I’m an average, run-of-the mill white British man, living on the edge of nowhere in London, England. Every day I open my uninspiring eyes, in a bed I share with myself, and put on a creased shirt and yesterday’s tie, before rushing around my one-bedroom, should be gold-plated for the rent I pay, apartment and shove an Aldi’s own breakfast bar in my face before fitting in with the rest of the riff raff by running to the tube station and sailing the Victoria line from Brixton to Warren Street. The basic life continues with a day in the office, despising my coworkers and watching Dina, the receptionist, eat close to two packets of Custard Creams before then visiting the toilet every half an hour, leaving the desk empty and the phone ringing into the air occupied by no-one who would stump low enough to pick it up for her. After work, it’s off to the pub round the corner, where I see only two people. Paul, my mate since the backend of the country lanes up in Cheshire, and Tim, who knew Paul in a way I forget but he’s funny and an easy one to pratt about with. There’s only one rule for our simple trio, we are not allowed to get a life. If there’s even a sminch of commitment brewing in any of our, admittedly very limited, ‘relationships’, the two others are obliged to intervene. Or if any of us show any inclination to better our career prospects or sign up for a three-week personal training programme (how is that even a job, by the way?) then a fine talking to is needed. So far we’ve all upheld our agreement and so every day we meet and talk about nothing. Once I’m three or four pints down, I wander back to the tube, seeing no one smile along the line of the unsmiling Queen and I flop back into the bed I solely own. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my sorry little life, and quite frankly, I don’t care what you think, because I love it.
But then, then, someone or something, some higher power I want to put two fingers up to, had the audacity to come in to try to ruin it.
“It’s yours, Jon.” Those three words brought my flavourless existence to a standstill. Throwing in some mixed herbs, paprika, cumin and whatever other pretentious spices people use these times, all over my life. It was a straightforward, simple, average, nothing special Chicken Korma and someone has decided to stir it into a Rogan Josh situation. Well, no, thank you. The lads wouldn’t have it and I don’t want it. I don’t want that job. Which is when my boss repeated those three sickening words in the paraphrase “Jon, the job is yours,” I told him to shove it up the inside of his Calvin Kleins.
“Are you mad? Why not?”
That’s the problem with modern society. Everyone thinks they understand everyone else, that there’s a mutual cultural appreciation for what constitutes the good things in life. Why wouldn’t you want the promotion? Or how could you not desire the large house with the fake, potted plants and a wife who goes to baby yoga? It’s all a cow’s dung. Because along with the better job, comes the added responsibility, the stress, and the actual requirement to do something constructive and meaningful in a way that isn’t actually meaningful at all. As when one meaningful task is done, another is right up its backside, already stealing your time, energy, and your very soul. Jumping sporadically from one meaningful thing to the other actually means everything loses meaning. And quite frankly, I’m lazy. I don’t want a reason to be otherwise.
“No, thank you. I don’t want it. I’m happy where I am.”
Tom, my boss, looked like he’d just eaten a mackerel that had wilted on a radiator and had been smothered in mouldy, fake American cheese. You might think that’s random but I’ve tried it, and the face I pulled is exactly the one Tom used. And within it, some sort of realisation that I was a first-class freak.
“I really think you should reconsider.” He said it in a professional way but I knew, I knew, inside he was recoiling from me, almost questioning my motivations. Like I was about to murder him right there in his office, because obviously, I had to be unstable to refuse this.
“It’s not for me.” With that, I stood, not bothering to shake his hand. Maybe, I agree, that was a little rude but I was fed up with being offered things way above my desires or expectations. It has happened too many times in recent years. Of course, this is the first time I’d had to refuse Tom, but if he’d been thorough enough, which I never would be, he would have realised that his predecessor had already offered me the senior analyst role three times. That man was relentless in trying to build my career for his own ego, and it looks like I’ve got another of his breed in Tom. Handsome, successful, wears sharp tailored suits with classy non-graphical cufflinks, and waltzes around as if the company he works for is a God to be worshipped. When in reality, as soon as their mates move up the ladder one rung, they’ll be right back on Indeed to catch-up. The reason why staff turnover is such an issue is not because of company culture, but because of the mentality of my generation. The neverending drama of not being enough or moving on after six months because ‘it’s not quite for me’, all of them longing to find fulfilment in work, when actually I’ve found the cure just fine. I accepted that fulfilment in work cannot be found, and through that acceptance, I realised there is just no point in getting promoted. Though it is funny how this one just won’t go away. It’s like that spot that emerges on the left side of your chin. It arrives bulging and red, you reject it with that magic cream crap your mum gives you, and it fades, until it rears its ugly head again, bamboozling you with its perseverance.
Why can’t they accept that I don't want it?
Maybe I should move out of London. Red light. Warning flag. That’s a dangerous statement, Jon, we’ve talked about this with the lads. Moving would mean a major life change and risking everything. If I were to move to edgy Leeds or contemporary Manchester, or even a quaint Cheshire suburb surrounded by footballer’s houses, I’m creating an opportunity. And opportunity is what can create a life. And I don’t want that. I can’t move to a new area, shop in new shops, meet new people. What if I were to fall in love? Or join a large group of friends? That would be commitment, pressure, and hard work. All the things I loathe and strive to avoid. Moving out of London where I can blend into the run ragged youths is my only option. Yet, they obviously can’t let the need to promote me go, so I took control. I took action. They can’t control me.
“You quit? You can’t quit.” That’s when Tom looked like the mackerel had also been marinated in mustard for four days. He was absolutely shell-shocked like he could choke up his lemon and ginger tea.
“Yes. I quit. I’ll be out of your hair by the end of the day.” I almost laughed at my irony as I said this, seeing as Tom’s receding hairline had been hot in the office gossip the last couple of weeks. The point is that the decision to quit was completely my own. You might think I’m an ungrateful, imbecilic nitwit but it was the only way I could keep in control of my mission to not have a life. I don’t want to climb some hypothetical ladder where everyone crawls over each other and might even go as far as to throw someone else off. The sensible thing to do is just take me out of the game, because it can’t be my destiny to lead a team of irritants into the company’s ‘shining new season.’ Nope. No thank you. Not for me.
Then, what is for me?
I don’t know why my brain asks me questions I already have the answer to. I already know what’s for me. STAYING EXACTLY WHERE I AM. It’s not that I’m convincing myself that’s the case, by the way, I’m extremely confident it’s the truth. Like now, for instance, I feel perfectly at peace lying on my bed, on top of sheets that haven’t been washed for weeks, with takeaway boxes in my overflowing bin as I wait for my Playstation to update. Yes, I’m happy with my life the way it is. There’s nothing I’d change, and therefore, I shouldn’t work somewhere where there’s pressure for that to happen. No siry. Running was the best decision I could have made.
TO BE CONTINUED...