THE BIT ABOUT BUSINESS
On boredom and quitting
As with all good coming-of-age stories featuring a middle-class white woman, my story begins at a fast food restaurant called Hungry Jack’s. That’s our Burger King equivalent for those of you outside Australia. I happen to know that somewhere in the middle of Australia there was a sweet old man operating a burger joint called Burger King. When it was time for the international Burger King company and their delicious double whoppers with cheese (add extra pickles, thank you very much) to land in Australia, to their surprise, the name was already taken before the fast food giant could nab it for themselves. The company had to settle for – let’s say – a more Australia-appropriate name. We’re all hungry down under, apparently, and the most common name is Jack, not Dazza or Gazza as the rest of the world would have you believe.
Now, this story doesn’t begin at Hungry Jack’s because my parents sucked at cooking and they fed us fast food for dinner every night. I mean my younger self would have loved that, but no, this story starts here because Hungry Jack’s was the site of my first ever job.
I was 14 years and 9 months old, which is the legal age someone can start working in Australia, and I was your average girl, scarred by the lady at the bra section of the department store who sold her a bra three times bigger than she needed because ‘you’re going to have big boobs when you grow up’. (Eek!) Back then, no teenager wanted to have big boobs and stand out like a sore thumb. Anyway, I didn’t go to work because slave labour was prominent in our household. I got a job because I was desperate to be responsible, have money and work. It’s so weird thinking of that now. If I’d known I could get away with mooching off my parents for a lot longer, I probably would have opted for that. But that’s okay, because later on in the story I’ll be telling you about how my parents footed the bill for my business, which I guess makes up for it.
Ah, I remember 1999 like it was yesterday. Well, yesterday and after a night out where you brown out – you know, not fully black out, but where everything is hazy and you definitely don’t remember the cringe-worthy moment you decided it was a good idea to be super-dramatic and demand your boyfriend apologise to you for calling you a drama queen earlier that night.
There was something about the smell of grease and the deep fat fryer that would send me throwing up in the toilets every damn shift. So after three long months, I quit.
And this is where my story begins.
Let’s just address the elephant in the room, shall we? As a middle class white woman who’s had the privilege of being raised by a loving and steady household with parents who said yes way more times than they said no, naturally, I learnt how to quit my ass off whenever things didn’t suit me.
If quitting was an Olympic sport, I would win the gold medal.
I’ve smugly handed in my resignation for every job I’ve ever had – practically a year to the day after starting. And I’ve done so – regardless of whether it was retail (where I pretended to be interested in every person who walked into the store, like, ‘OMG I looooooovvveeee your earrings’) or super-serious (as in, serious enough that I went out and bought a Country Road suit for it, walked in wearing heels, and thought, ‘This is finally the job I’ve wanted and I’m going to stay in this company and build my career’).
The point is I never wore being a good girl employee well, no matter how hard I tried and how mangled my feet got from wearing those heels to work. These days, I have the world’s best sneaker collection, which I never thought a 30-Something would have. I always assumed I’d be the classy 30-Something in ballet flats and cute girly sandals, but thank goodness that dream died as quickly as my dream of climbing the corporate ladder.
I was such a bad employee that, when I was working for a prominent football club in London, I rocked up for the Sunday shift still drunk as from the night before. (I hadn’t gone to bed.) I was still wearing last night’s hoodie and sunglasses in an attempt to cover up the evidence. No such luck flying under the radar for that shift, so I quit on the spot when they caught onto the fact I was a mess and I figured I wasn’t going to be invited back to work on Monday.
Of course, my inner good girl still cringes at this story to this day because, even though I was such an Olympic quitter, and even though I was such a bad employee, this was really pushing it. So why do I include it here? Well, I guess I want us to be friends. I mean, the sunglasses alone give me at least 6 cool points, right? And I’d love it if you could see past the nerd and maybe even think how worldly I am. I mean, I lived in London and worked for a football team. See? I’m not a nerd! I’m totally cool. Can we be friends now?
There’s something so freeing about going into work on the day you intend to quit. It’s like you’ve got this secret and you’re about to share the gossip with the source. It’s going to be the perfect amount of drama where you shock and stun them. Then you get to walk away with the last word. It’s the perfect combination between actually being Gossip Girl and having the upper hand for all of the five seconds it takes to get the words out of your mouth.
But the best thing about quitting is that sense of freedom. Not in the sense of life-coachy catchphrases you see all over the internet from anyone who wants to become the next guru. Really, it’s the freedom for a creative to create whatever the hell she wants, instead of updating spreadsheets and shuffling piles of paper. Yes, I’m so old we had papers that needed putting into piles when I was in the corporate world. It was like 200 years ago and I’m sure you beautiful young millennials don’t even know what paper is. So please, let me take this time to explain. Back in the olden days, we didn’t have computers. We would chop down trees and turn the tree into this kind of mush, and then press it out and dry it and turn it into sheets that we could write on with lead or ink. I think that’s how it all happened, but anyways, that’s not the point.
The point is I wasn’t fit to be an employee. As the leading lady of her very own life with big dreams ahead of her, being chained to a desk pushing paper into piles and calling it marketing didn’t fit into the vision. When it came to choosing a place to spend most of my life, maybe eight or nine hours a day, five days a week, I was never going to settle. And it’s not like I didn’t try.
After every job ended, I would feel a surge of energy and excitement run through my body. No, not because I had more time to spend day-drinking and was drunk practically all the time. I was drunk on possibilities. For someone who likes to think she’s lucky to have brains over looks, I was pretty slow to cotton on to the fact that finding another job wasn’t the solution I’d been looking for. But there I was, jumping back online and looking for another job that was going to be The One. The one I was ready to commit to and declare ‘I do’ to by signing on the dotted line that only allowed four weeks of holidays a year.
In hindsight, any job in the corporate jungle was never going to allow enough time for me to pursue my dreams of becoming a professional lip-syncing singer, but we all need to be humbled from time to time. Plus, who’s as perfect as Taylor Swift’s publicity team really?
So off I’d go writing personalised cover letters and resumes and somehow – I guess through my sheer talent of writing complete sentences – I’d rock up in my best suit for a job interview, changing into heels in the elevator, a young, blond, polished woman with decent clothes and a decent mouth. I got every job I wanted.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the part where the realisation dawned that I was born to be a writer due to my amazing cover letter writing skills. That part of the story comes much later. No, this is the part where I acknowledge that the feeling of finding a place to call home in a career sense never lasted. Soon enough, there would be a moment in every job I did where I had to stop asking for work because I could sense I would get fired for not having anything to do for four hours a day. I’m like superwoman with my brain and work, remember. During these four hours a day I had free, I pretty much pioneered the moving images background for Myspace pages (remember Myspace?) among my peers and friends, because I had the time to study the codes. Not joking. When Myspace died and Facebook rose to glory, there wasn’t as much customising that you could do on your profile page at that time, so I became an A-grade Facebook stalker. And so it was that my FB obsession began.
There was never work to be done between the hours of lunch time and 5.30PM. Besides Facebook and Myspace, the only solace I had from ‘work’ was going to the toilet. And in hindsight now, I’m pretty sure working in the corporate world contributed to my weak bladder since I decided I needed to pee every 30 minutes. (For some reason, this doesn’t apply when I’m drunk. I have this extraordinary ability to hold onto my wee for hours and hours. The whole urban legend of breaking the seal doesn’t exist for me.)
Anyways, I want to take this opportunity now for a global apology. I’m the reason why the corporate world banned social media websites in offices.
It was all my fault.
And if your workplace goes that extra mile to make you feel really happy there and bans you from using your work email to organise social events, then I'm sorry for that too.
And while I’m on the apology bandwagon here, may I extend my apologies to my lungs for taking up smoking just so I could have extra breaks to text people who weren’t 100 years old and trying to kill me of boredom at my desk.
But that Friday feeling. Oh that Friday feeling! That Friday feeling doesn’t make me suddenly look back over my corporate career with fondness, of course. And just because I work for myself now doing what I love doesn’t mean that I don’t get that Friday feeling, because that Friday feeling is universal. I’ll challenge anyone who says they don’t get it, because they’re totally faking it to try and drum up more business, like, ‘Hey, I love my life sooooo much I never even get that Friday feeling’.
Because that Friday feeling is part of living, baby! And who doesn’t like popping bottles? That Friday feeling, especially when working in the corporate world, was the equivalent of winning the lottery or getting on a jet plane for a six-month trip across South America.
Boredom is the number one killer of the corporate career. And even though I just made up that stat right now, stats never lie.
As boredom was slowly killing my corporate career, my work ethic continued to slide into something not even your friendly local weed dealer would think was appropriate. And while all my friends were proving themselves by staying back late working on God knows what, I promise you I never had enough work to keep me back, ever.
I declare I was bored and I had the baddest worth ethic ever. So I apologise to every other white girl who came from a good home, with parents who loved each other, and money to do pretty much most things they wanted, for giving you a reputation for being totally spoilt and terrible at getting stuck into some hard work.
Woah, this has turned into a bit of an apology book, hasn’t it? I’m sorry. Oh shit, I’m doing it again. That’s it. From here on out, I’m going to stop apologising for being me.
By now, I’m sure you think I was (or maybe am) an over-privileged spoilt little brat. But I promise I tried to change. With every job I took, I planned to be different because I really wanted to be a corporate queen with Director in her title. I wanted to be in charge of decisions and make a difference. And sure, I wanted the power suits and a wardrobe that came with the importance of directing things. I truly thought that’s the life I craved, but just like clockwork, quitting time would come. I would blame the people, I would blame the company, I would blame the industry. But then, after working for not-for-profits, retail, real estate, education, and the consulting sectors as the experienced marketing pushover, I called it quits on the whole thing and went back to university to become a speech pathologist. Because why not, right?
After a drunken night out with a hot audiologist friend, I turned into a one-woman show which I can only equate to slam poetry: I gave my thoughts and opinions about the corporate world, stated I was done, declared I wanted to be a doctor but I wasn’t smart enough and didn’t have 10 years up my sleeve. That’s when he suggested I study speech pathology, which was a two-year master’s degree. With that, I was sold. Hot guys and their opinions are not taken lightly in my world.
So with my angelic wings bursting out of my jacket for everyone to see just how this was going to be the path that saved me from corporate and set me up with an actual career I could see myself in for years and years, I was about nine months in and I started blogging. I discovered this whole world of blogging when I saw a bunch of clowns making money from writing garbage and talking about things that were just so boring. Coupling that with my unwavering ability to think that it’s my God-given right to do whatever I please, however I please; I became a part-time blogger while studying at university.
Yes, I realise how lame it sounds now, but that’s not the lamest part, you guys. This wasn’t any old blog about the best places to eat in the cities I’ve visited, or my review of organic skincare products, or how to get your baby to sleep. Oh no, this was a blog about spirituality. And not just general spirituality, either. I turned it into a blog about my journey to becoming a spiritual wanker.
See, this is where I get to refer you back to the story that makes me cool. The story about how I rocked up to work wearing sunglasses after staying up all night drinking. (Remember, I’m cool!) But this spirituality blog, it happened and I can’t pretend it didn’t, no matter how much I’ve almost gone cross-eyed from rolling my own eyes.
I remember pressing publish on posts thinking the whole world was going to read them. This was it. I’d finally fulfil my dream of becoming famous without actually having any talents. What really happened after I pressed publish, of course, was no-one read them. Contrary to popular belief, when you publish something on the internet, Google doesn’t become your biggest cheerleader and put that thing up on page one of its searches to congratulate you on starting a blog.
There’s some legit statistic about there being over a billion blogs on the internet, so just in case you’re thinking of starting a blog, unless you’re actually going out of your way to share your blog so much that people get annoyed with you and start blocking you on Facebook, no-one’s going to actually read it.
Even though precisely zero people in the entire world knew about me pressing publish, this was one of those turning points that all good books and movies have. It’s that aha moment that all good life coaches use in their sales copy. All of a sudden, I had a work ethic. And not just a rock-up-9-to-5-and-write-my-blog-instead-of-studying work ethic. I mean I got up at 4.30AM before uni to write, and then I’d come home and write some more, and in between writing case histories and class notes, I’d have a document open about some wanky topic such as ‘7 Strategies To Get Through The Struggle Times’.
Here’s the problem I have with this and pretty much all blogs these days. We have this weird-ass perception just because there’s a platform that will print stuff, and just because we get to choose what we want to publish, and just because we’ve unleashed it onto the unwilling public, that that somehow makes us experts in helping people through a hard time. So wrong. Do you want to know how I came up with the seven tips? I pulled oracle cards, seven of them, for a friend and reused them as wisdom for anyone game enough to read my words.
I cringe. And I digress.
We were talking about the positives and how I turned over a new leaf. A new leaf that meant getting up at 4.30AM and writing. A new leaf that meant becoming the hardest worker of all my friends thanks to the fact that I fell for all those scams of people telling you just how damn easy it is to turn your blog into a business and live happily ever after on a paradise island making more than enough money for the mojitos to be continuously refilled by your pool-boy-turned-mojo-maker-turned-eye-candy.
With my overly inflated ego insisting that I was smart enough and funny enough, I went into blog battle with all those other bloggers who were fighting for the slice of the business blogger pie.
With my eyes firmly set on making money, but without cashflow or any idea how I was going to make money, I became part of the craze that’s sweeping the world right now. No, not the Justin Bieber Sorry dance craze where we’re all going to pubs and drinking champagne with 50 other girls who’re obsessed with learning the dance. I’m talking about the craze of becoming a wannapreneur.
Before I became my own boss, I was a wannapreneur.
THIS HAS BEEN AN EXCERPT FROM THE 30- SOMETHINGS
In The 30-Somethings, McKenzie takes the classic coming of age story and turns it into a collection of thoughts and stories broken up into three acts, designed to hold a really short attention span.
Elizabeth shares how her career-turned-business, her relationship with boys, and being human in this average ordinary-sized woman’s body have shaped her into being the loud-mouthed, semi-successful, semi-hot, self-important adult she is today.
Elizabeth will have you laughing out loud as she exposes the phenomena known as the internet #ladyboss, gives you friendly tips on how to trick boys into thinking you’re hot even when you’ve got a fruit-shaped body, and if you’re blessed to not be a fruit at all, then you can skip right to the section where she tells the fairytale story of how she eye-banged her boyfriend for the first time.
With the help of self-publishing, it’s never been easier for an amateur to pitch herself as the voice of a generation and impart lessons onto the unwilling world.