Make It Stop: “My Crappy Job Has Its Perks, But It’s Also Ruining My Mood”

I have an unusual job in the medical field. There are perks, like lots of downtime in between tasks and the work schedule is flexible, which is great because it gives me plenty of time to pursue creative projects I’m passionate about. However, there are drawbacks. I have no interest in the work I’m doing, plus there is a long commute and unpleasant co-workers. As a result, I always come home from my job in a bad mood. I snap at my boyfriend and generally feel like a sadder, more angry version of myself. Quitting isn’t an option as it’s the sole way I support myself and I depend on the flexible schedule for my side projects. How do I stop my unhappy work situation from negatively affecting my attitude?

I understand why you want to scream into your pillow; you’re stuck in a rut. Your job isn’t fulfilling. The commute is a drain and your co-workers are a drag. But who’s to say you won’t feel as frustrated at your next job? Or the one after that? For the most part, all jobs are a bummer. That’s why they pay you; because no one would do the work for free!

The first thing to do is exploit the job’s perks to your maximum benefit. Instead of juggling being on the clock during the day and being creative at night, try to be creative all day. You say that you have a lot of downtime at your job, so maybe there’s a way you can use that time productively. Be like Matt Damn in “Good Will Hunting” and give yourself a master’s education with nothing but a library card. Every spare minute you have is a minute you can dedicate to growing your mind:

  • Read lots of books on whichever format is most convenient (the Kindle and/or iBook apps on your cell phone, e-books on your tablet, paperbacks, etc.)
  • Bring a notebook to jot ideas down
  • Keep a journal
  • Read up on the concept of mindfulness and meditate

Write a short story about your job. Notice everything. The sandy color of the chairs in the conference room, the square gray buttons on the telephones, the little paper cones for the water dispenser that crumple after one use. Think of interesting tweets to send out later when you’re off the clock. Make elaborate lists about your creative goals and the steps you’ll take to meet them. Brainstorm five people in your creative field you’d like to connect with this year and make plans to grab coffee with them.

You can also motivate yourself by making your time at work a game. When ten people piss you off, buy yourself a Snickers from the break room. When thirty people piss you off, buy yourself the dry shampoo that’s been sitting in your Birchbox cart for four months. It might also help if you come up with some goals and subsequent rewards. When you read ten books, x happens. When you write 25 pages, y happens. Have fun with it.

Next, turn the drawbacks into positives. Long commutes are perfect for diving into podcasts and audio books. You can’t do anything about your annoying co-workers, but most jobs have annoying people you need to contend with. Tune them out as best as you can. Hey, you might even use them as a basis for characters if you ever write a play or make a film.

Instead of being in a bad mood when you get home, get energized. Tell your boyfriend about what you learned today. Tell him about three ideas you came up with at work. Plan fun activities for you to do when you get home—like diving into a TV show together or exploring a new film genre together—so you have something to look forward to when you walk in the door. Focus on the positives!

In the long run, this won’t be your forever job. This is a temporary situation. Now the real work begins: squeezing your downtime for all it’s worth and nurturing your wonderful creative spirit.

Make It Stop is a weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — author of “Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through” and the blogger behind the blog, Shmitten Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email [email protected] with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.