problem that rich people never think of themselves as rich. At best they classify themselves as "comfortable". I sense that I am falling into that trap, although this early into my new job I feel far from "comfortable".

Although I am rich I will likely never be able to afford to buy a house or other property. It is likely that I will continue to rent rooms in other people's houses for the rest of my days. That feels strange to me, but at least I ought to be able to afford to rent shared rooms as long as I am working.


For the most part, my job is a good job and I am lucky to have it. That is part of the problem. I don't think I could get a better job than this. I did not look for work as intensely as I could have (because I despise looking for work) but none of the other places I applied to went any further than a phone screening (and there were only a handful of those). Somehow (including via some fortunate accidents) I landed a position with the following qualities:

I am not going to say that this is my dream job, or even that I will ever see it more than "just a job". I would like to do work, and it would be nice if the company was successful, but at the end of the day I am there to trade my labour for money.

In some sense these are the golden handcuffs. How can I expect to do better? I had no reason to expect that I would ever be able to work again, never mind that I could get a nice position like this.

Eventually, this job will end. If it ends suddenly or under bad circumstances, I do not know what I will do. If I am lucky I will have built up some buffer, but I do not know that I can ever find anything better. If I leave because I am too ill to work then I am certainly sunk.

I try not to think too much about the nightmare of other jobs, or of having to look for work. When I think about how precarious my situation remains, I get panicky, and then I struggle more.

Life Under Capitalism

I have not worked for a capitalist company since 1996 (which, incidentally, is the last time I held full-time work). There are some things that are unsurprising about this move, and some things that come at a great culture shock.

This is getting close to NDA territory, so I can't say too much, but one thing that I have lost all perspective on is money. I have no idea what money means, and what constitutes a large amount of money vs a small amount. I have in my head conceptions of what a large amount of money is for my personal expenses, and they do not map onto the business world well at all. I look at my salary, and I look at some of the business expenses this company pays to get its work done, and my head spins. When thinking about work-related purchases I have to explicitly ask others "is this a large amount of money?" All too often, the answers are a surprise.

This is worrying. I cannot let these business conceptions of what money means infect my personal finances, because sooner or later I will not have this job. I am not doing a great job of it (and inflation does not help) but my goal is to keep my spending habits around the same level they were before I was hired, and to jack up my savings instead. But wow is this a different perspective.

I understand that capitalist businesses need to be competitive, and there are ways this comes up in the work environment. I understand this but cannot dwell on it, because it makes me crazy. Instead I am trying to focus on the work. If the work gets done then I hope we are okay; if it doesn't then my guess is that we are in trouble.

In-Person vs Online

Most of the people at my company work from home, which means I get a large, sparsely-populated office to work in. For the sake of my COVID-anxieties I am grateful for this. (I am still masking at work, which makes me look like a freak. Also I hate hate hate the waste involved with taking a brand new N95-style mask to work each day.)

There are a handful of other people who work in the office regularly, and then a bunch more who show up from time to time. Just like all the business leaders proclaimed, thus far there has been something different about my in-person interactions. For the most part I have bonded better with these co-workers and feel I know them better.

I have interacted with some people via text communications (emails, group chats) and some people via videoconferences. To some extent I have gotten to know these people but not that well.

I am generally not a fan of phatic speech (aka idle chit-chat) but it seems to make a real difference in human connection, and it comes much more easily in person than via other forms of communication. As we are waiting for some process to finish I will chat with an in-person corrrespondent in a way that rarely happens during a videoconference and almost never happens via textual communication. I don't like this, because I am still afraid of COVID and I want people to continue working safely and effectively from home. I want those who can work from home to do so indefinitely even if the pandemic is over; that will reduce commuting stress, make giant parking lots less necessary, and give people back some of their time.

I think it is possible to build some of that trust and human connection via group chat and video conference, but we have to be intentional about it. Mostly when people meet via video conference they want to get right to the point, because they are busy people and want to get back to work. But if we are not intentional about forming those trust connections then they wither away, and then our work becomes less effective, not more. Similarly, in group chats I think it is important to have off-topic conversations (maybe dedicated in separate channels) and we should not punish people for using them.

For the most part people at my workplace have been friendly, but I have still felt intimidated to approach them with workplace stuff, and I am wary of asking dumb questions that will waste their time. This is not good, because then I am losing the opportunity to connect with them and they are not learning the degree to which I can be trusted. Especially when people are first hired, I think it is important to spend a bunch of synchronous, interactive time with people in the company to get to know them. My company has tried to do this (and certainly the first few weeks were an avalanche of new faces) but I am not sure it is enough.


I do not know whether I am happy to be working. But I am grateful that I have work, and I am grateful that it is structuring my days, and I am grateful that I am accumulating money in the bank rather than plundering it.

I am grateful that my coworkers have been nice so far. I am grateful that I somehow landed a job at what seems like a decent company (although who knows what my opinion will be a year from now).

I am grateful I can accumulate some buffer before I have to move and my rent goes up dramatically.