Not because of the hours or the pay, which could be worse. Not because of my commute into this office park, or that no one else appreciates that phrase as much as I do. Not the dim unholy hum of energy-efficient lights, recycled air with hints of garlic and scorched wool, the break room fridge with its mysterious stains, open bottle of rosé no one will drink or claim. Not the thousand bloodless paper cuts, copier that jams in high humidity, the legion e-mails labeled Urgent, their emoticons and useless FYIs. Not the spreadsheets and reports that are assigned, written, revised and never spoken of. Not the tedium of meetings at which nothing is discussed, managers who barely learned my name before they disappeared. Not because of everything that doesn’t function—water fountains, window blinds, the entire marketing department. Not even because of office politics, the gossip and jockeying, spats over power we don’t have. Because the work I love is what I spend the least time doing. Because I jerk awake at 4:00 am, my fists already clenched, have stopped feeling concern for coworkers upset by bad reviews, sick pets or family cancer. Because every shift in policy makes my life slightly worse, and I can’t find the line between caring too much and total apathy. Because ever since I started here I’ve been assured things will improve, but I’m afraid that staying means becoming bitter and entrenched, unhappy but unable to move on.
Copyright © 2017 Carrie Shipers. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2017.