Meaningful Life Lessons From Meaningless Jobs: Don’t Be a Hero, Just Be Chill
Published: July 23, 2020
Meaningless jobs are just what they sound like: jobs that don’t hold much value to the individual doing the work. When we’re at these minuscule jobs, guests are the worst humans on the planet and our coworkers obviously missed a few parenting lessons growing up. Sometimes, though, your meaningless job is actually meaningful and valuable. To see the value, all you have to do is wear the right glasses, so think of me as your lesson ophthalmologist.
So that’s what my new blog series is all about! Meaningful Life Lessons From Meaningless Jobs. If you missed the first post, don’t worry! I’m not nearly organized enough to string a story along between weeks (maybe one day!). This is our second week of the series and we’ll be talking about one of the hardest lessons you might have to learn, and that’s the following: Don’t be a hero, just be chill.
Sometimes at our jobs, or even at home with our kids or partners, we want to take care of everything and everybody. We say yes to projects because we’re scared of what our bosses would think of us if we said no. We stay late to help our coworkers close because we know they’re struggling and that they could use us! We help either because we’re natural caregivers or because we don’t want them to think less of us. Whatever the reason, you don’t always need to take all that on.
Why You Shouldn’t Be a Hero
I’m the type of person who hates saying no to people, especially my boss or superior. I’m a people-pleaser! If my boss asked me to come in early, I would. If my boss asked me to take on a project, I’d happily volunteer so that my efforts would be judged positively by my peers. What I didn’t realize for a while was that, much to my dismay, no one gave a flying fuck what I did.
I should have remembered a lesson from years ago. I learned it during a quiet study hall period in middle school. I’ve always been oddly observant, and I blame it on “Harriet the Spy” being such an emotional tale. I’d even walk around my neighborhood with my notebook, peering into people’s homes. Of course, I quickly realized that this activity was taking the writer-spy thing a bit too far, so I decided to spy on the kids in study hall instead.
Because I was so observant about myself, I thought everyone else was observant about me, too. I also thought that Canada was in Europe (yay, public schools!), but that’s a different story. Being from a household where my mom worked three jobs and still relied on her family for help, I had only a few pairs of jeans that my Hollister-wearing friends would approve of. I believed that if anyone knew I wore the same two pairs of pants for my entire sixth-grade year, I would die and my cool, popular skater boyfriend, Tony, would break up with me.
But back in study hall one day, I realized that only I noticed this about myself. I had no idea what pants anyone wore yesterday, and I watched these people all day, every day! Then, poof, the aha moment came: No one pays attention to you that much. No one cares!
Try not to be everyone’s hero, because at the end of the day they don’t care!
No Ones Cares
Fast-forward to my first big girl job in downtown Chicago. I was a food and beverage manager at a large hotel chain. I oversaw the restaurant, room service, Starbucks, and sometimes catering. All at once, dude! Stressed af one day, I was crying, and a banquet server noticed me trying to hide it. Being the beautiful, intuitive woman that she was, she approached me and said,
“Look around. Is anyone else crying? Is anyone else going home to cry? No one else cares as much as you. You have to detach yourself.” She also called me young and beautiful, but you don’t need to know that. Even though I just told you. Oh well. I felt validated, nonetheless.
I’m the intuitive woman grabbing your shoulders and looking into your eyes telling you, “No one cares about you!” Sorry, I had to. People do care about you, but they don’t notice those late nights you work. They don’t know that you were crying on the train because you were so freakin’ tired and didn’t have clean panties for the next day. They don’t know that you woke up earlier to finish data entry before everyone else came into the office. They just know the job is done.
The only one who will remember how hard you worked is you. But you’ll also remember everything you missed out on, too. I moved from Chicago two years later, regretting that I didn’t spend more time with my roommates and my best friend.
I was always at work, producing more cortisol than any 24-year-old should! What I should have been doing was taking tequila shots with my friends in Boystown! I should have been on the river or in Old Town for brunch on Sundays. Nope, I was usually crying on the expo line, holding down the fort for an unappreciative chef.
Set Boundaries, Self-Analyze
You’re a natural caregiver. Honor that. Or you worry too much about what other people think of you, as I worry too much about what others think of me. Either way, we’ve got some growing to do, my sisters and brothers. I’ll give you some beginning tips to stop people pleasing.
Honor your needs and your care-giving self by setting healthy boundaries. Practice saying no in the mirror, research ways to say no (conflict resolution blogs, I’m looking to you!), or just start saying no to little things. Start with a close friend or coworker that you know won’t judge you. Tell them you’re trying to set and apply workplace (or other) boundaries. In general, people will be understanding of you’re saying no as long as they know what’s going on with you. Don’t just start telling them no and being a bitch. That will not work. I’ve tried.
If you’re more like me and really care about how your work ethic is judged, you must release yourself from that conditioning. Do you know that the work you do is quality? If so, then what does anything else matter? Is your boss telling you you’re not doing enough or that your work sucks? Probably not. And if they do feel that way, they’ll tell you! Better yet, ask for feedback. If you feel comfortable, tell your boss how you feel. Once I disclosed my reasons for saying no to my awesome boss, he laughed at me and was like, “Are you crazy? You have to say no to me every once in a while or else you’d be working my shift for me all the time.”
By always taking more on, you reinforce the expectation that you’ll do anything or work anytime. Managing people’s expectations of you can really shape what your day-to-day looks like.
Everything that needs to come to you, will. You don’t need to force it by taking everything on yourself. Define your boundaries, set them, and watch the universe respect your wishes. You might even have more time on your hands now that you’re saying no to more work.
Benefits of Not Being a Hero
With more time on your hands since you’re not staying late to help Dan with inventory, your stress levels have decreased and you see your partner more often. You can make family phone calls during normal hours and can get back into crafting, you creative little thing! Also, Dan’s way more chill with you since he knows you’re not backing out of inventory to be a bitch but that you just want a few more Zen moments a week. He gets that! He’s human. You guys actually talk more at work now that you don’t resent him for being so lazy and needing your help all the time.
If you are a hero and like it like that, amazing! On behalf of all us peasants, we thank you. But since I stopped staying late and working from home on projects I couldn’t get done at work because I was helping everyone else, I was way less cranky. I didn’t feel as much on edge. I had more time for simple activities such as eating dinner with my family. I even began cooking pretty often; say whaaaaat!
Meaningless Jobs Happen for a Reason
This meaningless job taught me a meaningful life lesson to not be a hero but to just be chill, cause no one fucking cares. And if you have a boss that runs you to the ground and won’t allow you to say no, maybe hope for the chance at open dialogue. Ask how you two can implement a better work-life balance. Throw those buzz words around and see what you get.
Thanks for reading, as always, and be sure to share this if you’re loving the series. With some of us out of jobs (raises hand!), knowing that the universe gives you meaningless jobs might give you more incentive to get back to work. You’ll be ready to start earning and growing at the end of this series. Stay tuned for next week’s post to learn how I learned Meaningful Life Lessons from Meaningless Jobs. If you want email notifications sent to you every time I post, just comment below and I’ll add you to the list!
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