Questions: What do I want to be if I grow up? Why would anyone want to hire me? What if I make the wrong career choice? What if I don't like my job? How come I have such bad luck? How can I get rich? Does life have to be this tedious? When is my coffee break? Why me?
Answer: Get back to work.
He is Matt Groening. You may remember him from such television series as The Simpsons and Futurama. He is also the creator of Life in Hell, a comic strip published from 1977 to 2012. There are several books, I own a few now, but I felt the urge to start my reading experience with “Work is Hell”, the second book (1986). After all, that volume was the one that caught my interest in the first place and made me want to find his comics. It has been published many years ago and it is still so contemporary. And it will always be. Some topics do not change. For better or for worse.
I enjoy comics, they are a fantastic tool to deal with certain matters from a funny/funny-ish angle. Since I know that a particular situation can be perceived as sad or tragic, I still need to know how to look at it from a different perspective. Nothing will go away for its own. Tragedy will not go away. Routine will not go away. Loneliness will not go away. But the way you look at them might help you get through the night and perhaps, help you to find the vision and the strength to change something.
Am I giving to much credit to a simple comic strip? Probably. And no.
Work is a vital part of life. Unless you are the privileged son of some celebrity and you can make a living out of that (or you become a fashion designer, second most wanted career for these people), then you will have to work. There are some fortunate people that decide very early what they want to do with their lives and work hard to get what they want. That is as old as Confucius. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. It seems easy. A simple concept that would make you stop existing to start living. Pretty words. And yet, a big part of the planet has to work.
So you will have to excuse me if this picture resonates deeply in the realms of your working soul.
It is simply fascinating. How an innocent-looking cartoon can make its way to the nooks of your heart, leaving a sense of uncertainty or emptiness in it. That is empathy, my friend. You feel what the little anthropomorphic rabbit is feeling. You are wearing his little shoes while contemplating his tedious life. (Hope you are not reading this today, on a melancholic Sunday.)
Life can be beautiful, if you choose wisely. And choosing what you want to do with your life... well, I cannot think of anything more important than that–besides family. For that decision will affect you, who you are, who you are going to be, your social life, your love life, you mental health, etc.
From chapter 2 to 3, Groening described all the types of bosses and employees that you could find along the intricate path towards work. I must admit that "The smiling idea-stealer", "The smiling backstabber", "The scatterbrain", "The babbling fool", "The schemer" and "The insufferable office wiseguy" are persistent characters in the devious universe that an office has. And there is a funny cartoon that perfectly describes what this is all about: "The young hopeful", "The young hopeless" and "The young hateful". We ended being a product of this tricky universe. We try to fight it with all our strength. However, we are most likely to succumb. Unless we do something. What to do? Hmm. How would I know?! I live in a country where if you have a suffocating yet secure job, you must feel gratitude. There is a lot of people that does not even have that. So the only choice is to swallow all your tragic insecurities and anxiety and deal with it. Or quit your job and follow your old dreams with the possibility of being happy for the first time in your life. Or losing your roof and a couple of pounds in the way. A big sea full of contradictions.
Then I found Chapter 9, a brilliant portrayal of the inner thinking of an employee. Groening depicts with some fresh comic skills the whole world that runs wild in the mind of a worker. I mean, you will not find yourself laughing hysterically but you will be amused by his undeniable wit. However, you cannot help feeling that quiet yet overwhelming sensation of anguish. "The longer and more carefully we look at a funny story, the sadder it becomes", Gogol once wrote. You understand the worker. You wish you could help him to find a way out and save him from that Kafkaesque atmosphere of big piles and meaningless numbers.
Anyway, there are many exaggerations in this comic strip. Not all bosses are jerks and not all employees are vicious backstabbers that are glad when you get scolded. But it is a pleasant read that will make you think about your own life. Your work: hell, paradise or something in between.
This rant is about to end. And it all comes down to this:
This is probably my last review of 2014.
A new year is about to begin.
Try to avoid