Living Like Weasels

I signed. A contract role with a meager pay. Meager, of course, only compared to the six figures my peers are getting. After all, it’s a tech job. The pay is surely above average, more than enough to cover my living expenses. I don’t have to change my lifestyle drastically (albeit a frugal one as it is) to accommodate the paycheck. Most importantly, it’s a job, a paid position that grants legal residency to an alien like myself who didn’t come riding a flying saucer.

It’s been over four months since I started looking for jobs. It’s hard to put my finger on the process, but it felt a lot like floating in the air trying to reach something above me: every time I thought I was going to reach it, it slipped away. Staying in the air requires tenacity, tenacity that match the height of my aspiration, tenacity that I did not have. Soon—months that felt like eternity, I was drained.

People say that everyone starts with something, something humble, something less glamorous, and they eventually work their way towards something better, something they want. As a new grad who’s fresh out of school with little bargaining power, so should I: take whatever comes my way and be grateful. “No job is beneath you”, rings Randy Pausch’s wise words.

So I listened. I let go the breath that kept me afloat and fell. I felt my feet touching the earth again. Solid surface that actually responded to my weight. I wanted to lie down and sink into the ground, out of exhaustion and out of shame.

I didn’t choose anything, to be fair. I didn’t have other options to compare with. I was choosing between something or nothing. I chose something, out of sheer necessity of economic independence and legal status to stay. If nothing else, there’s a dignity in offering up the hours in exchange for some hard-won bread. But still, it knifes a small hole in me, a hole that I dare not to squint at, fearing—or half knowing—that the curiosity would lead me down to a dead end of my worthiness.

I would be lying if I said the days of unemployment were miserable. I had plenty of free time to do whatever I wanted. I got to work on my website, read the books I like, and take the courses that I’ve been wanting to take. I should feel happy.

I did. But it’s also true that I was frustrated by my inability to reliably commit to anything. One day I was chasing bugs across console and terminal, the other day I was making dozens of design iterations of my blog’s front page. One day I was mesmerized by React hooks, the other day I got hooked by a new book. I wrote and published daily when energy surged, and then stopped for days when the energy faded. Without real consequence at stake, it was hard putting myself to work. Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom, Kierkegaard was damn right.

Therefore, I don’t feel completely screwed over by this new gig. To be honest, I am actually a little bit looking forward to it—not in the hopeful, ambitious “I am going to do my best work” way, but in the sober, relieved “there’s finally a life to be lived” way. Staying in the air is staying in suspension, a suspension where you need to constantly confront the existential questions of who and what and why. I have had enough of that and now all I want is to bury myself in wage labor and bath in the full glory of its alienation. Detached. Muted. Numb.

I will zip my lip, grit my teeth, and do my work. I will line those buttons up and put those frames together. I will learn to be a cog in the machine, content and uncomprehending. I will do what I am told, quiet and obedient, piling up layers and putting them on the assembly line of software. I will get lost blissfully in the sea of stakeholder meetings, PRDs, mails and messages.

I will keep looking, of course. But before that, I can really use some time in the oblivion. Some time close to the machine, some time attending to the humming sound of an inching corporate giant and the intricacy of bloated enterprise software. Before that, I can forget all about serifs and kerns, theories and histories. I can be myopically fixated on the pixels on the screen and forget the impact of my creation. I can safely stop questioning the who and what and why of existence, leaving behind all that impractical passions and aspirations.

I want to disappear in the crevice of realities where time is murky. I want to retreat to the corner of ignorance and let unconsciousness take over. I want to fall so deeply into the stasis, day in and day out, devoting myself to the infinite loop with Sisyphus’ unwavering fidelity that raises the rock. I will be, finally, living like weasels. I will choose the given with a fierce and pointed will. I will succumb and yield.

The new life awaits: eight hours a day, five days a week; weekdays for production and weekends for reproduction. I will be a proper adult and live as an adult should. I will start that Netflix subscription, learn to drive, and obsess over investment. I will talk about the dreadful Mondays and liberating Fridays. After work, when I come home, I will be lost in books and let the world melt away. I should at last feel peace.