I used to be a cubicle rat. That was the term some of my colleagues and I used to refer to ourselves. For 21-years I worked in an office in a building that had the work stations in the various departments arranged into neat rows of partitioned offices.
Each cubicle was composed of three stark gray fabric walls with the remaining side open to the aisle that ran down each row of cubicles. The average work space had at least one of walls lined with a wall mounted cabinet/file-desk combination and sometimes an L-shaped leaf that partially came out from a wall and blocked about half of the open side.
Some of these areas were fortunate enough to have their open side facing the full floor-to-ceiling windows that framed the sides of the building. If you were lucky enough to have one of those spaces you might have had a spacious view of the outside world instead of gray walls all day. These details are quite vivid to me because I spent many years in one or more of those cubicles that were commonly didn’t have one of those window views.
During my last couple of years in that job, I finally got blessed to have one of those window-view cubicles. I’d already attempted to transform whatever office space I had into something more appealing. With multiple push-pins, thumbtacks, and pins I festooned my fabric walls with panels from humorous cartoon strips or pictures and encouraging quotes. The metal cabinets on these walls were no exception. I’d adorn them too using tape. So my cubicle over time evolved into something a little more appealing than plain drab gray walls. Despite these improvements to my work world there was always something I couldn’t overcome.
To get to my job, I had to commute roughly 53 miles one-way five days a week. That drive was grueling. Sometimes, because of traffic delays, my morning drive took me almost two hours often making me late for important meetings and creating all kinds of stress. To try and remedy this, I used to get up even earlier in the mornings to avoid possible delays. This didn’t normally work. There was almost always something causing traffic backups. It was tiring just getting to work. To top it off, the drive home was nine times out of ten the same, especially on Friday evenings.
The routine of my work and my commute had me briefly seeing my family each morning and then at night. My weekends became packed with all of the things to do that couldn’t be done during my workweek. This prompted me one day to calculate the amount of time in my life I was expending in this apparent ‘rat race’.
I went about figuring I worked 40 hours a week. There were 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year, and I slept at least 8 hours each day. Then, I went about seeing how all of this fit into my 21-years commuting to my job.
My mileage for 21-years came out to about 546,000,000 miles and averaging the time I worked to 43,680,000 hours. I then took the total number of hours I spent in 21 years (over 183,960,000) and subtracted my 21-years of work hours (43, 680,000) and came up with 140,280,000 hours. Subtracting the estimated time I slept over 21-years (61,320,000), I determined I came up with a resulting 78,960,000 hours over those years when I was awake and not at work.
I compared the 43,680,000 hours I’d been at the office to my 78,960,000 hours that I was not there over those 21-years and realized over half of my life had been spent in that cubicle.
This awareness probably had a great bearing on how well I re-adjusted to life when I got laid0ff from my job. It was almost like a tremendous weight had been lifted off of me and I suddenly had a chance to re-capture the life I had missed out on. I went about seeking my next job with a totally different perspective in mind. As a result, I’m no longer a ‘cubicle rat’. I found work that makes me feel more alive and allows me to be more a part of my life and that of my family.
Don’t waste your time consuming your life in something that has you spinning in some treadmill like a some ‘cubicle rat’. Find yourself something that leaves you feeling good each day and fulfilled. It’s about time.