Busted Halo
feature: politics & culture
September 4th, 2002

Getting Over Seeing Green

Life at the Bottom of the Corporate Heap

 
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A few weeks before she finished her pharmacy degree, my younger sister called to tell me she’d just been offered a job paying something like $60,000 a year. My mind sprouted dark, envious thoughts as she described the retirement plan and giant signing bonus, but I gritted my teeth and congratulated her. “Wow,” I said, trying not to choke, “good for you.”

That phone call left me depressed for months. I had logged just as many decent grades and years in university as my sister, more even. No high-paying career for me, though. Thanks to a combination of choice, chance, and a not-quite-planned baby, I hadn’t gotten any farther than the bottom of the corporate heap. I earned my living doing tedious things for cranky bosses at hours when most people are asleep.

Sure, it was sort of related to my career goals, but I’d been there for two years, long enough to see that people in my position didn’t move up very often. I began to feel miserable, haunted by self-pity. It was only when I found myself sitting mopily through my sister’s convocation ceremony that I decided I had to snap out of it. We’re supposed to count our blessings, not our troubles, right? So I made a list of a few nice things that come with being one of the most unimportant people in the office:

1. No need for high heels or power suits. My $10 haircuts don’t bother anyone.

2. Having a job even sort of resembling what you really want to do is way better than sitting around watching Maury all day.

3. Paychecks (lovely in any size).

4. I never have to bring work home.

5. Wonderful co-workers who always forgive me when I’m ten minutes late.

6. I got over a mild grudge against my mother for her suggestion that a degree in cultural anthropology wasn’t the most practical choice.

7. No meetings!

8. I’m learning things I never would have otherwise. Like the history of the Volkswagen and who Retief Goosenis.

I admit I’m ashamed of how easily I gave in to envy after my sister’s phone call. It’s not like I had dreams of a career in the health-care field myself. My sister, with her God-given people skills and knack for science, has begun a job that perfectly expresses her talents. That’s probably all any of us needs to do—find some productive use for the gifts God grants us. How could we end up anywhere bad, doing that? Even life down here at the bottom of the heap has its moments.

 
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