Like most every other human around, work sucks at the moment. Day after day it feels like death by a thousand cuts. The thing I always respected about my job was that it was something I could ignore. Punch in, do the work, punch out and go home. It was breezy and stress free. I knew full well my job didn’t matter and I’d be replaced by machines in sub five years, but that was fine, I’d be gone by then. Increasingly since the merger, more systems and procedures have been put in place that’ve micromanaged my day to day and needlessly complicated things. With dwindling autonomy, I’m beyond ready to leave the job I already wanted to leave two years back. So far the opportunities I’ve gone for have all come back blank. I know things will get better eventually, but for now it feels like I’m gonna be here in ten years with every day being that same shade of mediocre or worse. Barrel of monkeys, it ain’t.
The last job I had before leaving home was as part of a fascinating project. I was digitising and cataloguing a massive archive of National Radio content. It’d all been recorded onto open reel tape and cassette. I’d port the content into a computer, then go through and export each individual show as a separate file. While the duties of the job itself remained the same, the material would vary wildly. Recordings would differ in audio quality and clarity of content. Early recordings were some professor recording the radio haphazardly and left no record of what was on each tape. So I’d have to sleuth them. Going to the library and looking up old radio schedules. Listening out for snippets of time checks, familiar hosts’ voices, or world events we’d be able to date by pouring over Google News archives from the 60s forward. Even when it was difficult, it was fascinating. My boss was this lovely old guy who’d dedicated his life to audio technology and preservation techniques. He was so patient and wise, always happy to explain something no matter how many times it took to sink in. Very sharp thinker. He was the life of that archive and so passionate about what he did. I remember him sadly remarking to me once that he couldn’t bring himself to retire, since there were very few people in the country who’d be knowledgeable enough to continue his work after he’d gone. He wanted to hold on long enough to do everything he possibly could so future generations would have access to the wealth of material.
I had this dream last night that felt all too real. Like, nobody had the head of a fish or overabundant limbs or anything. I’d left my job and returned home to New Zealand, tail (metaphorical only) between my legs. Rather than spending time with friends or loved ones, I went straight out to find a new job, picking up where I left off. I went straight to my old boss to see if there were any projects he’d need a hand with. He told me that once I’d left they couldn’t find anyone to take on the VCR project he’d hoped I would’ve picked up, so he’d be able to put me straight on that. I gratefully took him up on the offer and started straight away. I got into a rhythm and soon enough months had passed and my old normal became my new normal. I’d always liked the job and time away hadn’t diminished it at all. My boss though, seemed less animated than he had last time around. Less passion and more feverish working late into the night. I became worried that he wasn’t doing so well and made a point of checking in on him regularly. He said he was fine, but things really seemed off. I continued plugging away at my work, but with a nagging feeling at the base of my brain.
I looked up an old co-worker who’d helped us out on the project. Wonderful older woman who’d had endless amazing, fascinating life experiences. She said that a week after I’d left, my boss’s wife had passed away without warning. He’d taken it hard and his grief had transitioned to workaholism. He’d been throwing himself into trying to finish whatever he could before he too passed and his knowledge died with him. He hadn’t even been leaving the office recently. I went back to work, took one step in the door and begun sobbing uncontrollably. I woke up trembling and all day I’ve been unable to shake it from my mind. I know it was just a dream, but I can’t get rid of this sense that it wasn’t.