A man feels trapped in a life that he has been conditioned since birth to be a part of.
|Stuck in Life
By Jordan Messinger
As he woke, an overwhelming feeling of dread consumed his being. It was the same feeling that comes over someone when they realize that death is imminent. But it was not death that he feared, it was life. The life he had chosen, the life he had been handed.
He forced himself to get out of bed and walked over to the bathroom mirror and stared emptily at his own reflection. How could someone with so much promise feel so defeated? He was approaching the time in his life where he would finally be able to reap all the benefits of his hard work. Finally, he had reached the end of his twenty-years of formal education and started what promised to be a lucrative career in corporate America.
After several minutes in the bathroom, he returned to his bedroom and laid out his black pin striped suit on his bed. He rummaged through his closet and selected a nice white shirt that was badly wrinkled. He grabbed an ironing board and laid his shirt down on the board and began to iron the wrinkles from the shirt. As he began to iron, he found himself once again lost in thought. He pondered how it had come to this. Everything that he had been conditioned to strive for his entire life was finally here. And now, for the first time in his life, he realized that it was not what he really wanted. It was not going to make him happy. He wanted to make a real difference.
His thoughts were abruptly interrupted by the awful smell of burning cotton. He looked down and realized that he had burnt an iron shaped hole in the shirt he was attempting to iron. He instinctively grabbed the iron and unplugged it from the wall before it could ignite a fire. Frustrated, he grabbed a blue button down shirt and a navy blue tie from his closet and proceeded to get dressed. He briefly gazed at himself in the mirror, gave a sigh of approval and headed out the door.
He stopped at the coffee house at the corner of the block where he lived and waited in a long line behind several men and women dressed in formal business attire. When he approached the front of the line, he ordered a coffee, a breakfast muffin and grabbed the morning newspaper. After reading the headlines about war and the upcoming election, he flipped toward the business section of the paper. The section was loaded with articles of layoffs, bankruptcies, and corporate restructurings. But his eyes were immediately drawn to an article about a prominent CEO that had committed suicide earlier that month after his company had failed. He sat solemnly and read the article. As he read the article about a man that he had long strived to emulate, he began to wonder about how someone could take their own life simply because they had failed at business. Why would anyone with a wife that loved him and children that adored him put all of their self-worth in their career?
After finishing his muffin, he grabbed his coffee and headed toward the subway station down the block. As he entered the station he raced toward the train that was waiting in there. He squeezed his way through the doors onto the jam-packed train just as the doors closed behind him. He started to gaze around at those surrounding him. So many different faces, so many different races, ethnicities and styles. Yet, to him, they all appeared the same. How many of them have been conditioned to value work over all else? To value the dollar happiness, with the distorted view that with one comes the other?
The train doors open as the train comes to a complete stop at the next station. As the doors open, the crowd pushes through the doors. He is forced to file in amongst the crowd of hurried workers. Up the stairs and into the street where more hurried people waited. He merged into the crowd and walked the two blocks to his office building. When he arrived, he showed the ID card he had been given a week earlier to the security guard and boarded the elevator to the floor of his company.
As he exited the elevator and proceeded into the office his supervisor greeted him smugly. She was a middle manager and seemed unenthusiastic and worn out. She started walking briskly down the hall expecting him to follow. He struggled to keep up, but still managed to smile and exchange a few pleasantries with some of the workers in the office along the way. The manager abruptly stopped in front of a small office and motioned for him to enter. This would be his office, the place where he would spend countless hours over the next few years. The manager handed him a folder with several hundred pages in it, quickly explained the assignment, asked if he had any questions, and upon receiving none, left the office and shut the office door behind her.
He flipped through the file briefly, checked his email and then sat back in his chair and stared blankly out the window. Not surprisingly, the building next door obstructed his view, but he proceeded to stare aimlessly out the window as if he could see something beautiful on the other side. He began to question why he had chosen this path for his life and if he had passed up on any better opportunities along the way. Could he have done something that would have helped people instead of being part of the corporate empire?
The ringing of a telephone abruptly interrupted his thoughts. It was his boss reminding him to make certain phone calls and also setting a deadline for his project. With this new pressure unexpectedly thrust upon him, he worked religiously for five hours before hunger took a grip on him. He got up from his chair and left the office in search of a quick meal. He found a little deli on the corner and grabbed a sandwich, chips and a drink and quickly headed back to the office for a working lunch.
As he arrived back at the office, he was greeted by several co-workers who were standing outside one of their offices engaged in usual small talk about their children, sports and business. He joined in momentarily before the conversation broke up and everyone retreated back to their offices to continue working. He went into his office, decided to leave the door ajar, and began eating his lunch while thumbing through some documents. After reading several meaningless documents, he came across a packet labeled, “Corporations and the Almighty Dollar.” As he rummaged through this document, he could not help a feeling of emptiness pierce his body. It was now the first time that he began to understand what had been troubling him all day. He was now a prisoner to the Almighty dollar, to corporate America.
He wanted to get up and leave. He wanted to break away from this corporate structure. He wanted his life, his purpose to be more than a quest for money. But, where could he go? How could he obtain the things he valued most without becoming a slave to corporate America? He dreamed of a family, a beautiful wife, and adorable children and wanted nothing more than to offer everything the world had to offer to them. He foresaw college and graduate school tuitions, weddings, cars, trips around the world, and wanted to ensure that he provided for his family after he was gone. So, where could he go?
It was then that it dawned on him. He had made a choice. Making enough so that he could provide a family with the things and opportunities that he expected to meant selling his soul to corporate America. While the public sector offered many of the opportunities he had dreamed of throughout his life, it did not offer the financial rewards necessary to achieve his objectives. In the society that he was so much a part of, prestige and power came with wealth.
Reluctantly, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. As the breath exits his lungs, so too does the hope that he will one day change the world. Gone were his dreams of having quality free time with his family, coaching his children’s little league teams and attending dance recitals. Gone were his dreams of working for the good of society instead of the financial well being of an immoral corporation. He was stuck there, for better or worse.
As the breath escaped from his lips, his eyes slowly opened to the new world that he was now a part of.