Maybe after they find your letter they’ll pay more attention. It’ll be too late by then.
You stand, balance yourself, summon the courage. Close your eyes. Just one little step forwards will do it. The feeling of weightlessness fills your stomach.
Shit. Am I really ready to do this? Will anyone even remember me in a couple of months? Is this all really so bad?
You open your eyes, look around. Unhelpful thoughts are creeping in, holding you back. You start to chicken out. But I know that deep down you don’t want this anymore. It’s my job to ensure you remain focussed, to reject your excuses.
I eat good food, have clean water: my most basic needs in life are met. Face it, you’re eating shit. Different degrees of shit, but here in the city, nothing you eat is ‘clean’. Nine out of ten supermarkets cut corners, on the verge of going bust. Traceable, Plant-fed, free-range, organic, nature’s own: you gobble up labels like we once gobbled adverts of middle-class families at McDonalds. Unless you grow all your own food, drink straight from the stream, you’re eating shit. It’s ok though, the pharma industry sells treatments against the fallout. But we’re all becoming more responsible? Perhaps, but we’re close to eight billion souls and still growing; even super-pumped on antibiotics, steroids and government subsidies, the agricultural industry can’t cope anymore. Thank God air is still free. (Though one of the fastest-growing companies on the planet is already bottling and shipping it to China, and making pure profit.)
Well, I have shelter. Yes, in the apartment you’ve worked so hard to buy. More of a garage, really. With a mortgage your grandchildren will still be paying off. Perhaps by then your edgy neighbourhood will have turned into a trendy magnet for hipsters and finance creeps, and they won’t have to carry mace or an alarm, and cross the road whenever another person walks towards you. You have one foot on the property ladder, and the other in the bear trap of financial debt. Congratulations.
The early afternoon chaos of horns, engines and cyclist near-death screams calls up from the street. Follow through on your plan, and you’ll be among them soon enough.
Cities makes it possible to have more relationships. Maybe, but how often do you really see your friends? It takes an hour to visit your bestie in their up-and-coming shit-hole. You last hung out four months ago, before her wedding.
The city you live in ranks in the Top 10 for Quality of Life but nobody smiles. Several million people live here, twenty in your own building, and you’ve never even met any of them. Call those connections real? You spend more time connecting with strangers on the Internet than people of flesh and blood. Humans are awkward, so why speak to them? Meanwhile, the library, restaurants, shops, corner cafés, all communal locations of your youth, are falling down like dominoes, beaten into oblivion by your smart-phone in the name of Convenience. Isolation creeps in through your abandoned mail slot. On Sunday mornings, you tramp to the supermarket to buy improbably large eggs and stand at the checkout line for twenty minutes. You pay and join the line again, just to feel some human warmth.
Your parents are so old they don’t remember their own names (thanks, pharma industry) and the last time you saw your brother, you argued over who spends more time with them (but mostly because you resent how fucking happy he is, with his never-ending uni and joblessness).
As for love, you change partners more frequently than underwear. You're thirty one years old and single and people are starting to look at you funny at weddings. It's not all bad, though: an Ascendant Venus is lining up with Uranus, says your tabloid horoscope. Intense Love (and pain) Guaranteed. But you barely go outdoors, so how to meet Mr. Right? Fuck it, you need attention so you'll settle for Mr. Right Now. You give him a hand by downloading a dating app. But which one? There are literally thousands. Apps for Straight Dating, Gay Dating. Single Parents. Dog Owners. Married Liaisons. Christians. Shit, there are even apps for Gluten-Free Singles: "date an intolerant like you, today!" (and be forever uninvited to every dinner party, ever.)
Don’t fret too much over targeting the wrong social demographic though: everyone you know is on at least three of them.
My work was once a source of self-esteem, satisfaction, recognition, security. People would kill to be in my position. Face it: the best aspect of your job is that it’s so utterly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, that it makes no difference you’re so abysmally bad at doing it. Tragically, this is also its worst aspect.
You hate that damn office, and would stab almost all of your colleagues over change from the coffee machine. But you go back every day, repeating to yourself that this weekend you’re finally going to do that deep assessment of your skills and interests. You’ll even prepare a new CV, and look for courses (online). But then you don’t. Instead, you write an eight-hour rant on your blog about how your boss’ praise is fake, but his attempts to get you into bed are not.
At year-end the Boss high-fived you for getting the biggest bonus in the team, but the gap didn’t compensate for the kidney stone it took to secure it. Last year, when you got the lowest bonus, Boss ignored your request for explanations, but remembered to grope your ass at the Christmas party. And guess what? The only one who says people would kill to be in your position is the Boss. The next generation couldn’t care less about your position. They have read a Tweet/Twext/Twurt, on some platform you haven’t even heard of, saying the days of your profession are numbered. Some kid somewhere is already coding software to replace you. Some other kid is coding software to replace them.
Study Chinese or Computers, your smart-ass brother said, it’s the only way to future-proof yourself. That way, when one of the two finally overruns everything, they might execute you last, for co-operating in good faith.
But the privilege of being free to develop myself, my interests, be the best I can be… You’re clutching at straws now. What freedom? How much of your day is truly yours, and how much goes to serving the needs of others? Voicemail, bills, mortgage, iPhone replacement cycles, mail order catalogs. The average office worker gets 90 emails per day. NINETY. Your only safe haven is a concrete-walled gym fifty feet underground. As for self-development, how often do you commit to it? You’re surrounded by museums, exhibitions, theatres, none of which you have time or energy to visit. Why leave the house when you can drug your brain with Netflix and (online) shopping to make yourself feel better. Store your Preferences and Credit Card Details for faster check-outs. One day, all the crap you’re hoarding (but have never used) will spill out of your miniature wardrobe and lose a fist-fight with your credit card debt. Then you’ll file for bankruptcy and give it all away. The irony of wearing something no one has photographed on you in before is, of course, that you have to point out that your shoes/belt/hot-pants are new for anyone to notice them anyway. And this is not because others don’t appreciate your impeccable style. It’s because their heads are so far up their own arses that they haven’t the mental bandwidth to deal with yours.
And if you carry on here, what do you have to look forward to? Your boss’s boss retires, and you move up the chain of sexual harassment and psychological abuse. You’ll interview dozens of identikit applicants for your old job and coordinate a lynch mob against candidates who claim they love teamwork. Outside of hell, you’ll feed some unsuspecting soul so much tequila, they’ll fail to see just how close you are to total mental melt-down and marry you. You’ll enroll your two kids in the kindergarten around the corner, the one with the eye-watering fees and nice manifesto, “Each Child’s Unique Gifts Must be Nurtured” (except in Computing and Chinese classes, where Individuality is Not Tolerated).
You deserve better than this. Now, brace yourself and finish what you started.
You’re right. None of this makes any sense anymore. This isn’t working.
Fuck whether anyone remembers me when I’m gone. Fuck the loneliness. Fuck this city. Fuck my shit job, the stress and my boss. FUCK MY BOSS.
Do it, take the jump.
You take a deep breath. You walk into his office, and you hand him the letter. Then you take the elevator down ten floors and walk out for the last time, into the welcoming sunshine, and start planning your new life.
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