I don’t want to have a boss

This was originally published in August 2012.

A reader writes:

How can I stand being employed by someone when I don’t want to have a boss? I’ve always had trouble working for authority; my experience with authority, and this isn’t just a perception as I’ve tried changing that too, is they walk all over me, getting what they want, leaving pennies in the end.

You can skip the rest if you’d like, but it provides more insight into why I have trouble with having a boss.

As most things, it does start as a child. I’ve seen too much indifference; in school, it was bullies getting away with things and me the one punished.

In work, it’s bosses allowing other employees to do less work and still earn more. This may sound arrogant, but at my previous job I knew more about IT (that’s my field) than the system admin did; this in turn had me teaching him, and yet, he was earning far more than me. Eventually, that job turned into three jobs (development, graphic design, and marketing).

My previous employer asked me to help with a lot of things, not just writing software. I ended up taking work away from an outsourced graphic design agency, saving the company money, and getting a meager raise that didn’t change along with the workload. I found out too much, and discovered the company was being held on retainer for more than 3x the amount of my yearly salary, which didn’t include the costs for the projects they did have.

People asked me at that job, “How can you stand it?” I guess I should have left sooner. I was even told by my managers that they could replace me with someone else. My personal problem was how I handled frustration, but how can I hand frustration when the owner of the company literally (yes, literally) sat behind me for 3-5 hours of the day, telling me how to move my hands on the screen. I eventually left because I’m tired of doing work that I don’t want to do anymore, and I feel terrible that I’m not getting anywhere in my life.

The truth is, I feel great writing fiction and non-fiction. I wouldn’t mind doing stand up comedy, but I don’t have any experience performing in front of others — I was the kid who pulled the curtain during the school play. I did manage to write and self-publish a fiction novel, with humor, and I might publish a book under a pseudonym that I’d use as a stage name, too.

Yeah, this is a lot; it’s why I shoved it down here and away from the point. I apologize if it comes across as annoying, or someone who’s ticked off. I am, a bit. I’ve quit every job I’ve had over the same reason: I severely disagree with management, burn myself out, and can’t even get a single break to say, hey, let me get things organized.

I don’t have a job at the moment, and inside, I really don’t want one. I’m tired of listening to people talking down to me like I’m garbage. I mean, if your own employer has the gall to talk about prospective employee’s pay (exactly dollar amount), with someone who has no business knowing, wouldn’t you feel terrible? That was the last I needed to hear from them, and the rest fell into my mind, and I had to leave.

Now, I’m not lazy. If I were, I wouldn’t be seeking help in any form or another. I’m just tired of it, and it makes me irritated when I think that I less than a month’s worth of money left, and I can’t stand the thought of getting a job.

Well, no one is going to force you to get a job. It’s a choice that you make if you want the things that come with it — a steady stream of income, primarily.

If you decide you’re willing to forego the steady stream of income, there are other options. You can start your own business (which is categorically not for everyone, but an option for some). You can find some other way to pay your bills, like marrying someone who’s willing to support you. Or you can have no money at all and rely on the taxpayer-funded social safety net, which means a very low standard of living, obviously.

So you need to decide which of these options is most appealing to you — or, probably more realistically, least unappealing. What’s your bottom line — are you willing to deal with a job and boss you might not love in order to have a paycheck? And can you see them them as a direct trade of one for the other?

Most people decide they’re willing to get a job and have a boss, even if it doesn’t make them especially happy, because they want what comes with it. And in fact, for most people, work is not a source of pleasure and fulfillment. It’s a source of income. We often talk here as if it must be the former, but that’s a very privileged viewpoint that we’re lucky to be able to have. Many, many people work solely as a means of putting food on the table.

I think you need to get clarity around exactly what your choices are and what trade-offs you’re willing to make in order to have a home or disposable income or whatever it is that you want in life. Everyone makes these calculations a little differently; what’s essential is simply that you make them.

Additionally, do some thinking about your own role in your experiences so far. When someone has never had a job or a manager that they’ve been satisfied with — to the point that they’re considering not working at all as a result! — there’s often something going on with them, whether it’s an inability to be satisfied, or a problem with authority, or an anger problem, or difficulty getting along with others, or something else entirely. (And frankly, some of your examples in your letter sounded … well, a little naive. For instance, yes, companies charge clients more for your work than they pay you. Sometimes a lot more. If you don’t like it, you have the option of trying to go into business for yourself. So I do wonder if you have unrealistic expectations, at least in some respects.)

There’s also this, although I don’t know how to say it diplomatically:  People who are really good at what they do generally build up options over time. If you’re good enough, you can pick and choose so that you end up in better workplaces with better managers. You can leave bad situations, and you can often avoid them in the first place. After a certain point in a career, if you’re really good at what you do, you shouldn’t need to consider sweatshops where your boss treats you poorly. So it’s worth looking at your own work to try to figure out why you’ve haven’t worked your way out of this spot. It could be that you’re in the wrong field for your strengths, or it could be that you under-value yourself and so never try for something better, or it could be something else — I don’t know. But you should try to figure it out.

(Please know that I’m not trying to imply that you’re some sort of incompetent buffoon who is incapable of earning better treatment — I’m not. But something’s going on here that would be useful to examine.)

In any case, as is true of so many problems, this comes down to being ruthlessly realistic about what your options are. For instance, most people can’t make a living off of writing fiction or doing stand-up comedy (even the very few who do generally work a day job for years while they get their careers to the point that they’re self-funding), but maybe you’ll decide you’re willing to deal with having a boss for eight hours a day and know that your fulfillment will come from writing on the side. Or maybe you’ll decide that you’ll forego a steady paycheck, do odd jobs, and drastically lower your standard of living. There are a bunch of different combination of options, all with their own consequences.

The key is to take a brutally honest look at what’s important to you and what’s not, and what trade-offs you’re willing to live with, understanding that each choice means not choosing something else … whether it’s money, security, a boss, absolute autonomy, or something else entirely.

{ 434 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I can’t help but wonder what kind of advice this LW was actually looking for.

    1. aes_sidhe*

      If they’re looking for app oval, they should have written Dear Harriette and been told to gently probe their options.

      1. BRR*

        I think this of every letter but I’d love an update. It was written so long ago I imagine the LW has probably learned a lot and I wonder how they view things now.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I’m intrigued by a letter like this that’s really personal but also several years in the past. Did better opportunities soften the OP’s stance toward working for a boss? Is she a standup comedian? I’m just always hoping the answer isn’t “It’s unresolved and I’m miserable.”

          1. Kathleen_A*

            Oh, that would be so cool! There was some genuine pain and frustration in that letter (along with some other stuff, of course), and it would be wonderful to find out if the OP has found a way to manage that stuff and is now living at least an OK life.

            1. selena81*

              i feel conflicted:
              On the one hand i want to mock her for being a diva who seems to think that work is like it is in movies (emotionally fulfilling, tailored to your specific wishes and talents, decently paid, the a-hole boss alway getting his comeuppance, the hero of the story being smarter than everyone else in the office, ect). She seems to be angling for you to tell her to go be a full-time ‘artist’, finances be damned.
              On the other hand she seems to be in genuine pain, trapped in a vicious cycle of frustration and resentment, and the complete lack of perspective might f.i. be caused by having unemployed parents (it can be difficult to call b.s. to media-portrayals when you have very few good examples in your own social circle)

              1. selena81*

                btw: i think your advice is spot on. sure it is possible to ‘never answer to a boss again’, but any of these methods have their own drawbacks.

      2. epi*

        I would love to know too.

        I can relate to the OP’s frustration. The worse and lower level jobs I had earlier in my career, the harder they were and the worse I was at them. I am a good epidemiologist but never managed to leave a retail job on good terms. I was so checked out of a toxic low-level job in health care admin by the time I left, it was only due to poor supervision that I kept my good reputation.

        It’s easy to do great work and develop emotional maturity when you’re doing interesting stuff and people are nice to you. It’s really hard to do all that plus develop a sense of career direction in the work situations the OP describes, regardless of how they contributed to them.

        1. Manders*

          That’s a great point–sometimes people aren’t cut out for entry level service or admin jobs, and they just sort of have to flail their way into a better situation. I think our society tends to undervalue those really difficult soft skills jobs, so people who aren’t good at them think they’re failures at all work instead of just this particular type of work.

          1. No1CatParent*

            “flail their way to a better situation” is such a good way to put it. My first three full time jobs in a row lasted 9 months each. 9 months into my 4th full time job I was at a promising interview and at the end I said something like, “do you have any hesitations about my application that I could address” (which I know is a Controversial Question here). And the hiring manager very gently laughed and said, “look, when I was your age my resume looked like this too. You’re not staying in jobs long enough, stick it out somewhere and you’re going to figure it out”. So I stuck it out at full time job number four and eventually got promoted into work that was less boring/frustrating. I excelled at that and it led to better opportunities too. Committing to sticking it out and working to make where I’m at work for me has also forced me to develop my communication skills, develop strengths that can lead to better suited roles, treat my relationships with my co-workers like they are long term. It was a lot of flailing and I’m still doing some of that but I’m grateful that hiring manager leveled with me so kindly because it’s taught me a lot.

        2. Doggo*

          I also work in public health/health care admin and it took a couple of hardcore failures on my part before I found a niche; luckily I had a decent network and good contacts who were able to help me secure decent jobs after I majorly screwed up — and I got my act together before the well ran dry, so to speak.

        3. Anonymoose*

          Yup. The realities of ‘growing up’. I waited tables a ton in my late teens/20’s because it was always something that I could fall back on and make a quick buck (best decision I made at 19!), but I remember telling myself over and over again ‘why are all restaurant managers corrupt assholes?’. Looking back, this is both youth idealism and naivete. But also true; most of those jobs are such high turnover that there is no time or energy to focus on mentoring staff to be better than they are – this is true in retail as well. The thought is ‘why bother’. And it takes an especially self aware person to realize that this is merely a stage in one’s life, not the general tapesty of life. But you have to get a couple of wins first before you realize that. Mine was getting a really competitive job doing what I was good at. But for others it could be getting that one client who turns your freelance work into hyperdrive. All part of growing up, and as a result of hard work and strategic planning. :)

    2. Media Monkey*

      to be told they were fantastic and way too good for all of those multiple jobs where they were doing great but no one appreciated them. i think most of us have worked with someone like that at some point and it’s….. interesting.

      1. Media Monkey*

        umm, i might be projecting my own previous experience onto the OP so perhaps this isn’t fair. sorry OP. I hope things are better for you now.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I see it as a cousin of “What are some jobs that exist?”–“What are some boss-free jobs that exist?”

        1. Anonymoose*

          LOL. I remember a colleague years ago trying to insist he was the ‘idea man’. Nope, he was just super lazy and refused to do his own work.

  2. dbAdmin*

    Why are you reposting this whole sale? Has the LW updated you on the situation or…? What does this letter from 2012 have to do with 2018?

    1. Yolo*

      Perhaps to get a new set of comments on the situation? This seems like something people will have a lot of opinions on…

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Sometimes Alison reposts or updates her responses to old letters when she’s on vacation, particularly busy (e.g. maybe gearing up for her book’s launch?), or thinks it has information that would be useful to readers who may have forgotten the letter or are newer to the site.

      1. dbAdmin*

        Do you really think there’s a good reason to copy paste an older letter rather than just reply to a new one or take a break from posting for one day?

          1. bunniferous*

            Well, I am glad you posted it because I had not seen it and I have read a lot of your archives. And even if I had seen it, I like the comments almost as much as your postings. And hey, this website is free! (also one of my favorite places on the web, and that is saying something.)

            1. Redundant Department of Redundancy*

              Same here! I’m also new to the site and I hadn’t seen this before! A cracking read!

            2. Triumphant Fox*

              I will also say that when I read the archives, I’m always so tempted to respond to someone’s comment…when that is so fruitless years later. It’s nice to bring letters like this – ones that tackle more complex narrative issues instead of really specific situations (which I think are better when there’s an update or it’s just an especially crazy situation) – back into the discussion. I want to know what our 2018 selves think about not wanting a boss that our 2012 selves may not have mentioned.

              1. Samata*

                I have actually done that before when looking back in the archives out of habit. And then I am immediately like “DOF! What are you doing?!”

            3. Falling Diphthong*

              Yes, I make a point of not commenting on old letters–even when I have awesome insights!–because it’s no longer a discussion at that point. Would be delighted to have occasional repeats of “here’s an interesting broadly applicable situation.” (Less the bird phobia guy; more the woman who got some dubious comments when she wore patterned stockings, which brought up both shutting those down and hazy fashion lines and how to work within them–on that one, I remember helpful advice being that in a conservative field you could have one popping element to your look, but not two or three.)

            4. Teapot Tester*

              Yep, me too. I’d rather see old content re-published than nothing posted at all.

          2. Yolo*

            Was there previously some short blurb at the top of this type of post, stating that you like to revisit or something? Maybe the absence of that is throwing people off.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think it’s just always been “this was previously published in YEAR,” more or less (although when I link to my Inc. columns, I explain that my column over there is all taken from my archives here, which might be what you’re thinking of).

            2. Jadelyn*

              I think some people just get fussy and entitled to talk down to the owner of a space when they don’t approve of what that person is doing with *their* space.

              1. Lara*

                The classic in that vein was when Facebook commenters ordered George Takei not to talk about equal marriage (because they themselves did not approve of it). I believe his response fell along “and laugh and laugh and laugh” lines.

              2. Snark*

                And, like, holy shit, my dude, welcome to the damn internet. There’s literally millions of content providers out there, most of whom updated with completely free AND fresh comment today, if you just can’t hang with a retread post a week before this particular free content creator launches a book and might be a little busy.

                I have never seen people get more whiny and entitled than when free shit is on offer.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  I can remember a time (way back in the dark ages of the internet … aka early 90s) when someone telling me what to say/post/etc. would have made me think about it. Now? Ahahahaha…

                2. Jadelyn*

                  Honestly. Go wander around Buzzfeed for awhile or check WatchMojo’s channel, they’ve always got some new timewasters up. The world won’t implode because one single blog – however well-loved – reprints one piece of content on one day alongside their other new content.

                3. adwords*

                  I have no problem with content being reposted and don’t agree with the critical comment, but, my dudes, are you so ignorant about ad revenue streams?

            3. mark132*

              I think the fact there is the short statement at the beginning about this being a repost is what is causing these comments. Had Allison not put that on top, almost everyone would have been blissfully unaware. (myself included). Though I do appreciate knowing.

              1. Anonymoose*

                She always mentions it at the bottom though. Always. You’d have to avoid reading it to click on the comments. This person must be super new.

          3. KatieK*

            I know I’m in the majority in saying it was a good read that I wouldn’t have stumbled onto in the archive. Thanks for feeding your hungry readers even when you don’t have the time to write the (astonishing volume of) brand new content you provide to us, for free, every day.

          4. Sandman*

            I’m glad you reposted it. I’ve had some similar experiences – less acute, but in the same family – and asked myself similar questions. Epi’s response above was really helpful and gives me hope moving forward.

        1. animaniactoo*

          I can think of about 15 off the top of my head. May I suggest that you approach this with the benefit of the doubt that a good reason *exists* and try to find one for yourself?

        2. Penny Lane*

          You have got to be kidding, dbAdmin. Alison runs this site of her own free will, offers it to the public free of charge, and she is entitled to set whatever boundaries she wants in terms of taking a day off, re-running old columns, etc. She offers this service for free and if you don’t like it, you are certainly free to find a blog more to your liking.

        3. Seriously?*

          Personally, I far prefer to read reposted letters than have nothing posted. A lot of us have not read everything in the archives and like the opportunity to actually discuss the letters which we do not have reading them in the archives. I don’t tend to read the non-letter content that gets posted but I know others do and they enjoy it. You don’t need to engage with everything posted.

        4. Observer*

          You DO have the choice to not read. If the idea of looking at an old letter with fresh eyes offends you so much, skip it! Alison DID note that it’s an old letter, so you had all the information you needed.

          What I would like to know is why you are spending so much time on this. Your original comment alone took waaay more time to type than skipping the letter could have.

          And, ftr, I actually do think that this letter was worth re-posting.

        5. Ray Gillette*

          *Using my skills I’ve learned by reading AAM over the years*

          What a weird thing to say.

          1. Lolli*

            Yes. I’m confused dbAdmin. Why would you prefer no post to a repost that many people may not have seen before?

          2. Code Name Duchess*

            OT but just want to say the commentariat on this site KILLS IT with names. Ray is my very favorite, followed by Lana.

        6. RUKiddingMe*

          This is Alison’s blog. She is entitled to pick and choose and to post whatever, whenever she wants. Also, she doesn’t work for you, just in case you were confused about that. Feel free not to read.

        7. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

          Seriously? I’m perpetually amazed at the volume of well-thought-out content that Allison publishes multiple times a day. Most bloggers are doing well to post that much stuff in a week (and I appreciate them too, because god knows I’m not putting anything out there myself!)

          Also, this topic is right on time for me as I am trying to figure out if my current case of notwantingaboss-itis is just burnout after a busy season or if it’s actually time to step out on my own.

      2. Juli G.*

        Uh, when this letter was published, Twitter was only 140 characters. The world has moved on.

        1. CMart*



          Twitter posts aren’t limited to 140 characters anymore??? I am way too young to be this out of touch.

            1. Mad Baggins*

              Makes sense since it’s being used as a platform for executive orders and political analysis now.

    3. Amber Rose*

      Possibly Alison is too busy to do a new letter today. There’s also a larger commenter base now than then, so there’s value in having a discussion again.

      1. dbAdmin*

        Well, there’s 2 more letters posted just after this one without any explanation so I don’t think it’s that.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          In fact, it’s that. I needed to cut back the work on my plate for this week, and running a reprint or two lets me do that. That doesn’t mean I’m unable to write any new content for the week; it means I needed to write less of it.

          1. Silicon Valley Girl*

            dbAdmin — welcome to the concept of an editorial calendar. publications of all sizes & types use them, they’re handy!

            1. Liz*

              I made an editorial calendar for my social media posts at work. My supervisor saw me working on it and commented, “it’s nice you get paid to make a calendar.” I’m saving up for what to ask here about her.

              1. The Strand*

                If the question is, “do you folks think my supervisor is an ass,” you’ve got one yes from me!

    4. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      Obviously I can’t answer your question, but as someone who wasn’t a reader of AAM in 2012 with no plans to go back and read all the archived posts, I appreciated reading this.

    5. MuseumChick*

      Probably because Alison is human, get’s busy/sick/not int he mood to answer an new question.

      And I’m pretty sure the fact that six years have gone by doesn’t mean that there are not people out there now how feel like the OP and probably didn’t see the letter when it was originally posted.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve always periodically re-run letters at especially busy times in my schedule, usually a handful of times a year. (In fact, I used to have a feature called Flashback Friday, where I did it regularly.) Lots of people haven’t read the full archives and so missed it the first time around. And if you’ve read it before, feel free to pass it by.

      1. Juli G.*

        I kind of miss the Flashback Fridays/having content after the open thread. Obviously you need work/life balance but I wanted to throw a vote out there for it!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Oh, that’s interesting! I can’t remember why I stopped doing it but maybe I’ll throw a few more in the mix.

          By the way, there’s one more reprint coming this week, so brace yourselves now!

          1. katastrophreak*

            I would also love to see more content on Fridays – even if it is ‘repurposed’. Comment sections usually aren’t my favorite thing.

          2. Puffyshirt*

            I love how the community has swarmed to defend your honor…(not that you’ve done anything wrong!). Thank you for your hard work and always interesting content!

          3. Not So NewReader*

            Did you stop because of the open thread getting so very long?

            The reprints are a good way to pick up on anything we may have missed the first time.

        2. LBK*

          Same! The open threads are generally too unwieldy for me so it would be nice to have more than one regular Friday comments section again.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Exactly. I only found this blog in 2016 and while I’ve read, and continue to read the archives, getting through over a decade of daily letters/comments is probably going to take some … time. A reposted letter I may not have (likely not) read yet is very cool. Especially since I can comment now. Because…commenting on a six year old letter looks a little sad…

        1. Not So NewReader*

          OTH, an extreme optimist would be sure that someone will read it. … eventually.

      3. dbAdmin*

        So what’s the actual purpose of reposting the letter other than you wrote it 6 years ago and not enough people apparently read it? The situation is probably resolved by now and there’s no update from the LW, so are you just encouraging people to comment about…what exactly? That the letter happened? Are you asking them to share anecdotes or their own issues? It’s just strange that you’re posting something that’s old enough to be be starting school (if it was a person) without anything other than “Reposted from X” at the top.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I have 11 years worth of near-daily content here, and most readers haven’t seen all of it. As long as a post still feels interesting and useful, that’s good enough for me. The point of a post is not solely to give advice to the letter-writer. If it were, I’d just answer letters privately and that would be that. Advice columns exist because they serve a much wider audience than the person writing in for advice.

          People who aren’t interested in discussing a reprinted letter don’t need to. There’s no requirement to participate in the comment section, although it’s here for people who want to. (But for what it’s worth, my primary audience here is not actually the comment section. The vast majority of readers don’t read the comments.)

            1. Hurricane Wakeen*

              Yeah, this is the only place on the Internet I proactively tell people to look at the comment section.

          1. SarahKay*

            Wow, that surprises me. I love the comments; I’ve learned so much from all the different points of view.
            I’m curious, though – how can you tell whether readers read the comments?

            1. SarahKay*

              Sorry, silly question – I just realised that it’d be visits, vs number of clicks on individual question links (and thus seeing the comments).

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                That definitely gives data, but also my ad network did an analysis where they studied which parts of the page most people spent time on, and very few went into the comments. That surprised me, but it’s changed the way I think about how to manage the site so it’s been useful to know!

                1. SarahKay*

                  Gosh, that’s really fascinating that they can see that much detail of what we look at. Thanks Alison.

        2. Alianora*

          Why are you getting so worked up about this? If you’d rather have nothing than a repost, you can just pretend it’s not here. It’s not affecting you in any way.

        3. Kirk Tentaprice*

          This comment doesn’t tell me anything that your 11:12 post didn’t.
          (Ceci n’est pas un post)

    7. Pancakes*

      I wasn’t a reader in 2012, so I’m glad this was reposted so I could read it and the comments. I can’t imagine everyone reading remembers each letter ever posted.

      1. Jess R.*

        I first started reading AAM during winter break when I was working in a school. I am pretty sure I read every single post she’s ever made (over the course of like… three weeks), and I still love reprints! Perhaps in part because binge-reading 8-10 years of a blog is great fun but does not really allow every single letter to cement in your memory. :-D

      2. H*

        I have been reading through the archives much farther than I originally intended (hello maternity leave!) and I appreciate reposts because some situations are evergreen but the economy can really change! I have noticed a distinct shift in tone from 2011/12 because the job market is so much better now. Everyone was much more pessimistic then! On a related note, I had to stop at 2011 as a 2010 grad who got laid off from my first job after 4 months and then had a little bit of a rocky road after that :)

        1. H*

          I should say I’m a voracious comment reader, so it’s the comments that have changed in an interesting way. Going backwards I noticed in 2013 there started to be a lot of people in tough situations they found it harder to get out of…

    8. When it rains...*

      How rude. AAM is not obligated to provide new content for you when you want it, dbAdmin.

      Anyway, I’m enjoyed the reread and new comments, personally.

    9. wat*

      I was curious as well. I don’t think everyone needed to jump down your throat or proclaim Alison the Queen once she responded (rudely, imo).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I didn’t mean it to be rude. I meant it to be factual — as in, “this is a call I make as the site owner, but if it’s not for you, there is a whole big internet of other sites to enjoy.” No one site will please everyone, and that’s okay.

        1. Ray Gillette*

          I don’t remember what podcast it is, but they always say, “Listen or don’t.”

          1. Kate*

            Karen always says that on My Favorite Murder, and I think she’s said she’s quoting Jesse Popp?

        2. Mananana*

          You weren’t rude, Alison. dbAdmin asked a question; you answered. I find wat’s “Alison the Queen” snark to be rude, not your response.

      2. Kms1025*

        Replying to wat…I think this follow up comment was what made the attitude seem somewhat…off?
        “Do you really think there’s a good reason to copy paste an older letter rather than just reply to a new one or take a break from posting for one day?”
        There’s a weird negative vibe here, in my humble opinion. As there is with your comment about “proclaim Allison the Queen”.
        It’s her site, she posts what she wants, we read it, or not.

      3. Louise*

        I mean Alison literally does this site for free and has given so many people valuable career (and life!) advice. And to have someone come on and demand more free content because you what? Feel entitled to Alison’s time, creativity, and expertise? Nope, not how it works, and Alison (the queen) can respond however she pleases. Because again, this is her site that she does for free.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just so I’m not misleading anyone, the site does earn money (from advertising) so I’m not doing it for free anymore (although I was for years at the start). But it’s free to readers, of course.

          I will say, though, that I am no queen and no one need fawn over me! You all are very kind though.

      4. I Love Thrawn*

        But Alison IS the Queen here. She pays all the bills and provides the benefit of her professional wisdom, then throws open the gates for commenters. So yeah, all hail.

    10. Anonymoose*

      Um, a shit ton. There are lots of younger workers out there today that for the first time are having Reality Bites moments. This advice is still timely. Try to stop being a douche canoe, ya?

      1. fieldpoppy*

        I discovered AAM about two years ago and through many nights of insomnia I have read through what i thought was ALL the archives — but I missed this one and was so glad to read it! I’m an AAM completist, lol.

      2. Penny*

        It somehow recently came up & I had to explain why my first ever email address was reality bites to my 20 something coworkers. Feeling old. I still have it too but mainly for junk now.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I also wonder if part of OP’s frustration was a symptom of Toxic Job Syndrome? I often felt the same kinds of frustration right before I quit (including not wanting a boss), but what helped was that I had had good bosses before. I knew that even though I felt miserable and wished I were independently wealthy so I could disappear from the earth for 1-2 years, not all jobs (and not all managers) would be as bad as the ones I left.

    I also probably would have been irked by hearing about someone else’s compensation—especially if I felt underpaid—in a Toxic Job, but it doesn’t actually sound inherently egregious in a nontoxic context. (It could still be odd, especially if you feel like hearing about compensation is above your pay grade, but I find it can be helpful information about the employer’s valuation of certain people/jobs).

    So in addition to Alison’s excellent guidance on how OP can approach an internal review/ introspection to determine what they want, it might also help to determine whether the frustration was employer specific or whether OP felt as described at all jobs.

    [FWIW, OP, you sound a bit like my brother, who is brilliant but also sometimes unnecessarily uncompromising. He found a job he liked, but it took a very long time because of his preferences. It’s ok for you to do the same, especially if you’re financially secure.]

    1. fposte*

      I was thinking along those lines. Uncompromising + bad job experiences is a tough combination.

      For me I mostly focus on what the money gets me and whether it’s worth it, rather than if it’s fairly allotted; I evaluate longitudinally rather than latitudinally.

    2. Manders*

      Yes, this definitely reminds me of the way I start thinking when I’m in a bad job situation. It’s also worth pointing out that this letter was sent 6 years ago–I was also a young person trying to figure out my career around that time, and a ton of people were telling me to work for myself even though I knew I’d be lousy at it. The job market’s a lot different now than it was then.

    3. Samata*

      I was thinking about the Toxic Job Syndrome, too, actually.

      I know in our department we were able to bring a process in-house that literally saved the company a half-million dollar expense…but I never expected to get a raise out of it. I just figured it gave me a little extra capital when I wanted/needed to do something else, which it has. I also saw it as a way to give the company working capital to be more efficient in other areas/departments. I have a really good job, though (for me) and am invested in the success of our company overall.

      At Toxic Job I may have felt similar to the OP if I were in the same situation.

      1. As Close As Breakfast*

        And it sort of depends on whether the ‘doing thing X which made/saved the company huge amount Y’ was part of your job, you know? If part of your job is to make thing X happen, or you were hired to start taking on duty X so it doesn’t have to be done externally, than the accomplishment of that doesn’t necessarily warrant extra praise or compensation. To be clear, I think doing a great job and accomplishments like this should be recognized! But it’s not clear from OP’s letter if this was a part of their job/duties or something they just stumbled across and made happen one day. If it’s the former, it may be a case of inflated expectations younger or less experienced workers often have.

    4. designbot*

      It sounds like some TJS, but also like this is the narrative that the OP has crafted about his life—that he can’t get ahead, that he won’t be treated fairly by authority figures, etc. etc.
      I’ve had times when I’ve fallen into that line of thinking too, and it’s its own vicious cycle. Even if it doesn’t make any sense to you, even if you don’t really believe it, adopting new thinking habits flat out helps. Look for the good in the situation, take the time to appreciate when someone does something good for you or even just near you. Even if it’s tiny, acknowledge it. Your acknowledgement generates more good will, and that generates better treatment, and starts a virtuous cycle that is MUCH more enjoyable to live in. But approaching every job with the assumption that you’re not going to get a fair shake is a self fulfilling prophecy.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yeah, the narrative is what jumped out at me too, that s/he’s concluding a Grand Universal Truth from a limited dataset, a very particular personality type, and a whooooole lotta confirmation bias.

        “approaching every job with the assumption that you’re not going to get a fair shake is a self fulfilling prophecy.”


      2. Susan Sto Helit*

        I’ve known a couple of guys (and had the misfortune to date one) who had issues like this – both of them combining the belief that they were too good for the job they were doing, with an unwillingness to actually do the job (one would call in sick when he decided he’d rather play computer games all day, for example). They’d both get outraged when told they were expected to follow the same rules as everyone else, coming up with all sorts of reasons why they should be allowed exceptions, and invariably would end up quitting or being fired. And then feel victimised by it. From the outside you can see that they’re creating a lot of this situation themselves, but it takes some really tough love to spell that out – if they’re even willing to consider it as a possibility.

        Sometimes the job is really toxic, but sometimes you /make/ it toxic.

        1. Starbuck*

          I wonder if this is a gendered thing, and has anything to do with the way many men/boys are socialized? I have also known a couple guys with this everyone-is-out-to-get-me vibe, but I’ve yet to meet a woman who had quite that attitude. To me it seems to have something to do with an unreasonable level of entitlement that doesn’t seem to get imparted to women often, if ever. But maybe they’re out there?

          1. Susan Sto Helit*

            like how women get told by other people what they should be doing with themselves all the time ANYWAY, so it’s not exactly much of a shock when it turns out that happens in the workplace too?

            1. Susan Sto Helit*

              (there were html ‘snark’ tags around that, but they didn’t pull through. This was sarcasm, for the benefit of avoiding a #notallmen situation here)

          2. Parenthetically*

            I think privilege imparts entitlement, and while I’ve known lots of men, I haven’t known lots of, say, billionaire oil heiresses, you know? ;)

            1. Susan Sto Helit*

              The crazy part is that one of the two guys I’m talking about is not in the least bit privileged. Or at least, I don’t know his whole history, but I know that part of it involves having been homeless at some point.

              He does have a friend who lets him stay in a room in his house rent-free, though, so I guess he has the privilege of being at least partly insulated from the consequences of choosing not to work/to behave in a manner that will get him fired.

            2. Starbuck*

              Yes, I’m betting that it’s a combination of privilege, entitlement, and then something further that’s amplifying that to an unreasonable degree and leading to this reaction of flailing angrily rather than putting in productive effort that would actually improve their situation. Maybe immaturity? Regardless, I hope OP has moved past that because it seems like a very unpleasant way to live.

          3. George*

            I have run into a few that have the “they are out to get me because I’m a woman”. The good news is that unlike the men who take it as an excuse to fail, they women tend to work hard, network a lot, and get promoted. Just in my experience, small sample size.

          4. Eye of Sauron*

            I’ve run into a few women like this over the years. Not a gender thing in my opinion.

            1. Starbuck*

              But I’m curious about the balance of numbers. A few women, and a few men? Or a few women and a lot of men? I don’t think this sort of condition is inherent to being a man, but I wonder if it’s more likely because of how our society treats genders differently.

              1. kb*

                It’s definitely not exclusively a male/masculine trait, but I think it definitely presents itself more often and prominently amongst men and boys. There was a study recently that found young men were more confident than young women about their understanding of a topic even though their grades were worse. I think the idea that your current grades don’t at all correlate to your actual intelligence in that subject is something that boys are often allowed to get away with in school from v early on in a way that girls aren’t. (He’s really bright, but he just won’t apply himself!) That carries over into the workforce. And while your grades, job title, and performance evaluation don’t define you entirely, they are the only way to concretely demonstrate your potential in a new job.

          5. CMart*

            Hm. This has me reflecting upon my small sample size of people I know.

            I for SURE see “everyone is out to get me/this is all someone else’s fault” in men and women alike but in different ways.

            In the men I’ve seen it in, it’s directed toward tangible pursuits. They keep getting fired from or “having to” quit jobs because of XYZ that Isn’t Them. The refrigerator salesman was trying to rip them off. They were given a traffic ticket because the cops did X and another driver did Y.

            In the women I’ve seen it in, it’s directed toward interpersonal relationships. Their children don’t talk to them because it’s the children’s fault. They weren’t invited to an event because So and So and The Gang are jealous of X. They missed a deadline because poor me, no one told me because no one talks to me because they are sniping gossips who want to see me fail etc…

            Everyone is “out to get” (certain) men and women in equal ways. It seems their perception of the impact of being targeted finds different avenues though.

            1. Julia*

              That makes sense. My mother always tells me I get upset when she’s mean because I’m sensitive and wrong, and other people are wrong, when in fact, she can be really mean and judgmental and sexist, but doesn’t want to hear it.

            2. GreyjoyGardens*

              It’s a martyrdom complex, and it manifests in men and women alike in different ways. I’ve seen this play out exactly as you say – Man: Waah waah, boss is out to get me! Waah waah, The Man waah waah, Poor Me! Woman: Waah waah, ungrateful kids, awful daughter-in-law! Waah waah backstabbers! Faaaaaamily! Waah waah, Poor Me!

              And these people wind up creating *exactly* what they complain about – nobody wants to employ them, marry them, be their friend, be in contact despite that they’re faaaaamily – the martyr, like the cheese, eventually stands alone.

        2. kb*

          I definitely have seen this mentality/ toxic cycle before. If anyone watches Crazy Ex-girlfriend, I think the mentality comes from the same place as Greg’s song “I could if I wanted to.” Rather than acknowledge their fear of failure and that there’s vulnerability in doing, they’d rather keep the blame on our side factors and an unfair world.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This is my brother, to a t. It took a long time to get him to understand that if you go into something thinking it will fail or you’re being screwed, you will fail and get screwed. (Sometimes things can become self-fulfilling prophecies.)

        4. Double A*

          My husband had to fire his best friend today because this was literally his attitude. However, the friend also in some kind of mental health downward spiral that he completely refuses to acknowledge, and is instead drinking and doing drugs and gambling to deal with it. He’s basically at rock bottom with no hint of awareness that that’s what’s going on. He is lashing out viciously at anyone who tries to help him. This is not a guy with any privilege, but he does have a lot of untreated mental health issues which he’s not willing to get treated (husband and company have provided the resources).

    5. BlueWolf*

      I know someone who went through a very similar situation. Not only did he feel underappreciated, underpaid, and burned out in his job, but his direct supervisor would also bully him with personal attacks. He currently drives for a rideshare company, but is looking to start his own business. I think “unnecessarily uncompromising” is a good descriptor, but he did have some legitimate grievances and also was over-stressed due to other factors. This all compounded in a way that was negatively affecting his health, and being out of the rat race for a while has improved his health in many ways. I have tried to point out to him that not all jobs/bosses will be toxic, but it may also be that he would just be better suited to being his own boss.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think often these circumstances come down to a mix of luck and deliberate actions. Like, you can have an unreasonable boss but be unreasonable in some ways yourself. (I recall a letter from someone who was not getting promoted because his bosses hated him even though he was now defacto training people, and Alison pointing out that this meant he was not getting promoted, no matter how much he thought he should be. In the update a year or two later, different job, without all the baggage of the last job on either side he was happy, bosses happy, promotion easy.)

    6. Jesca*

      I have ODD. Many people in my family have diagnosed ODD (including my son, God help me), and I can totally relate to this. With that said, I can usually keep all that ODD in check except when I am in a very toxic environment, micromanaged, discipline-centric, bullying work environment.

      I agree with AAM. What you CAN DO right now is focus on what you want, what you can live with, and where maybe you can learn to improve (even if it is how you react or the tone you interject to yourself). I work because it allows me to do things I love. I work without the mindset that “my work” defines me as a person. This works for me.

      1. CMart*

        Is ODD “Oppositional Defiance Disorder”?

        If you feel comfortable, could you elaborate a bit on how that manifests itself (say, in a typical work environment) and what you mean by “keeping it in check”?

        I’m super curious because it’s a diagnosis that is often either a) brushed off as not a real thing and is just trying to pathologize “selfish people” (I’m sure that’s not an unfamiliar sentiment to you, I’m sorry) and/or b) not something that can really be treated. It just… is.

        1. Interested!*

          Yes please! I second this. I know someone with ODD as an acquaintance, and her mother is my friend. She has become VERY argumentative all the time over everything, and I find myself wondering if it’s because she is used to arguing with her child, or that maybe she has it too? Any information you can give (while you are certainly not responsible for educating me) would be very much appreciated.

    7. EdmundBunberry*

      Or if not a symptom of Toxic Job, maybe a symptom of starring in the movie of your life. So every injustice needs to be addressed, every passing feeling of being overlooked plays into a grand theme of being undervalued and discounted. Every obstacle requires a hero’s journey, or makes you feel like you need to stand on a table and yell ‘this shall not stand!’. The dismay may stem from the hopeless feeling you are powerless to change other people.

      1. RVA Cat*

        One thing that really helps adult life become bearable is to stop measuring your success or failure like a school grade and see it more like a batting average.

    8. smoke tree*

      I was also wondering if it was a symptom of some deeper issues that were manifesting themselves in extreme work frustration. There’s something about the “I only have a month’s worth of money but can’t bring myself to look for work” line that I find troubling. I hope the LW made it through okay.

    9. ProWriter*

      re: the brilliant but uncompromising brother: that’s exactly what I came here to say!

      My brother is legitimately brilliant and saves the companies he’s worked for oodles of cash by employing him because he can easily do the work of 2 people.

      For him, though, work is life. He stayed way too long in a particular job, after promised raises and title upgrades never materialized because he was really in love with the company…waiting around 4 years for those promises was way too long.

      From what I saw, it primed him to expect the worst and hard to get along with at his next couple of jobs because he was just expecting to get burned in the same way. He’s a lot better now, but he was insufferable while talking about work for a good period of time in there…

      1. Lara*

        Yep, a stream of toxic workplaces can really do a number on you. Not least because it becomes your new normal. So you go from ‘regular merit raises and a decent boss are good’ to ‘no-one’s screaming at anyone or committing fraud! Awesome!’.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        We may have the same brother! (at least in part) Mine is also the type to stay too long at a place–despite being exceptionally nimble, he really hates changing big things in his life, which includes his place of employment (even if his actual job is not changing very much). I think he’d be happiest if he was paid well and sent off by himself to do R&D on projects he defines and thinks are interesting.

        It takes him a while to advocate for himself, and he convinces himself that there are justifiable reasons for getting screwed, until he realizes he’s getting screwed and then there is nothing redeeming about anything at the job he should have left years prior. I think this is also why it takes him a long time to pick his jobs; now that he knows he’s likely to overstay, he tries to screen for exploitation on the front-end. For many reasons, his new strategy is not always workable. He’s of course brilliant and I love him, but it is sometimes hard to see someone so excellent consistently defeat himself.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I was thinking a combo, of toxic job and not knowing how to advocate for one’s self. Alison has written volumes on how to advocate effectively. OP has the company of millions of people if the advocacy issue resonates with her. It’s not in our genes at birth, but, dang, it ought to be.
      Sometimes being a good advocate for one’s self means knowing when to leave and trusting your gut to know things will not improve if you stay.

  4. Zip Silver*

    I’m looking forward to the day I can start my own business. Just chugging along saving up capital and gaining experience in a megacorp. Luckily my industry is relatively easy to get a startup going successfully. It’s just a matter of getting cash on hand first (and having the experience to not run it into the ground).

    1. Wicked Odd*

      Yep, it was always my goal to run my own business (I did have a family background of entrepreneurship). In my industry, I didn’t need capital, but I did need experience, and the right set of a circumstances to get off the ground. I failed my first service-oriented attempt, but have managed to scale up my second, and I did generally have a job, temp job, or freelance gig in the background to cover my expenses.

      And now things are going great! But it takes time and hard knocks, and you need to pay rent in the meantime. And I live somewhere with single-payer health care, so insurance was never much of an issue.

      Important PSA to anyone who has a goal of being their own boss: don’t get sucked into multi-level marketing schemes.

    2. Triumphant Fox*

      This was my father’s solution, but he also decided in the meantime to go into straight commission sales so that his bosses had very little say over what he did. He knew he was going to resent every boss he had and do things his own way, so he figured out how not to have a boss. Once he built up enough capital, he started his own business, struggled for about 12 years with reinvesting everything he made into the business and making very little (we learned to love thrift stores) until the business reached a tipping point, after which it had enough of a base to be largely self-sufficient. Now he lives his version of “the dream” with maximum flexibility and no boss, but he’s also not in a super creative industry. He’s still a salesman, at heart. I don’t think this would have worked with stand-up comedy.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        People who know–and love!–one of my relatives observe that there is probably a reason that he started his own company right out of grad school and has never worked for anyone else.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        According to my favorite comedian, Gabriel Iglesias, success was a combination of grinding out shows in small venues and finding the right people to help him. He says he had the luck to meet a good agent who took him on and after that it was still several years till he could get booked outside his home area. He hated the way promoters stereotyped him and didn’t give him chances and some were disrespectful about his weight too!
        His key to success was hanging in there and doing it anyway, and he credits the friends and family around him who helped him make it. :)
        One of the things I – and I’m sure most of his fans – love about him is his grateful attitude. He thanks his fans, his friends, his mother, and his agents and promoters in every show. :)

        1. Former Employee*

          I never heard of him, but if he is successful, he must above all else be funny. While luck, hanging in, family and management support are all important, a stand up comedian must be perceived as funny by enough people to fill a venue on a consistent basis.

    3. Sybil Fawlty*

      It is definitely different to work for yourself, but a person who has a hard time with authority will still have problems. The IRS, whatever regulatory system your industry has, and customers all have a lot to say about what you can do.

    4. JKP*

      I have run my own business for 15+ and work with and help other business owners across many industries.

      One thing I have learned is that truly successful business owners still have their own boss too. They pay someone to be in that position of mentoring and coaching them and holding them accountable. You never climb far enough up the ladder that you stop needing outside feedback.

  5. aes_sidhe*

    No one I know likes having a boss, but it’s a necessary evil to, you know, support yourself rather than expecting others to support you. My time is billed out at $100-125/per hour (depending on client and complexity of the matter), and I don’t get paid nearly that. However, I know that it covers things like rent, other salaries, insurance, health insurance, etc.

    Honestly, it sounds like you have a very unrealistic idea of how jobs work and how you fit into that. There is always going to be someone that makes more than you. There is someone that gets paid less than you, too.

    If you want to chase your dreams, that’s cool, but you need to support your roams not expect anyone else to do it for you.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I love having a boss. Well, I’m fine with the boss part, and I love having somebody else deal with all the other things that go along with running a company.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Me too! My boss deals with all sorts of things that I don’t have to – and don’t want to – deal with at all. And the reason I don’t have to deal with them (board meetings, budget negotiations, why coworker X is late every Monday, etc.) is because she deals with them.

        Of course, this also means that she has to deal with me and I with her, and that’s definitely a semi-mixed blessing, but generally speaking, it’s a big relief to me, and I am reminded of this every time the board has one of its interminable two-day meetings or that coworker X is late once again.

        1. CityMouse*

          I took on being the boss temporarily for someone on leave and, boy do I appreciate everything they do.

      2. epi*

        Same, I don’t want to be doing the financial and administrative stuff my boss does, or the political stuff my boss on another project does. My bosses are mentors who manage a lot of the big picture stuff while I get to focus on the individual contributor type activities that attracted me to my field. I benefit from our relationship.

      3. LadyProg*

        Same, more than hapy to not worry about paying people, and taxes, and regulations, and soooo many complications!

      4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        LOL yes! I’m happy to have someone I can turn to when I get a ticking time bomb dropped in my lap and be like “WHOA, this is way outside of my skill set (and pay grade), please help?”

      5. What are koalas, anyway?*

        My boss is currently in the process of bailing me out of a bad situation with a Powerful Evil Dude. I loved my boss before — she can take a big-picture perspective that I just can’t yet — but I am so especially grateful to her this week.

        Bad bosses exist, of course, but with a good boss, it’s all about division of labor and mutual respect.

      6. miss_chevious*

        Yeah, I learned early in my career that I do not have an entrepreneurial spirit and am much happier being a worker bee (assuming my boss isn’t terrible). But when the boss is terrible, it an be hard to resist the urge to throw in the towel and be my own boss–I just know now that the right decision for me is to actually just find a new boss, not become one myself.

        1. Becky*

          Ditto! I have no interest in “being my own boss” or starting my own business. I am a small cog in a very large machine and I like it.

        2. Legal Beagle*

          Same. I enjoy – and benefit from – the structure and boundaries of an office job. Being your own boss requires enormous discipline and self-awareness; it’s not the easy way out. And, if you can’t succeed in a normal (non-toxic) work environment being directed by a competent boss, I would seriously question whether you are going to succeed at directing yourself.

      7. Risha*

        +1, it me. My brother keeps telling me that starting your own business like he did is the true path to wealth and happiness. It’s a hard pass from me. I do NOT want all the crap that comes with being your own boss.

        As it is, I am actually very ambivalent about my inheriting the system area lead role for my office when the previous lead quit last fall, and that’s a role I’ve spent a lot of time in or above over the course of my career. Being just a minion has a lot of advantages.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Hell yeah to that. My dad ran his own business for 30 years — it is NOT an automatic improvement over working for someone else, and it certainly is not a path to fabulous wealth. It can be incredibly rewarding and he loved it, but he worked like hell and did not take home an extraordinary amount of wealth for it.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I hope OP realized that when you run your own biz, your customer, the government, the laws/regs, etc all become your bosses.
            I think that it is not realistic to dream of a job without a boss. If nothing else that pile of bills on the kitchen table are telling you to get out the door and earn cash to pay the bills. We have many bosses.

            I think OP quietly believes her power has been taken from her by whatever means. OP views having a boss as “proof” that she has lost her power. The hard truth is many times we dis-empower ourselves.

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          In my field, a bunch of people are full-time consultants. No one is wealthy even though they’ve been doing this work for about a decade. Some of them have some pretty worrisome times when they don’t get more contracts.

      8. I'm A Little TeaPot*

        Ha. I had a short discussion with my grandboss about development plans, and I just let her know that management in the dept is NOT going to happen. (very politely of course) I know what that job entails, and I’d hate it, suck at it, and be miserable.

        1. CMart*

          When I worked in the restaurant industry, I had no problem laughing in my poor managers’ faces when they’d broach the subject of my moving up into management.

          No thank you. The beauty of being Not The Boss meant at a certain point of frustration (ie: customer complaints) I got to disengage and foist them off on A Boss. Ten times the stress with only a 25% increase in pay. Psh.

      9. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes. I freelance, often refer to the person I’m sending stuff through as my boss, and I am delighted that I just get told “Falling, design a llama that meets these criteria and constraints, sculpt it in butter, and send it in by next Friday.” There are whole buckets of practical business stuff that I don’t touch, that you have to either do yourself or hire someone for and supervise if you don’t have a boss.

    2. TeacherNerd*

      “Love” is only a word I apply to my spouse and immediate family, so I tend not to go around loving things or other people willy-nilly. :-) (Yes, yes, outside the “love thy neighbor” maxim.)

      I like having a boss so I don’t have to deal with all the crap that goes into educational administration. It’s one of the reason I went into education – because I don’t want to work for myself, start my own business/school, and don’t HAVE to “work my way up” to managing other people. (Although, of course, since I’m a teacher, I manage a few hundred people daily – just not adults.)

      1. Anonny*

        For real? You don’t love ice cream, or sunny days, or anything? I love SO MANY THINGS and people outside of my family and marriage. :) Not trying to be a jerk to you, I just love a lot of stuff! Just immediately right off the top of my head: I love my houseplants and vacation days and iced coffee and Spotify and my new earrings!

        1. fposte*

          The old etiquette is that “love” (and some of its relatives) is only correct for people, not for things; that’s a usage practice that’s still around in some forms. I think the idea is that “love” is more than an enthusiastic appreciation, and you do not esteem your new earrings same as you do your child :-).

          1. Anonny*

            Interesting. I’ve never heard of that, love only being for people. Literally, never in my 40 years have I heard that!

            It should go without saying that obviously I don’t love my new earrings in the same WAY that I love my kid, but I do actually love my new earrings. They’re exactly what I was looking for and I finally found them, and they look REALLY good with my face and hair and glasses, and they tie together a whole bunch of outfits. :)

            1. Midge*

              Not to get too off topic, but your clarification reminds me of this bit of dialogue from 10 Things I Hate About You:
              Bianca: You know, there’s a difference between like and love. I like my Skechers but I love my Prada backpack.
              Chastity: But I love my Skechers.
              Bianca: That’s because you don’t have a Prada backpack.

              To actually contribute to the conversation- it’s so interesting what/who people use “love” for. I’m happy to say I love any number of inanimate objects. With people, on the other hand, I’m much more reserved. (Like the first time my MIL ended a text to me saying she loved me, it totally freaked me out!)

              1. Anonny*

                I just live my life trying to love as much as possible, and that means people and animals and things and theories and feelings. Life is hard enough without trying to limit the most joyful of all my feelings. :) I have room for lots of different kinds of love – love for my friends, my extended family and in-laws, my immediate family, my chosen family, my pets, and all the other things that bring me joy and make me happy to be alive. Some days the kids are whining and the spouse is acting kind of crappy and you know you still love them most in the world but you also feel a real and true love for the bathtub because it’s exactly what you need to spark a little joy. I don’t know, I can respect that not everyone defines love the same way but I just try to love as much and as many as possible and know there’s room in my heart to love differently depending on what I’m loving. :)

                PS I thought about that quote when I was typing my post above, haha!

          2. Parenthetically*

            This comment just reminded me! Bill Wurtz, who is completely bananacrackers, and whose History of ____ videos have cracked me up dozens of times, has a <30 second video called "what is love?" that pokes fun at this idea of people being particular about not using "love" except in the Deepest and Most Serious version of its meaning. I appreciate it in a very niche way.

          3. Naomi*

            It amuses me whenever I come across evidence that people in the past complained about the same things we do now. In this case, I remembered a quote from one of the Anne of Green Gables books: “The girls nowadays indulge in such exaggerated statements that one never can tell what they DO mean. It wasn’t so in my young days. THEN a girl did not say she LOVED turnips, in just the same tone as she might have said she loved her mother or her Savior.”

            1. Parenthetically*

              And this conversation reminds me of all the people in Austen novels who say “excessively” when they don’t mean “excessively” at all, but just “exceedingly” or “a great deal,” as in, “I am excessively fond of music.” Language is a trip!

          4. soon 2 be former fed*

            There are degrees of love. It sound silly to say I am fond of my new earrings (earring lover here).

        2. Bea*

          Some folks are very conservative with the word. I have gotten snapped at for saying “love you” to people by my mom because whereas we’ve been raised to say it to family every time we say goodbye and such, she was shocked that I use it for my closest friends as well. She warmed up to it later and I sure didn’t change. If the worst thing they say when I’m dead was that I lived my life loving the heck out of everyone I knew, I’m cool with it.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I have a friend who has lost too many people, starting at a young age. He tells everyone ‘love ya, bye!” His thinking is that he knows for a fact sometimes we walk away never giving a second thought and we never see the person again.

          1. Jayne*

            A sister-in-law started a new tradition with my mom of saying “Love you” at the end of telephone conversations. The first time mom tried it out on me, I must admit that I pulled the phone away from my face and stared at it. But now, woe betide if she doesn’t say it!

            On the other hand, one of my mom’s saying is to not love anything that can’t love you back, such as cars, houses, etc. I believe, however, that is more in the lines of not sinking too much money into something for sentimental reasons.

        3. TeacherNerd*

          No, I don’t feel the need to love sunny days or ice cream. Yes, I enjoy these things a lot, and many other things (travel and history and museums and evolutionary biology and John Boyne novels and the ocean), but I limit actual feelings of love to a select group of people.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Eh, this is just a “different people are allowed different semantic ranges for the word love” thing, IMO. I don’t think anyone gets confused about what I mean when I say I love oreo blizzards and then tell my mother I love her as well, and it’s fine for me to use the word differently than other people use it.

            My husband rarely expresses “love” for any thing — I think he feels a bit like you do. I express love for loads of things. Live and let live, I say. :)

          2. soon 2 be former fed*

            Good for you, but feelings of love are different than loving a thing you enjoy. No reason the word can’t apply in both situations.

    3. Minnesota Miles*

      While I know you don’t know me, I actually like having a boss.

      I think I am an excellent employee. I work hard, I’m motivated, an excellent problem solver, ect, AND at this point, I prefer to have a boss. I’ve been lucky thus far to have mostly good bosses. I appreciate the support and feedback of a supervisor, and that at the end of the day, that responsibility lands on the, not me. ::shrugs::

      1. CityMouse*

        My boss has been an advocate and mentor for me and my colleagues. Without her I would not be the lawyer I am today. I owe her a lot.

    4. Anonny*

      I love having a boss, because I currently have a great one. She assists with problems that are above my pay grade or assists with re-assigning problems that are below my pay grade (which is not to say I couldn’t solve them myself, but I have very little bandwidth and the nature of my job is that things get thrown at me left and right. She knows that my time is better used elsewhere and in certain cases I may not have the authority to pass things off myself, so she helps to keep the deck clear for me so I can focus on my important work.). She supports my career growth and is a person to bounce things off of when I’m working with a difficult client, or talks things out with me when I’ve got an unusual challenge with several options for resolving. She is a barrier between me and our senior leadership team (in a good way), who are kind of all insane and create more work for everyone all the time by being so chaotic – and she helps to create a platform for me to get in front of those leaders when I have some impressive thing to share with them that deserves visibility. I wouldn’t be able to do my job without a great boss like mine – and there’s no power play issues. We’re a team, and I report to her but don’t feel like I’m below her, and she’s told me a million times she wouldn’t be as good at her job if she didn’t have me on her team. So, there’s your anecdotal “now I know someone who likes having a boss” story! :)

      1. aes_sidhe*

        I don’t hate my boss, but I’d much rather not have one. However, I like paying my bills, so it’s a trade off.

        I don’t care how great my boss is (for the most part). I’d still rather not have a job or boss. I think “independently wealthy” would have a nice ring to it if I could just win the lottery. I can think of a ton of stuff I’d much rather be doing than being at work all day long.

    5. Recovering Adjunct*

      Let’s not forget that the boss has a “boss” too. If you’re “the boss”, your new top layer is the customer.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        And, if OP has to hire people that makes OP a boss. Is that okay? Some people think boss is a bad word. Well it does have four letters. Boss have to decide how to play their hand. They can play like cheats and jackasses or they can play fair and even handed. It’s a choice.

    6. Susan Sto Helit*

      Yeah, the trade-off for someone giving you money is that they generally get to dictate what you do to earn it. The amount of jobs that you get to do without anyone, anywhere weighing in with opinions and directives has got to be vanishingly small. And even stand-up comedians get hecklers.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        This! You think a standup comic isn’t going to have to deal with an agent, venue owners, poor crowds, other comics, PR people, studio execs who want to film a special of your show except can you do none of your normal material… these are all bosses in some way.

    7. designbot*

      The bit about everything your salary pays for is incredibly important. Health insurance, lights on, computers, software, front desk staffing (do YOU want to answer every random inquiry? No, well someone has to pay that person). And then taking it further by comparing your salary to what another company would be paid for the work is another degree removed, because they’re paying for all of their salaries, overhead, etc. Of course they need to be paid more for that than just one person’s salary!
      I’d highly suggest that the OP try his hand at some freelance work, so that he can see first-hand why the rates of an independent agency don’t line up with individual salaries. Learn more about how the world works, and your place in it will make so much more sense.

      1. As Close As Breakfast*

        This stood out to me as well. It’s what makes me wonder how much of what the OP is going through comes down to a lack of experience, maybe from being new to the work world or having help primarily low level positions? What OP described here is SO COMMON but maybe not widely known by lower level employees. I just did the math and the cost to my company for an employee to do their work is almost 4 times the hourly wage of our lowest level employees. We then have a 30-40% increase to get to what we charge customers for that labor. So I can just imagine what would go through the mind of our newest employee who is just out of high school, working their first job doing unskilled assembly labor out on the shop floor, when they hear how much we charge customers for labor on jobs. It makes perfect sense to me, but I can see how it would boggle the mind.

  6. Snubble*

    I don’t know about other fields, but in mine, salary doesn’t track expertise or experience: it tracks decision-making responsibility. To get those highly paid senior posts, you need to know you stuff, but hands-on skills rust and technology moves on: it’s quite normal to know more than your boss about some aspect of the work and to provide support to them. I get paid to do the work. They get paid to make the policy decisions that drive the work, negotiate with other departments about how our work will support or draw on theirs, and defend the work to the press, the public and the law. You still might disagree with their decisions, but it’s worth remembering that the decision is their job, and enacting it is yours.

    1. Barefoot Librarian*

      “…it’s quite normal to know more than your boss about some aspect of the work and to provide support to them”

      This is so true. I know my employees are more up to date on some procedures and norms in my department. They are just in the trenches more than I am, and that makes me rusting on particulars. It’s normal and expected. I don’t hesitate to ask them questions from time to time. My job as department head is to see the bigger picture and steer the ship. That comes with it’s own set of expectations and challenges. If I mismanage my department or go in the wrong direction, it’s me, not them, that pays the consequences.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Let she who has never asked “How the hell do I get rid of all those red lines from tracking changes???” cast the first stone.

          2. WonderingHowIGotHere*

            and Excel
            and Outlook
            and Chrome / Internet Explorer/ Edge (yes, we have and use all three)
            and our in-house bespoke system(!)

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        One of the first leadership principles I learned when I left school was “hire people who are smarter than you.” It has served me well over the years.

    2. Seriously?*

      I have known many people who are great at the technical aspect of their job but have poor people skills. It can really hamper their ability to get promotions, especially if they get a reputation for being difficult to work with.

    3. designbot*

      oh my gosh yes. I remember a time when I thought this made me better than my boss in some way, but now that I am the boss I recognize that it’s just one stop on the learning curve. You learn to do the work, then you learn how the work fits in with the rest of the work, and with your clients’ work, and the world at large. And the higher up you get the more removed you are from the nuts and bolts of it.

  7. Dust Bunny*

    Companies charge more for their work than they pay you because paying you is not their only cost: They charge your salary + portions of:
    + rent on their property (in which your workspace is located)
    + insurance (on that space)
    + supplies and equipment (that you use to do your job)
    . . . any number of other indirect costs of doing business.

    If you were to charge clients directly, you’d have to account for all of these expenses yourself, on top of the hourly rate you need to pay yourself to live. If you don’t understand that, then good luck running your own business.

    1. Health Insurance Nerd*

      Such a good point! My dad has a small landscape company, and my brother works with him and continually bemoans the fact that my dad “gets all the money”. Yes, he gets all the money, but he also pays all the taxes, maintenance on all the equipment, insurance, the accountant, etc… I’m not sure why this is so hard for some people to understand!

      1. the gold digger*

        My cousin is a beautician and owns her own shop. When her employees complain that she makes more money, she tells them they are welcome to put their life savings at risk to start a business.

      2. designbot*

        + takes all the risk. If he made no money one month, or even had to pay out of pocket to redo a portion of work that got messed up somehow, he’d still be responsible for any loans on equipment, any salaries, etc. and he’d have to pay himself last. An employee never takes that risk.

    2. CityMouse*

      Oh my goodness yes. My billing supports our paralegals and office staff, IT, the furniture, etc. Etc.

    3. hbc*

      Someone here let the biggest whiner in the company help with the sales invoice filing one time, and he started losing it over how much money the company was raking in while paying him peanuts. The person who was filing with him said, “You haven’t seen the invoices they have to pay.” He still doesn’t quite grok it.

      Though I have my suspicions that it was a successful attempt to get out of having to file again. Well played, sir!

      1. Bea*

        This is why I have businesses freak the efffffff out when I send bills to the wrong email address sometimes. They have to deal with people with no concept of overhead.

        I like saying “well our rent here is 23,000 a month…” when I’m seeing someone tripping like that.

      2. Anna*

        I think there’s a balance. For instance, I know I’m currently being paid WAY under market value for someone with my skills and education. Knowing the company I work for rakes in millions and millions on government contracts and pays me and everyone who works in this part of their business so little is frustrating and it’s also why we have so much turnover. Yes, I know there’s a lot of overhead, but a company does kind of have a responsibility to pay what it can afford for the talent it wants.

    4. Lynn Whitehat*

      To a certain extent, I understand the complaint. If you save the company $3 million/year, and your paycheck does not increase at all, I can see thinking “this is not for me. I want to be rewarded for my successes.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I can see that, too. So OP could use that in a request for a raise. It’s not clear to me how or what OP said or did to stand up for herself.

        Stuff gets by people, lotsa stuff gets by busy people. Sometimes we do have to ask.

  8. Tin Cormorant*

    For a friend of mine, the answer is to piece together four different freelance gigs. For me, it turned out to be being married to someone whose career suddenly took off and can afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom while taking classes on the side to gain skills and networking contacts to eventually work for myself.

    It’s definitely a more difficult path than working for a company, but there are options.

  9. Manders*

    Oh, I think this letter is from right around the time I started reading this site! I remember this (or a similar response) being incredibly useful when I was fresh out of college and struggling with figuring out what I wanted to do. I was also the kind of person who desperately wanted to write full time and hadn’t really prepared for any other career path.

    Things got better for me, thanks in part to finding some great sources for advice and a more realistic picture of what working full time is like. I still don’t write full time, but I’m working toward it in a way that makes sense now. I hope the LW’s doing well too.

  10. bluephone*

    Something to keep in mind is, even authors and stand-up comedians have bosses. They might be in the form of readers and fans, or a producer or agent…but they do greatly impact your success at that career.

    1. NW Mossy*

      And in a way, it’s harder because you have so many bosses with different idiosyncrasies and tastes, and you’re also trying to keep pace with larger cultural trends. Many of the frustrations are still there; you just don’t have one specific person to aim them at.

    2. CityMouse*

      Most writers have editors and work on contract work, not writing their own chosen nov. I wrote briefly for a website and most of the time I was given assignments. Some times the stuff was boring, but you do it anyway because money.

      1. Lindsay J*

        +1. A lot of people who like photography want to start their own photography business.

        However, you’re not Ansel Adams. So, most likely, creating the images that you want to make is not going to be a sustainable business model.

        Either you have to find clients, at which point they are paying you to produce images that they want, not images that you want, so they’re essentially the boss.

        Or you find some sort of stock photo niche, in which case you still have to produce images people will want to buy, and likely have to follow the size and editing guidelines of whatever site or company you are selling them to.

        Or you find a job photographing houses for realtors, or cars for a dealership, or some other sorts of product photos. Where you likely still have a boss in some form, and it’s not exactly an artistic endeavor.

  11. BRR*

    I really only have some random thoughts touching on different points in the letter:
    -Without knowing more, it’s possible all your bosses/jobs have majorly sucked. There are good workplaces/bosses out there.
    -There are downsides to every job. Again, without knowing more it’s tough to tell but I wonder if what the LW doesn’t like is unavoidable (like when my husband who wants to be a professor was a grad student and would complain about grading. I told him if he doesn’t like grading “get out now!”)
    -Maybe freelancing could be an option?
    -I’m getting the feeling the LW would like to be a writer or comic full time. Unfortunately, those aren’t full-time options for many people. Maybe keep those as side jobs?

    1. Detached Elemental*

      I wonder if the OP understands the amount of work involved in being a comedian or writer?

      While TV and movies might like us to think that they’re easy and universally high paid, I have a couple of friends who are professional writers, and I know they work very hard for not as much pay as you might think.

      1. Airy*

        This is why it drives me a little bats when people look at the fact that I like writing and am quite good at it and suggest I try to make a living out of it. I don’t know what it is about me that makes it look like I want a difficult and precarious job with low and erratic pay, but I’d like to remove it, thanks.

  12. IHaveANiceCat*

    Without trying to be an armchair therapist…it sort of sounds like this LW may be struggling with depression, anxiety, anger issues, or something. Having a boss is frustrating, but the angry reactions to it are out of control. I had similar experiences when my depression was really bad. I worked so hard I burned myself out and then got angry at the places I worked at for my burnouts. My sense of ‘justice’ was inflated and I had a really hard time letting things go.

    I’d recommend finding a therapist and working on some of the issues that seem to be preventing the LW from just leaving work at work. Do a good job, obviously, but leave and don’t worry about ‘injustices.’

    1. MLB*

      I had the same thought. The first thing that came to mind was someone who dates a bunch of losers. The commonality in someone dating the losers is the person who chooses them. All jobs have issues, but it sounds like nothing would make him happy and he needs to figure out why.

  13. Amber Rose*

    I like having a boss when they aren’t awful. I feel like the LW doesn’t so much hate authority as they hate bad bosses/toxic management, which is really normal.

    It’s about decision making power. If you want that power you have to play nice and earn it. Letting your resentment get in the way accomplishes nothing. You have to prove yourself. Part of that is being selective about who you prove yourself to. Really be picky about where you work and who for.

  14. ragazza*

    I think a lot of this comes down to the boss and their management style. I had a terrible micro-managing, very insecure boss who impeded my progress at work for a long time, and I haaaaaated it (and him). I tried to communicate that there were better ways to manage me that would be better for my performance and morale, but no dice. I did a lateral move to a different department a few months ago and it’s amazing–it’s like suddenly birds are singing, the sun is shining, etc. As a “creative,” I do have issues with authority in general, especially in the corporate context, but I find that having a good manager means I can not only function but even be happy and do great work.

  15. A.N. O'Nyme*

    For some reason I’m reminded of letters where people find themselves bored at work because there isn’t much to do, with the usual advice being “either find another job or find something to do that still looks productive.”. If you want to be a writer, perhaps one of those jobs could be useful (especially as most of those letters seem to indicate there’s little oversight too). Although I doubt “little work to do” is advertised by a company and asking about it would come across as strange at best.
    But for the rest…I don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t already been said.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      A security gig would be perfect for this. The guard at my old building did her homework while she sat at the desk and checked in visitors all day. She got her degree and got a better job.

      1. Not a dr*

        Security, concierge, night clerk at certain corner stores, certain library jobs (assigned to a slides room for example). Even stocking shelves overnight (write by dictating into a voice recorder), or just anything where you are essentially left alone for your shift as long as the work is getting done. Truck driver? Delivery driver?

  16. CityMouse*

    I want to be sympathetic here but I will say it is hard.

    First, everyone has had bad bosses. My first boss in my fast food job when I was a teenager was a drug addict and treated me like crap. Sometimes you bide your time because putting up with a bad boss means you can feed yourself and pay your rent.

    Second, not all bosses are bad. I have also had wonderful bosses who mentored me and trained me. Some days I couldn’t see why my manager wanted me to do something, even after explanation but I executed her vision anyway. With time I understood the different policy reasons things had to happen or why my judment was wrong.

    I really credit the patience and guidance of my manager who spent years training me and then mentored me in the training of others. I saw trainees make the same mistakes I made and dealt with new people who fought my direction. As someone who has trained people, part of being a good trainee is putting aside your ego and learning to execute and organizations policies. Sometimes your brilliant perspective is something that was tried before and failed, or there is a complicated policy reason we can’t do that.

    Maybe you just had some bad bosses, but the reality is that if every boss you have had was “bad” the reality is more likely that you are the problem.

    I really recommend some self perspective here. I know some people in my family who “couldn’t handle having a boss”. Some put in the hard work of starting their own businesses (mu father in law owned his own construction business) and were successful, but it is grueling work and those people often had spousal safety nets who provided steady income and benefits.

    Some people “worked for themselves” and didn’t have the self discipline to run a business or keep a good schedule and ended up either constantly in debt or only made it work by mooching off relatives.

    The reality is that things like contracting or freelancing often require you to work at the direction of others, though. I literally can’t think of a job where someone else’s direction and choices won’t matter. You have to learn to.work within parameters and direction if.others even if you don’t agree.

    1. TeacherNerd*

      Clearly, we’re each of us cut out for different types of jobs, etc. – I’m always amused by the “I could never do what you do – dealing with teenagers all day!” (to which my response, at least in my head, is, “I could never do what YOU do all day, sitting in an office and pushing papers around, and NOT ‘dealing’ with teenagers!”). I hate the idea of contracting or freelancing, because I like having a steady paycheck, a pension, PTO, my own healthcare benefits, the whole nine. Like many, I’ve had some craptacular toxic bosses, and some nice ones (and am fortunate to now be in a workplace with a culture that fits my personality). It took some work getting there, though, at least in terms of figuring out what I liked, what I was willing to put up with, all that good stuff.

    2. clairels*

      True. What the OP really needs to understand that even as a novelist, even a successful novelist, you’re still under the thumb of editors, publishers and readers (who can be scathing with their reviews). Novelists with attitudes similar to the OP’s are the ones who suffer with Golden Word Syndrome, and refuse to make any edits on their manuscript because they believe it’s perfect as-is, or who go on Amazon and write replies to bad reviewers, telling them they’re ignorant philistines who don’t understand OP’s unique brand of genius, or the type of standup comedian who starts heckling the hecklers. In other words, even in these types of careers, the OP won’t get far unless he/she takes a look in the mirror.

      1. MsSolo*

        I think it’s very telling LW’s only published work so far was self-published, in therms of their comments on authority.

        1. Starbuck*

          Although, there are people who can make a living at self-publishing. I think it was a comment thread here (or maybe it was a reddit thread that someone linked me from tumblr? eh) from a self-published romance author who described the process it takes to actually make money self-publishing novels. It involved reading the market very carefully, a lot of strategizing in online ads/marketing, cover design, etc. etc. At the end of it they’d come up with a successful formula, but I didn’t get the sense that they were writing what they really wanted to, and the constant churn seemed stressful (writing several novels a year, putting profits back into more advertising). In the end they were clearing several hundred thousand dollars in annual sales (before taxes) but that clearly wasn’t the typical case – if you believe them which I did. It was a fascinating thread, I wish I could remember where I saw it and read it again!

          1. Manders*

            Yes, I’m familiar with this field because it’s something I’d like to do someday, and it’s VERY hard to break into. If you’re curious about the self-publishing process, I highly recommend the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast. I really enjoy the technical details (I even genuinely like the fiddly work of formatting!) but it’s not for everyone, and some of the people who are getting richest in the field are savvy marketers who either happen to write as well, or who’ve learned how to hire ghostwriters cheaply.

          2. MsSolo*

            Oh yes, there absolutely are, but generally they’re people who are good at taking criticism and have a strong understanding of overheads. There’s a lot of upfront outlay in self-publishing that you’re shielded from in traditional publishing. As you say, you need a strong understanding of markets and marketing, and you really, really need to be a people person. Also, this was six years ago, when the market was substantially different; Amazon has squeezed out a lot of e-presses since then, which means a lot of editors and cover artists are available now (but surviving on subsistence rates) and authors have had to change the way they market themselves in order to get brand recognition.

            (Also, LW uses the phrase “fiction novel”, which is a red flag should you ever see a publisher use it, including a self-publisher. All novels are fictional; that’s what separates them from, say, text books or autobiographies.)

  17. Lou*

    Fascinating question and a really great answer. There’s lots to unpack in LW’s wording. Glad this was reposted as it’s completely new to me.

  18. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    I get it. I really, really get it. Wherever you are, OP, I hope you’ve found a solution that works for you.

    1. Tardigrade*

      There’s definitely a part of me that sympathizes, especially the care-free spirit who doesn’t think people should have to go through life indoors chained to an office, but the part of me I listen to is the one that says I have to pay for my house and my car and stuff and Tardigrade would not enjoy a nomad/bohemian/whatever lifestyle.

  19. mark132*

    When I read the OP’s comments, I have to admit I wasn’t terribly impressed. While it is obviously impossible to fully understand the situation, I do have some observations.

    First, if you get fired or quit from every job you have. The greater problem is likely with yourself, not the employers.

    Second, I get the impression that the OP likely over estimates his/her abilities, most bosses don’t spend hours teaching you how to do something, if you know how to do it.

    Third, making a living from writing fiction/non-fiction/doing standup is a very tough thing to break into. The vast majority of all novelist earn zero dollars a year. Amazon is changing that some, but very few self published novelists on Amazon make a living wage from their novels. I’ve given thought to writing a novel. But I would view it as a hobby not a career. (I’ve even started a few, but never got far.)

    1. the gold digger*

      making a living from writing fiction/non-fiction/doing standup is a very tough thing to break into

      I have a friend who has made the NYTimes bestseller list, but he worked a full-time job at an ad agency for years, even after he had written and published several books.

      1. mark132*

        I’m 10+ years from retirement, but that’s when I figure I may actually have time to do stuff like that. And your friend was smart for not quitting his day job.

      2. Artemesia*

        My best friend had a friend who writes well regarded mystery novels; she has several dozen out now with 3 different protagonists and they sell very well; she is a very popular author in this genre. For her it was about 10 years in when she had enough royalties coming in to renovate her kitchen. She is doing pretty well now, but now she is old. It took a long time before it was major money.

      3. LT*

        This sounds very similar to the bio of an author whose works I love to read. Do some of those books include ones on career advice?

    2. Seriously?*

      Sometimes the problem is that the employee is a poor fit for the industry and no one is as fault. But it does mean switching career tracks to fix the problem.

    3. smoke tree*

      As someone who works in publishing, I found it kind of funny in a sad way that writing was one of the LW’s ideas for alternatives to employment. I imagine even the most cursory of research would show pretty quickly that it is incredibly hard for writers to make money. If you’re really serious about making a career as a writer, it takes a very intense level of dedication (and a lot of time spent doing things other than writing) and there are still no guarantees.

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


      I’ve occasionally referenced my friend who decided to quit his (well-paying! government benefits!) job in order to write a novel. It went…. worse than badly. He was incredibly fortunate that his parents were willing to bail out his ass, pay to completely renovate his home that he’d let descend into a state of abject squalor so that he could sell it before it got foreclosed on him, and bring him back home to Montreal to recover and try to restart his life.

      Don’t quit your day job until your artistic career is bringing in good money. Anticipation doesn’t pay the mortgage.

    5. all aboard the anon train*

      Most of the authors I’ve worked with all have full-time jobs and earn very little money from their published books. The ones who write full-time usually have parents/spouses/trust funds that allow them to write and not work.

      I think people tend to see the big news stories about first-time authors who receive huge advances or whose first books sell millions of copies. Those are really rare cases, and a lot of publishing contracts have a clause in there asking for the advance back if your book doesn’t meet a certain selling point.

      For someone who doesn’t like having a boss, fiction writing is probably not a great avenue. You’re at the mercy of an editor or publisher telling you to change your book because of early reviews or wanting to fit it into a certain market. It’s extremely rare not to have a manuscript go through significant changes.

      1. mark132*

        I’ve read a lot of authors complaining about their editors. And to be fair a lot praising their editors as well.

        I think the only way to avoid an editor is to go the self-publishing route. And I have read a few self published novels on Kindle, and I think most really would have benefited from an editor.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          A lot of authors don’t realize that when they sign a publishing contract, it often means the publishing house has the right to ask the author to rewrite some of their content, cut out some plotlines, or change content based on early pre-pub reviews. Part of the issue is that many authors hate being told some aspect of their story doesn’t work and can’t remove themselves enough to be objectively critical. There are definitely bad editors, but there are some bad authors that editors complain about too. It’s like any other business relationship.

          It’s similar to authors giving up content rights when they’re paid for movie or TV rights to their work. They might consult on the project, but they really don’t get a say in how it might be used or changed. A lot of them complain about adaptations of their work, but if you didn’t want them to change things, you shouldn’t have sold the rights, you know?

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I *hate* when a great book is adapted to a movie because almost *always* they ruin the plot, remove my favorite characters, generally just ruin it. The only adaptation I remember seeing that was *not* like that was Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.
            One of my all-time favorite books is The Firm by John Grisham. I didn’t see the movie in the theater and years later when I caught it on TV I was so glad because they left out half the story and one of the best characters (Tammy). Then they made a TV series where the couple comes back and works in NY (I think), which was even more ridiculous.
            A TV series about their life with their children in the caribbean – that might have been good if they could have stayed away from contrived violence and drama.

        2. Nothing in the middle of the road but dead armadillos*

          At least a copy editor. I’m oddly entertained by occasional bad character development or plot killing inconsistency. But if there are lots of obvious spelling and grammar errors I won’t make it through the first chapter.

      2. clairels*

        all aboard the anon train: I agree with much of what you said and I’m not trying to pick on you, but I do want to point out that authors are rarely, if ever, asked to pay back their advance; that’s not a clause in any standard publishing contract. In fact, it’s a pervasive myth that’s been exploited by people with a pro-self-publishing agenda. I know this from experience: my book deal was canceled, which meant my book earned $0, and I still got to keep the (small) advance they paid me.

        1. Susan Sto Helit*

          I believe the deal is generally that if the book is cancelled because of any decision-making on the publisher’s end, the author keeps the advance. Yes, even if it doesn’t sell.

          But if the book is cancelled because the author breaches their contract in some way – either fails to deliver a manuscript, or delivers something that is vastly different from what was commissioned, or otherwise unpublishable in some way, the publisher does have the right to try to claw the advance back. They just usually don’t bother, because for the size of most advances it’s just not worth their effort.

          1. clairels*

            Yes, you’re correct. But all aboard the anon train was implying that authors have to pay back the advance on a PUBLISHED book that doesn’t earn enough. That simply never happens.

            1. all aboard the anon train*

              It has. Again, my experience isn’t the same as every other publishing situation, but I have seen this happen and it was because the number of novels they thought would sell was far higher than what did sell.

        2. all aboard the anon train*

          I’m speaking from my own experience. I’m not in legal but I have seen contracts come by in my house that have those clauses. It may not be the case in all situations, but it does happen.

          We’ve asked several authors for advances back when they’ve been 2 years late on manuscript submission or the book is completely different to what we originally signed (say, we signed a historical fiction novel but they turned in a fantasy instead with nothing resembling the original story). I have no idea if those advances were ever given back or if it went to court since again, I don’t work in those areas and usually don’t have any contact with the author after the book is cancelled, but it does happen.

          1. clairels*

            all aboard the anon train: Again, yes, that’s all standard for a canceled manuscript. However, I’d be interested to know: have you ever seen a clause in a contract that you’ve personally worked with that requires an author to pay back the advance on a PUBLISHED (not canceled) book, simply because its sales weren’t high enough? And if so, how often? I’m not being snarky; I’m asking because I’m genuinely curious.

            1. all aboard the anon train*

              Yes. I’ve seen it in about 10 different contracts, so while it’s not common, but it does happen. I’ve only worked for one specific publisher who did this, and have a friend who works for a different publisher who does this on occasion, so even though it’s not industry practice, there are publishers who will use such clauses.

              It’s not a great business practice and I don’t particularly think it’s fair because it’s not the point of an advance, but it does happen. I honestly don’t know why or how that clause got into the contracts since that’s beyond my job scope, but I have seen it.

              It was, I should say, usually for a particularly large advance, not something like $3000.

              1. clairels*

                Okay, thanks. Yes, that’s definitely not something I’ve seen or heard of before. And as you said, it’s not something that the average author should expect to see.

    6. Harper the Other One*

      Aside from the difficulty of breaking into it, writing involves a LOT of responding to what others want. To perfect your craft you have to get critiqued regularly, both by fellow writers and (if you’re lucky) by the public, and in the case of writing, you end up having to take a lot of input about everything from details like punctuation and writing scale to large-scale things like “this plotline won’t sell well unless you change X” from editors. My current work is in writing content for blogs and social media posts and stuff gets changed, shortened, or completely torn apart all the time, and that is just part of the gig.

      I think the OP’s impression of what it would be like to be a writer or a stand-up comedian is really only the way you can write/perform if you have sufficient funds that you are not dependent on earning an income. Only then can you write whatever you want/tell the jokes you want without worrying about what others think.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        And then there’s still the question of how people respond to it.
        A person can go to an open mic night and tell jokes, but if audiences don’t respond well, they won’t get any traction.
        And they can write whatever they want, but will anyone read it? Will it make any impression or any difference?

  20. animaniactoo*

    I think the first thing I’d want to take a look at (learned from AAM!) is how selective you’re being about jobs you accept. Are you doing enough research on the company? Or are you getting yourself into a cycle of “Toxic job sucks, quit. Desperate to pay rent, find paycheck as quickly as possible”? Because it could be that where you’re really undercutting yourself is in finding a good company vs a paycheck that will pay the bills.

    To some extent there will always be some imbalance between how much you’re making for your company and how much they’re paying you for it. This is more true now than ever with the pay and wealth discrepancy between the top and the bottom – and in this case, the bottom pretty much includes almost all of the middle. But even the spread between the middle and the bottom feels wider than it needs to be. But you can minimize the effect of this on you by focusing on two things: 1) What you want to get out of the job for yourself, and 2) Making sure you find a company that is more towards the middle of the road and reasonable about more than a meager raise for taking on major additional responsibilities. Find the balance there for yourself, and then – if you wish – spend some free time dedicated to trying to help fix the bigger imbalance.

  21. nnn*

    If self-employment isn’t an immediate option for whatever reason, I wonder if LW might be happier with a work-from-home situation. You still have a boss, but you don’t see each other (or your other team members) all the time, so you see more of each others’ results and less of each others’ irritating personality quirks, and micromanaging is more difficult.

  22. Elbe*

    If the LW is (was) just starting out, it sounds like they haven’t quite grasped that most people start at the bottom and have to work their way up. It’s not uncommon for recent grads to be very well educated (and, thus, able to teach their managers some things) but completely unaware of other skills that only experience can provide and that they don’t have. The LW is over-valuing tech skills and under-valuing all of the other skills that go into managing a company. The things that the LW describes don’t actually sound that bad and are pretty common when you’re the lowest rung on the ladder. Everyone has a few bad bosses. If his first impulse is to quit working after just this, I feel like he’s going to have a very tough life.

    If the LW doesn’t like authority and decides try working for himself, I can’t wait until he has to deal directly with clients. They’re usually even more demanding than bosses and you often have even less room to push back and disagree.

    Honestly, I think that the best move here may be counseling. It sounds like there are some very real issues around entitlement and expectations that need to be corrected.

      1. BadWolf*

        Yes, I had a friend who was starting out as a lawyer and didn’t want to take a job at someone’s firm because they all seemed like they’d want him to work a lot and take a big cut his billable hours. He viewed them as screwing him over.

        He could not be convinced that this was just (usually) how it worked as a new lawyer. Instead he kind of took sketchy independent jobs and had really inconsistent income.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          I have a friend who self-taught himself a bunch of programming and related skills, with the goal of breaking into the industry. Now he’s applying for jobs… and furious that they all expect him to work “unpaid overtime”. AKA they are salaried. Well, yeah, most programming jobs are salaried, and will expect you to work more than 40 hours a week if something is really urgent. He’s sure that the only fair way to pay anyone for anything is hourly.

            1. Nichole*

              I don’t love it, but at a certain point, y’know, I think it’s okay. For my current position, for instance, I think it makes sense, because the alternative wouldn’t be ‘Nichole usually works 40-45 hours, every once in a while works 60+, and gets some extra cash’ it would be ‘Nichole needs authorization any time she wants to work more than 40 hours, and because they’d have to pay her more they wouldn’t authorize it unless business need dictated it and Nichole will be under more pressure to finish work in less time’ and that would probably be more stressful and my work would suffer.

              Now my company culture is centered more around getting the work done, and not ‘time with butt in chair’ so that makes many aspects of it easier, and if I stay late an evening I can potentially come in late or leave early during the rest of the week.

    1. Bea*

      I’ve known many people with authority issues and chips on their shoulders from bad experiences in the business world. It’s really not far fetched.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        And confirmation bias is a surprisingly easy thing to succumb to. Every time a boss offends you, it goes in the permanent memory bank. Every time they’re decent? Totally bypassed. Some people simply can’t see/remember the good stuff and the bad just piles up.

    2. Lara*

      Nah. I’ve gone through a similar feeling before. Not half as bad but same ballpark. Combination of overestimating my own abilities plus genuinely working for terrible people. It can be both and it can be fixed.

  23. Bea*

    I’ve been blessed to have landed in places where my bosses have understood what I am worth and who adore me. Imagine my suffering when I had one turn into a freaking nightmare on me not so long ago. I did what you did and quit that job because ef that idiot.

    The key is to absorb the chip you’ve developed on your shoulder and give people the chance to be good to you. Stand up and ask for more money with more responsibly.

    I’ve seen many folks try to start their own businesses but not know the tiresome work and costs involved. You think you hate having a boss, think about being the boss. Dealing with people who aren’t taking the risk you are who are pissy with you for billing hours according to cost instead of just an hourly rate, who want five weeks paid vacation, full benefits and of course a high AF paycheck. That’s why I’ve been shy from my own business and prefer to work with business owners to protect their assets and lock down their best crew/culture possible

  24. stitchinthyme*

    I’ve always been firmly in the camp of “work to live, not the other way around”. I like my job for the most part (sometimes more than others), but if some long-lost relative were to suddenly die and leave me independently wealthy, I’d be out of there in a heartbeat. My job is what enables me to do the things I really enjoy, and having to be there 8 hours a day makes me appreciate my off-time even more.

    I kind of roll my eyes every time I see one of those articles that talks about how you should do what you love, even if it doesn’t make you a living wage. It would be great if everyone could do that, especially now that automation and technology are making many jobs obsolete while still providing abundant food, clothing and other goods, but the reality is that our society (by which I mean most of the developed world) simply will not allow it — we still have this Protestant work ethic where if you’re not doing something “productive”, you’re not worthy of support, especially not with public funds. As Alison said, the social safety net for people who can’t or choose not to work and have no savings or other means of support is pretty thin, and requires a drastically reduced standard of living. Most people who have gotten to the point where they can make a living doing artistic things have either had amazingly good luck (in the form of a big break or someone to support them during lean years), or have put in years of minimum-wage crap jobs before getting to the point where they can survive doing their art; for every person who does earn their living that way, there are thousands more who tried and had to give it up, or else starve. That’s not to say you shouldn’t pursue your dreams, but everyone who does should be realistic about their chances and have a backup plan.

    1. CityMouse*

      So much this. I like my job a lot, but I also like that it gives me the flexibility to do my hobbies and spend time with my family and the money to pay my bills.

    2. Double A*

      If you are an able-bodied single male with no dependents, getting public assistance for more than a few months is going to be a huge challenge. Our society really looks down on providing for that demographic (which I think is unfair, I’m not super into our work-obsession in this country).u7tt

  25. Cordoba*

    It’s probably a good idea to try to get used to the idea that whatever your employer is paying you they are (directly or indirectly) getting an even higher value from the output of your work. If they weren’t it wouldn’t make much sense for them to employ you, right?

    Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is currently paid about $20 million per movie. Presumably, movie studios are only willing to pay this amount because they believe that his presence in a film will increase the box office returns by more than 20 million dollars. Is he being exploited?

    My employer pays me a great rate, and essentially bills my time out to others at what would be an absurd rate. I don’t care, because I’m still getting mine – and as a direct employee rather than a freelancer I can focus on just the tech stuff that I’m good at and enjoy and let somebody else deal with everything else. I like having a boss if that means that I don’t need to spend any time worrying about the other aspects of my organization.

    Where do new clients come from and what’s the best way to attract them? Heck if I know, not my job.
    What are the customs implications of cross-docking parts in Switzerland? Not my problem, no idea.
    We need a new expensive piece of equipment, where will the money come from? Ask the money folks, I’m sure they’ll straighten it out. Just let me know when the gear shows up.

    Plus I still get paid regardless of whether things are busy or slow or anywhere in between. Unless things get bad enough that I get laid off, in which case I get months of unemployment.

    All of this makes my life much easier and more pleasant than it would be were I self-employed, even within the same field and job type. There are real benefits to having a boss, it’s not just exploitation at the hands of cruel authority.

  26. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    I’ll admit, it’s hard for me to empathize with the feeling of being constrained or held down by authority. I completely understand that it’s a legitimate way some people are, it’s not a bad thing fundamentally, it’s just a way of being that is different from mine, but I can’t put myself in that frame of mind and think productively about next steps.

    Of course, it’s likely the OP is no longer reading this, but I think reframing thoughts about what “authority” means could be helpful — possibly with the assistance of a good therapist, or a friend who is good at and willing to be the Wise Counselor Type. There will always, always be someone in some kind of a position of power over you, no matter what path your career (or non-career, for that matter) takes, because the money has to come from somewhere. If not a boss, then it’s a client you need to keep happy; if not working, then it’s your working partner (and the authority structure THEY get paid by), the government agency paying your benefits, or hell, if you go 100% off-grid and live in a shack in the woods, there’s still going to be rules you need to follow, but instead of getting fired you get injured or sick.

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      There will always, always be someone in some kind of a position of power over you, no matter what path your career (or non-career, for that matter) takes, because the money has to come from somewhere. If not a boss, then it’s a client you need to keep happy; if not working, then it’s your working partner (and the authority structure THEY get paid by), the government agency paying your benefits, or hell, if you go 100% off-grid and live in a shack in the woods, there’s still going to be rules you need to follow, but instead of getting fired you get injured or sick.

      The book/movie “Into the Wild” flashed through my head…

  27. MsSolo*

    I feel like LW is bringing a lot with him to each job – that he’s harking back to seeing people bullied at school suggests he’s adding everything to one mental pile of why authority sucks, and using that to justify having an issue with authority. There’s a vibe of “and anyone who doesn’t is part of the problem” coming through (which I suspect people interacting with him in person also picked up on). Counselling to deal with the underlying issue would definitely help, but also learning to see the working world through a different lens to childhood – yes, there are bullies at work too, but the culture should be very different, which means superficially similar behaviour can have entirely different repercussions. Knowing more than your peers at school meant you got better grades, but it’s having more responsibility at work that means you get better pay.

    I’d be really curious to know if six years later LW has done some work on himself and found a way to judge each situation on its own merits, or whether he’s still riding the “I’m opting out of the system because I’m smarter than all of the sheeple in it” train.

    1. Cordoba*

      ‘whether he’s still riding the “I’m opting out of the system because I’m smarter than all of the sheeple in it” train.’

      This is a great way to phrase this mindset.

      I’ve known a surprising amount of people who fancy themselves too brilliant to just get a job so instead spend their life scratching out a living while railing at the stupid system full of idiots.

      Meanwhile all us dummies just have to suffer through a life of getting paid to do interesting things, and then using that money to do what we enjoy.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      The comment about bullies really jumped out at me.

      When this letter was originally posted, I was in a toxic situation and feeling resentful that working my ass off didn’t seem to reap any better results than the slackers and jerks and charlatans I came across.

      Except I was wrong! I was just looking at too narrow of a time frame. I was building up an excellent reputation and laying the groundwork to get much more respect, and much better jobs, than the people I had resented. And almost all my of my *good* colleagues who put in the work with me can say the same.

      I hope LW also discovered a longer view than they held in 2012.

  28. B-More*

    Being the boss sounds great but for my friend who freelances, there is a lot more to it than just doing your own work. Not only are you doing the work you’re employed to do but you also have to be your own marketing person (to get out the word about your services), accountant (creating invoices and tracking which clients have paid you and what you’ve spent money), HR contact (if you want to hire anyone under you), and more. My friend loves the work she does and likes being her own boss but she didn’t realize how much else she would have to do.

    So there’s a flipside to everything. I like being assistant to my bosses. Hearing about all the stressful stuff they have to go through, it’s a lot! Personally I’m happy to be given guidance and stick to my much less stressful work.

    1. ProWriter*

      As a freelancer, I couldn’t agree more, and the “extra” stuff is the reason I sometimes dislike freelancing. That is the part of what I do that is “work.”

      There’s always some part of work that is unpleasant. That’s where the money comes in!

    1. LBK*

      Yeeeeeah, got a little bit of those vibes. “I am in fact just *too good* and that is why no one wants me.”

    2. Alianora*

      This is the comment no one could have made in 2012. Harsh truth, though.

      Involuntary + celibate = incel. So … unemp?

      1. Juliecatharine*

        This is exactly the vibe I got from the LW. ‘Inferior people are reaping the benefits I deserve!’. I really hope he turned his head around because the anger simmering in that letter was a little disturbing.

  29. Michaela Westen*

    One thing it took me a while to learn is: the best option is a job doing things you’re already good at. When I figured that out and started applying to jobs that would use my strengths, I got a much better job.
    This OP likes writing and has already written and self-published a whole book! That’s huge! I could never get that together, and most people couldn’t!
    So, I think OP would be happiest if they focus on writing, whether it’s full-time or while working a day job. And they should look for the right audience and do the work to get it in front of them.
    Then over time their writing will sell and become popular, and OP will have a career. And maybe stand-up on the side. :)

    1. Michaela Westen*

      Or a job where they’re writing – but then management will still be a factor. But maybe the writing will help.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I have a job where writing is a big component, and I have to say, unless the OP is willing to accept a HUGE amount of feedback – and work outright being changed – it’s probably best to keep it as an after-work endeavour. It took me a long time to get used to the fact that changes/cuts/complete rewrites are just par for the course, and that no matter how carefully I think I’ve crafted something, if TPTB read over it and decide they want to go a different way… it’s happening. This would even be the case with getting a novel published through a publishing house.

        I get what you’re thinking – take the thing you love and make it part of your work – but sometimes taking a hobby/thing you love and making it your job sucks the joy out of it. And I think that would very likely be the case for OP.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Yes, it could be. It might depend on the type of writing – if it’s just short things that aren’t that important to the OP, it might be ok for management to be messing with it. But if it’s something they’re passionate about, it wouldn’t work.
          As Harriet Vane said: “Editors are ghouls and cannibals”
          I think that OP actually got a book put together shows skills and motivations most people don’t have, and they should be trying to use that in their work somehow.

  30. Artemesia*

    My FIL the doctor told his oldest son who didn’t want to be a doctor, you need to get a profession; we (last names) don’t do well with authority. Two of this man’s sons became doctors, one a lawyer, one a professor/researcher and one a teacher. And yeah the idiocy of school bureaucracy drove the award winning teacher eventually to early retirement. People who don’t want to be bossed by idiots who don’t find positions where they have some autonomy need to be in a profession (and many like medicine offer less and less autonomy) or own their own business. It is hard to be happy with a perpetual chip on the shoulder.

    1. Elena*

      Replacement of autonomy with rules, checklists and procedures seems to be the pattern of the age across many traditionally autonomous professions, unfortunately -teaching and medicine most palpably.

      1. fposte*

        Though there’s a difference between straight up bureaucracy and checklists/procedures; the latter have *improved* a lot of processes, to the point of considerably bettering air safety and surgical outcomes.

        1. Artemesia*

          No question on that. But doctors used to run their own practices; that is less and less true. Lawyers who run their own small firms can once successful have reasonable autonomy — but large firms are pretty soul crushing.

        2. Tim Tam Girl*

          +1 million – and at least in medicine, this is in no way ‘unfortunate’. I work in medical education, with a focus on human factors and risk management. These are facts:

          1) Checklists may mean that a given person has less autonomy, but a having set checklist for a given situation helps focus everyone, ensures consistency and minimises risk of error. This is particularly true for procedures (like surgeries) and high-stress emergencies (when the effects of the emotional-chemical rush on cognition means that even the most together and experienced providers are likely to eff up).

          2) Patients with multiple risk factors and/or complex diagnoses (e.g., children, the elderly, people with a chronic condition, people with sociological risk factors, etc.) need broad-spectrum care that cannot be reasonably managed by a single provider OR by a variety of providers working in isolation. Communication and interaction among providers needs to be enforced. This is also a reduction in a given provider’s autonomy, but to the obvious benefit of the patient.

          It has been demonstrated repeatedly that poor communication is a cause of medical error: one 2016 study by the Harvard system’s CRICO insuring body found that it contributed to 30% of malpractice claims; a quick Google will bring up heaps more studies over the last two decades. Yet our society clings to this idea that the best way to ensure a successful patient outcome (or legal outcome, or educational outcome, or whatever else) is to give some genius/jerk the freedom to practice unfettered by pesky rules and analysis. So many shows on TV right now have this as a central theme, and it’s so, so far off away from the truth – but it’s pervasive and persuasive, and it contributes to a toxic mentality and toxic systems that hurt patients and providers alike. Ugh.

  31. Not So Super-visor*

    OMG… I feel like this could have been written by my brother. He also works in IT. He’s always complaining about how he’s smarter than everyone else and never gets the credit he deserves. He always feels that everyone is picking on him (even since childhood). For the record, he has also ALWAYS had a terrible attitude.

    1. Cordoba*

      I have no data to back this up, but strongly suspect that “he’s smarter than everyone else and never gets the credit he deserves” is a mindset that is strongly correlated to IT jobs.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        You are not alone in this suspicion. It’s basically the entire premise of The IT Crowd :)

    2. Manders*

      Yes, while this attitude can happen in any field, I think it’s particularly rough in IT. The combination of being more skilled at certain technical tasks than the people you’re supporting + dealing with your coworkers at their greatest moments of frustration + a cultural belief that people who are good with computers are inherently smarter + a cultural belief that people who are good with computers don’t need people skills = a really toxic attitude that’s hard to shake once you develop it.

      Some of my friends in IT are doing very well for themselves, but others are bouncing around complaining about their jobs and going through a repeating cycle of clashing with their bosses and getting fired.

    3. Horizons*

      I was 1000% not surprised when the OP mentioned being in IT. I also have a brother in IT and the culture clashes between the IT folks and the corporate folks are epic. A lot of IT geeks are into open source/anarchy/libertarian points of view, and that does not fit well into corporate culture.

  32. A G*

    Wow. I mean, I totally understand the sentiment, but I’ve learned to keep it all inside because no one cares. This is just what life is. Sell 9 hours of your day to earn the privilege of being alive, then when you add commute, gym, make dinnner, do the dishes, do the chores, you’re left with about an hour to wind down before bedtime. If you’re like me and you find that it wears you down, drains your creativity, and life becomes just numbly existing and you’re so dead inside that it’s hard to even maintain feelings of love for your partner… well, that’s too bad.

    I used to cry in the shower every morning from the realization that my mind is decaying, my body aches despite diet and exercise, and it’s not going to get any better. If I ever manage to retire (hahahahahaha) old age willl have worsened the daily aches and pains while turning me into even more of a careless airhead. Now instead of crying, I repeat to myself: “No one cares. This is life for everyone. Stop fighting it. You are not special. Your feelings don’t matter. You are not special. No one cares.” It’s become a lot easier to put on a smile and pretend to be a happy person. You get used to it with time and practice.

    Part of the problem is this toxic cultural idea that we have control over our lives, that we are responsible for everything bad that happens to us. That’s just not true. Life is considered a right until you’re born, then you must earn the privilege of survival. Most of your life is spent obeying others, that’s what childhood was practice for. But we’re not taught these things, instead we’re taught that we control our lives. It’s a really damaging idea.

    1. Michaela Westen*

      What keeps me going is an activity I love. Do you have a hobby, sport or activity you love? If not, can you find one by trying things you might like?
      My hobby turned my life around. It gave me something to look forward to. I met the nicest, most fun people. My efforts to become involved and make friends with them improved my people/social skills, which improved my life and helped me get a good job. :)

      1. A G*

        Yep I have several hobbies I love. That’s part of the problem: too many unprofitable interests, not enough time for things I actually enjoy.

          1. A G*

            I guess I’m just too selfish to be content with a few measly scraps of pleasure now and then.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      This isn’t how everyone feels, FWIW. Life is a grind you just have to pull through sometimes — that is true for everyone — but that’s not a constant state of being, just a period to get through until things get better.

      Please consider getting screened for depression. Seeking treatment has made a world of difference to me, and I’d hate for you to be suffering through this slog if you don’t actually need to be.

      1. Washi*

        This. A G, you’ve described very poignantly what my life felt like when I was depressed.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Thirding. This sounds a lot like depression. One of its magical powers being to go back and color old memories, so you can’t remember how to be different. Even though, post-depression, it can be stark how far off your now-normal that was, at the time it was foreveralways.

    3. SL #2*

      I want to say this to the OP, but I think you might resonate with it too: therapy helps. Like ArtsNerd said, consider a depression screening, talk to your PCP, try and get in with a therapist, even if only for a few sessions. Having that outside perspective is invaluable when you can’t break out of a downward spiral on your own.

    4. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Sell 9 hours of your day to earn the privilege of being alive

      That’s is exactly. That’s the core of the problem. You have to sell off a large portion of your life just to earn money to survive. Some people are lucky to find meaning in their paid work, many are not. Like you, I stopped trying to explain this to people. We need to live in a world that respects the dignity of all people and values something other than money. Therapy doesn’t help when the core problem is that we live in a world that is grossly unfair, that is structured to keep power in the hands of a few at the expense of the many. I’ve decided to do what I can at every opportunity to leave the world a better place. But I know it means that I will never be able to live a reasonably decent life, and that most people will continue to find me a freak for working for a fairer world.

      Wish I had something uplifting to say to you, but all I can say is that I get it.

      1. LV*

        So… what alternative system do you think we would have in a world that “values something other than money”? I genuinely don’t mean to be harsh, but this seems like a childish point of view. Of course all societies should respect people’s inherent dignity, but how is it shocking that people need to perform some kind of work in order to earn a living? Manna isn’t going to fall out of the sky just because you don’t want to have a job.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes. One of the reasons I hate the “do what you love” thing is how it disrespects any work that isn’t, say, writing great novels or training doctors. It seems like something a writer, professor, think tanker, and head of a nonprofit would agree on over lunch, without worrying about how the food gets there and the area gets cleaned up after.

          There’s a reason people give up subsistence farming to move to cities: subsistence farming usually sucks. You can make an argument about how hunter-gatherers work only 4-5 hours a day, but that’s not a viable lifestyle for 7 billion people. And it has a high infant death rate, rules about leaving your elders or the sick to die once they can’t keep up–it’s no paradise. It’s never been the norm that people are always feeling engaged and intellectually challenged and deeply fulfilled and have enough to eat and shelter and medical care and… It has never been a thing.

        2. A G*

          It’s not about never having to work. You’re oversimplifying. It’s about not having to work constantly. Do you fill every moment of your workday with actual work? Or could it be done in less time if not for having to fill up the minimum 40 hours we’ve decided makes a person worthy of medical care? Are you still productive on Friday afternoons, or are you worn down by then? Because I’m so beat by Friday that I can barely speak a coherent sentence. I could get a lot more done if I weren’t a space-case dummy by the weekend.

        3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          This is exactly why I don’t discuss this subject. I never said I didn’t want to work. I’m very happy to work! But what happens if you can’t work for a living? What if you’re ill or disabled? What if the only work you can find barely gives you enough? Why is working for the right to live considered acceptable? We’re only on this beautiful planet for a short amount of time, and yet most of us have to spend it making rich people richer while we live on scraps. I don’t think it’s childish to want to change that.

          And here’s the thing: If you want to work, if you love working, you’re seen as strange! I’ve actually loved several of the jobs I’ve held and looked forward to each working day. Later in life, I became ill and doctors refused to help me. I begged doctors to help find a solution to my health problems because my symptoms were stopping me from being able to work. They didn’t find it a concern that I was falling into poverty or that I couldn’t hold a job. I wasn’t able to work for a living, even though that’s something you’re supposed to do and something I really wanted to do. So, if I want to make this world a fairer place, I’m childish, but if I can’t work, I’m lazy. Which one is it?

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

            And I apologise for sounding adversarial, this topic has touched a nerve and I probably shouldn’t have commented until I’d calmed down. Hope everyone here has a good day.

      2. Espeon*

        I concur.

        My poor husband has had to deal with me in tears over this patriarchal capitalist bullshit on more than one occasion.

        I currently have a job I don’t hate (it’s the first one I’ve had where I don’t dread going in – I’ve been working for 13 years) and where my manager, his manager and HIS manager all love me (again, very much a first), but I’ll never trust an employer, for they’ve only proven themselves overwhelmingly untrustworthy, and I’ll never believe that this set-up is right, because it categorically isn’t.

        That said, A G, I do find your comment a little concerning in the respect that, my self-esteem is not touched by all this – I know my true worth – and yours shouldn’t be either, so I would join others in suggesting that you talk with someone.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Oh God, I hear you so much (and throw in bigotry as well). I’m glad you have someone to talk to and comfort you about this. It’s so difficult to talk about. No, life is not meant to be this way. Not to this extreme. I can’t do much, but wherever I can, I try to contribute to changing things.

          Congratulations on finding a job that values you and where you’re respected! That’s a huge deal and I’m truly happy for you. I have to say I do agree with you re: never trusting an employer. The problem is the whole system – even if an individual manager is amazing, and I’ve had a few of those, the systems itself is set up against you. It’s really frustrating because it’s always in the back of your mind, whether you like it or not.

          I do think you have an excellent point about knowing your true worth, and that’s where talking to someone can be helpful. For me, having a few amazing friends made all the difference. Sadly, the way things are structured can beat you down, no matter how hard you try.

      3. MsSolo*

        But you can find a job that helps you work towards a world that is fairer and gives people more dignity. I know a lot of people here have had bad experiences working with non-profits, but honestly, I can’t imagine working for somewhere that wasn’t a charity. Even if my day is sometimes a grind, it’s a grind that’s incrementally improving the world we live in, a tiny bit at a time. It sounds like you might already be working in a similar sector (if not, definitely look into it!) but it really sounds like something AG should consider.

        We’re privileged enough to live in a society where you can be paid for doing almost anything – walking dogs, reading books, playing computer games, taste-testing chocolate, saving lives, saving the world – and even if you can’t make that transition immediately, you can still identify a path of how you’re going to get there. Start dog walking after work to build up a customer base. Create a review blog. Expand your palate. Take night classes to retrain as a nurse. Downsize so you can live off a smaller salary. Put aside a little money each month so you can retire early. As someone says downthread, we’re not subsistence farmers – we have options open to us that are unimaginable to previous generations.

    5. KL*

      @A G – Reading your post made comment made my heart hurt. I’m another voice asking that you please find someone to talk to. I remember doing the same thing, crying in the shower, telling myself “No one cares. You’re not special. Your feelings don’t matter.” It took a long time to get through that and I still fight with it. For me, I had to leave a toxic work environment to realize that.

      Please talk to someone. People do care. You are special. Your feelings matter.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Or, even if you aren’t special, your feelings STILL matter.

        You are here, and you have a right to be here, and you have a right to find more contentment and joy than that.

        You are AS IMPORTANT as anyone around you. Would you look at them and think they should struggle like that?

        The rule we need more than the Golden Rule is this one: Treat yourself as well as you would treat others.

    6. cereal tower*

      This is so refreshing, thank you. I was starting to worry I was the only person reading this blog who was feeling this way.

      And I can’t even afford gym membership on what I take home.

      I literally started crying reading this letter and comment thread in the middle of the damn office because I am getting older and I feel like the only skill that I have, that might save me from my low-paid slog in call centres, is my writing. And these threads always go the same: ‘writing is too hard/competitive/editors will want to change everything anyway/with issues like yours it’s probably a bad fit/resign yourself to settling in your rubbish job and withering away mentally for the rest of your life or suddenly find the money to get more skills/counselling’.

      I know I have depression but I don’t see how it’s avoidable when life is so rubbish. I feel for OP, though channelling it into boss-hate is a little unusual and lacks a certain self-awareness.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        As one of the ones commenting about the writing field – please don’t take our warnings as “don’t pursue it and resign yourself to a life of misery”! What we’re really trying to do is make sure no one is fooled by the pop-culture image of what it means to write for a living. Many people imagine that you sit and toil at your computer until you’ve created your masterpiece, whereupon you present it to your delighted editor who tidies up a little punctuation and then sends it out to become a best-seller.

        As long as you’re not convincing yourself that writing will be a magic saviour job that extracts you from call centre drudgery, there’s no reason not to pursue a writing career! But you have to go into it with your eyes wide open. If fiction writing is your goal, for example, you have to remember that you will have to shop your work around a lot; you will have your work get edited, often heavily; you won’t have much say in the cover design when you’re published. Or, alternately, that you will have to self-publish, and then the weight and challenge of marketing will fall on your shoulders, and therefore that you have to be prepared for taking that on as well.

        Don’t convince yourself that you will write an immediate best-seller that will free you from all our financial worries – but if you love writing, write! And read, and write more. The joy you will get from doing something you love is worth an awful lot too.

        1. cereal tower*

          I did love writing. I never imagined it would be easy, but the comments here make me feel like I’ve fallen for some sort of scam in having a skill everyone and their mum wants to make use of. Unfortunately I’m not in the position to retrain so I’m stuck with my writing.

  33. Michaela Westen*

    Allison, are the ads supposed to be appearing between comments? I haven’t seen it this way before. Just bringing to your attention in case it’s a glitch or something. :)

    1. VioletDaffodil*

      Did you used to be a spy… until…?

      (If your username isn’t a Burn Notice reference, this is going to get confusing.)

      1. Michaela Westen*

        I wasn’t a spy, but he’s my favorite character in one of the all-time great shows!
        I’d love to have the stamina and stress tolerance to be a spy! What I could do!…

  34. FrontRangeOy*

    People who don’t want a boss need to do a thorough and honest evaluation of their skill set. Perhaps the OP’s natural skills – as evidenced by an interest in writing and comedy – are different from those that they trained to a level of proficiency in. Perhaps there’s a job type within their current industry that they would be more suited to.

    A conversation with their local Small Business Bureau could be interesting and enlightening as far as what it would take to actually earn a living from a sole proprietor business. And a few sessions with a skilled CBT or DBT therapist to get at the negative thought patterns behind their issue with authority.

  35. Tarl Cabot*

    There was a book published a decade ago by a personal advisor/comedian whose name I can’t remember and I’m too lazy to look up called “They Call It Work For A Reason!” It was full of practical smarts for both life and the workplace. The overarching premise was that except for a very privileged few, work is rarely fun, hence it’s called work. You’ve got to work every weekday, doing things you don’t like, so you can earn money to do things you DO like, nights and weekends, or any time NOT at work. Even for the service professions that others claim to be so fulfilling, there are still timesheets, budget reports, meetings and the like which are not fun, therefore it still falls under work.

    Then, he goes on to extrapolate this to dating, marriage, family life and the like, you get the idea, but that’s another post…

    So, it’s time to do a DEEP internal self-evaluation and determine what the problem really is (hint: look in the mirror), get over it and start to go to WORK so you can do the fun things after.

  36. Granny K*

    Your story of your boss literally sitting behind you and telling you where to move your hands–you realize this is weird, right and lacking in any sort of boundaries (which counseling could help you with)? Did you ever once turn around and tell him kindly that this isn’t working for you? Stop looking at bosses as All Powerful. Yes you could get fired for standing up for yourself but if you do it a certain way and emphasize that your work style will help the company’s bottom line, most bosses can understand that. Also consider contracting, rather than fulltime permanent jobs; you get hired on a per-project basis; you swoop in quickly, assess and fix the situation, enjoy the farewell cake and then go off to the next thing. Although you might have a supervisor, you don’t have a boss per se and you also don’t have to worry about things like reviews. Sometimes there aren’t paid benefits (paid days off, health insurance) but some agencies off these things too. If you have a reputation of going in and getting things done, these agencies can already have other projects lined up for you.

    1. rose6677*

      I have a similar attitude to “bosses” as the letter author. And yes, I have tried to talk to my bosses plenty of times.

      It normally doesn’t bring much. During my several years of experience I’ve had just one boss who war fair and smart enough for my conversations with him to make any sense. The rest were exactly the opposite. I’m currently considering changing jobs due to several severe problems (expectation of unpaid overtime, the position which was dramatically misrepresented in the job description). I’ve talked to my boss plenty of times. He’s always ignored my arguments.

      “Standing up for oneself” is something that a lot of self-help books would recommend. In real life however and in contemporary work cultures, it rarely works.

      I also feel the answer in this case is not very good, especially this part: “People who are really good at what they do generally build up options over time”.

      How can anybody know whether the new job is really as good as seems? When accepting my current position, I was to be responsible for A, currently I’m responsible for part of A, whole B and C (B and C are unrelated to A; I hate B and C and would have never applied for the position if I had known my tasks were to include it). Also my boss is a horrible micromanager – the only reason I won’t quote examples is that I don’t want anybody to recognize me. I asked him about his management style during my job interview. He presented it as exactly the opposite of what it really is. Should I quit, be considered a job hopper and risk that my new position will be even worse?

      It’s not all as easy as presented in this post unfortunately.

  37. Pollygrammer*

    It’s not going to pay well, but there is stuff you can do in total isolation. Transcription work, data entry. If the real problem is just disliking bosses (and I really doubt it is) that’s an option work exploring.

    Hell, even Amazon Mechanical Turk is more money than zero money.

  38. A G*

    Yep I have several hobbies I love. That’s part of the problem: too many unprofitable interests, not enough time to do things I actually enjoy.

  39. S Stout*

    Has the LW tried making a list (or two lists) – one list of what they need to survive, one list of what they would like in order to be happy. To survive: food and shelter (at a minimum). To be happy – well, LW can figure that out.

  40. Anomaly*

    I think self-reflection is warranted here. Perhaps the LW has had a string of bad luck, however, this letter reminds me of many of the complaints I hear from one of the administrative assistants I work with. Her opinion of her own work exceeds that of almost any other staff member. Not to mention she believes that she’s doing higher level work than she is and regularly comments how she’s doing the work of other (more senior) staff. So even though this administrative assistant can do good work, her attitude makes her tough to work with. S

  41. ProWriter*

    As someone who now works as a professional writer: to all those who are thinking of taking that leap, don’t bite the hand that feeds you your salary on the way out!

    You have to be willing to network and be very flexible to make it as a freelancer, generally, even if you’re very brilliant, and you’ll need every contact you can muster when you’re first building up a network of paying clients. My former colleagues were very helpful in recommending me for freelance and contract jobs, likely because I not only work hard, but I also make an effort to be pleasant to work with (…even if I do say so myself!). Kindness and understanding pay far more dividends than assuming the worst and going for the jugular, in my experience!

  42. Rachel Green*

    There’s a pretty large blogosphere out there about financial independence and early retirement. Some people invest in real estate and are able to quit their day jobs when their properties bring in enough income. Others invest in the stock market and then retire early and live off the dividends from their investments. You’d have to be really vigilant about saving a large portion of your income (like 50%), but it’s certainly doable. Try reading these blogs: millenial-revolution.com or affordanything.com or mrmoneymustache.com or jlcollinsnh.com.

    1. Michaela Westen*

      If everyone invests in real estate to make a quick buck most of the country will be gentrified, and the non-rich will be homeless. :(
      See you under the bridge…

      1. Elena*

        If it really were much closer to everyone, it could also result in a price war to get renters, which couls be good for the renters.
        But then it will stop generating a quick buck, a lot of people will lose out and it will be back to not everyone…

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Ugh. You have to have a lot of money (and luck) in the first place to invest in real estate and/or any significant number of stocks.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        Survivorship bias in investing is HUGE. Everyone likes to think that they’ll be the one to risk everything and win, but…. well, it isn’t a risk for nothing. The people who do well on the stock market usually can because they’ve got a nice cushion of safe holdings so that their playing won’t ruin them. People who risk the bulk of what they have usually end up losing it all.

  43. Lara*

    I’m torn on this one. This could be a situation caused by circumstance and a need for self reflection. But it also reminds me of a former roommate who was way too good to work at the local shop – even though he’d been unemployed for a year.

  44. Very much anon for this*

    I’ll be honest, I have some mostly lower-skilled, sometimes unionized family members who are like this, but there’s more to it…they:

    -have an “us vs. them” mentality when it comes to management versus non-management, which extends to expecting that colleagues ought to defend each other’s poor performance
    -see having an open line of communication with your manager as being a “suck-up”
    -little idea what considerations go into running a business other than keeping employees happy
    -issues with particularly formal authority, meaning that they’re happy to manage up (to the point of scheming) but they would never want to be a manager themselves
    -write anonymous notes to address workplace issues
    -assume everyone hates their job and that office politics are unavoidable and terrible
    -don’t directly say this, but think that they have a right to their particular job rather than a privilege. As in they have trouble with the idea that people can get demoted or fired for poor performance

    Some of them have been shuffled out of the regular workforce and now make their money from Ponzi schemes and online content mills, which of course is better than having a boss, right?

    Don’t be like these people – they run their careers and finances off a cliff and don’t understand that it’s because they lack perspective, insight, and possibly soft skills.

  45. allthatjazz*

    Good news: We get to choose
    Bad news: We get consequences
    Good news: It’s your life, so you get to decide
    Bad News: Other people don’t have to support your choices

    Hope the writer found what they were looking for……

  46. Caffeine Cowgirl*

    OP: I don’t know what happened after this letter — and I’d love to hear — but I do feel the need to point out something that you’ve probably realized by now. It is this: even if you run your own business, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a boss. In fact, in that situation, every single client you have IS a boss. St. Bob of the House of Dylan pointed out something similar in Gotta Serve Somebody.

  47. Snark*

    Add another vote for the “So maybe your bosses all suck and you’re too good to be managed by the incompetents that have come your way, buuuuuuuut have you considered that the common denominator might be your own lack of soft skills?” perspective.

  48. Quake Johnson*

    There are so many letters here that require not only work advice, but general life advice, and I’m always so impressed at how Alison handles these!

  49. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    It’s interesting that everyone is thinking that a man wrote this. I’m not finding any gender indicators, and I immediately thought it was written by a woman. In fact, I thought it was written by an older woman like me. Yes, projecting, I know.
    But there is a real, measurable change in attitudes toward a woman as she ages. I KNOW this. I’ve built a career over twenty-one years, have never been fired, have never left a job without another one lined up. have never job-hopped. I’ve worked independently for years, building up an office’s whole operation (I’m in higher education), and I cannot, CANNOT, get anyone in upper administration to recognize the decision-making, collaboration-initiating ability I have now that I’m over forty. Sure, there are lots of people around me who understand what I do and what leadership ability I have, but I apply and apply and apply and…. nothing. (And yes, I revamped my resume per Alison’s advice to show actual accomplishments, not just vaguely-worded “skills”.) I really think people just look at me and see forty-ish woman = secretary, and I HATE IT. It’s not depression, it’s experience.

  50. Louise*

    OP join the DSA.

    Seriously though, it sounds like the OP has/had some big issues with capitalism (same) and maybe finding a job that’s working to dismantle the idea that your right to exist is tied to your labor would help.

    1. RebeccaNoraBunch*

      Heh, funny you should say that…one of the first things my ex-boyfriend told me about himself was that he has trouble with authority. He ended up breaking up with me so he could devote himself totally to being active with the local chapter of the DSA, and he has been with, from what I can tell, no silly distractions like a life partner since last August.

      1. Louise*

        That surprises me not at all. Like I love the DSA and trust their endorsements and pay my yearly dues but some of the (sorry not sorry) white male socialist bros are innnnsuferable.

        1. RebeccaNoraBunch*

          Yeah, that’s exactly what he is. He really looks up to a lot of the guys and wants to be just like them…to the point of choosing to be single because he didn’t have time for me/us. I’m still pretty sad/bitter about it, because we were very well matched otherwise.

          1. Louise*

            Well I hope that hasn’t tainted your view of all socialists. Some of us also fight for the rights of women and people of color and are able to maintain healthy loving relationships :)

            1. RebeccaNoraBunch*

              Not at all – in fact, I am one myself! That’s another reason we were so compatible. I am not a member or active in DSA right now and I was planning to become one but then he broke up with me and broke my heart and now I can’t stand to go to meetings in our city because I would see him. It’s just a bummer all around. :(

    1. clairels*

      I feel like you could probably say that about a large majority of the letters that appear here.

  51. RebeccaNoraBunch*

    “I wouldn’t mind doing stand up comedy.”

    As a self-proclaimed corporate shill (I work in sales at a tech company) who actually does stand up on the weekends and in the evening…my day job is infinitely easier to navigate and be rewarded by than doing stand up. Stand up requires huge amounts of not only artistic work and practice – hundreds of open mics and repetitions as well as writing and rewriting – but it also, surprisingly to me, requires enormous amounts of networking and relationship building. You will not just get *put into shows*. You have to network. You have to go to other shows to support other comics. You have to market yourself. You have to decide on your voice, your brand, your material, and then work, work, work. You have to see and be seen. You have to build real, solid relationships with other comics and then eventually with agents, producers, and many others. Much of that means your progress as a comic is directly in the hands of other authority figures who aren’t you. Unless you own your own venue and only put yourself onstage every night, that’s just the way it goes.

    After all that, the percentage of stand up comics who actually make any kind of solid living doing it is extremely small. It’s also largely about talent – you can re-structure your material and practice it, but you have to have real, innate talent in order to actually “make it”.

    What I’m saying is: I’ll probably never make the kind of money I’m making in my day job as a stand up comic because the competition is just too fierce and my circumstances demand that I have a solid income and health care provided to me. I’ve talked to dozens of comics who do a lot of local work and produce shows who are jealous of my stable, solid career and wish they had chosen the same. They have told me so.

    Comedy is hard.

    1. Louise*

      Yeah I feel like “I wouldn’t mind it” isn’t the best mentality for stand up comedy.

      “I can’t live without this and will submit myself to hours of poorly playing, poorly attended club shows that I will bomb a lot of so that I can pursue this thing I love” is a little more realistic.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          That’s why I was reminded of the “what are jobs that exist” letter: it seems like OP has very little experience to draw on, if writing fiction and doing stand-up are the two things they have hit on as okay ways to make a living.

          1. Lara*

            Yes. Writing fiction is incredibly hard and not always lucrative. Plenty of authors have day jobs.

      1. Manders*

        There’s a really excellent moment in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel where she asks a successful stand-up comic whether he loves his work and gets an unusual, but very emphatic, response. It’s a great show about doing what you love and having to work a day job too.

  52. Michaela Westen*

    Another thing that would help a writer is watching the Dick Van Dyke show on Netflix.
    The main characters are comedy writers. It shows them struggling to get ideas and develop them, and dealing with their cranky, egotistical boss, and dealing with show business. It’s brilliant and funny! :)

  53. GarlicMicrowaver*

    It’s just that the OP seems to be speaking from the perspective of someone who doesn’t need to work. I get a strong sense of entitlement and deep-rooted insecurities disguised as naivate. Everyone has a boss or at least someone who “calls the shots,” be it a client or direct manager. These phrases particularly got to me:
    -“I can’t stand the thought of getting a job.”
    -“I severely disagree with management”
    -“I don’t have a job…. and really don’t want one.”

    Perhaps he/she/they is/are supported by some other means. That’s the OP’s business. But what is the question, exactly?

    Even if this person dedicated him/her-self to a life of volunteering, there would still be a chain of command.

    Sorry, but this whole post really irked me. Also, I write poetry. I know first-hand you can’t make a living off creative writing, at least not in the short-term.

    1. LilySparrow*

      They said they had less than a month’s worth of money left. So there may be a sense of entitlement that comes from a privileged background, but it certainly doesnt sound like they are in a position of independent means.

  54. AnonyMouse*

    I really want to send this to my friend who quit their job and is trying to make money through social media…

  55. Angela Ziegler*

    I realize that there are plenty of under-qualified and condescending bosses out there, but I also got a bit of ‘Poe Dameron Syndrome’ vibe. I think we’ve all been in a job where we felt we knew something better than the boss, or felt more qualified for the role, and felt snubbed at having a lower and less-appreciated position. There are Michael Scotts in all industries and at all levels. But that isn’t always the case everywhere. Sometimes there are factors in play you don’t know about given your position and access to information. Or, it could be a reaction to your behavior. If you give off the impression that you think you would be a better strategist for the resistance fleet, and that you feel the admiral in charge can’t do it properly- Well, that might show in your interactions with your boss, so they might feel the need to get defensive, or see it as a power-play that needs to be taken down a notch.

  56. There All Is Aching*

    All the comments so far are evidence that this was worth a repost. And that’s assuming AAM (queen)’s time-managements needs weren’t reason enough (which, of course, they were).

    1. Deus Cee*

      Agreed. Particularly the comments from people who remembered the post the first time round and what they’ve learnt since!

  57. Triple Anon*

    Starting a business is a viable option. There are lots of ways to do it. So is finding a job with a lot of Independence and minimal supervision. I wish more of the comments were focused on that. The LW isn’t saying they don’t want to work. They’re saying they don’t do well with conventional workplace structures, which is a valid thing to acknowledge and seek to work around.

    1. Lara*

      Yeah. Someone above mentioned Office Space. This really is a prime example of that. The protagonist did better in a different industry and the other three characters fixed their problems by… getting another job. Unless you live in a very small town there will be options. Heck, maybe like the protagonist of Office Space, OP needs to get into manual labour, or retrain.

  58. LilySparrow*

    I’m not trying to be mean, but if someone says they wrote a “fiction novel” (as opposed to just…a novel) and thinks they could do standup for a living but has never performed anything in front of an audience, ever…

    I get the impression that they have trouble grasping industry norms and lack a realistic understanding of job requirements.

    I’m inclined to wonder if there were industry norms and job requirements in their last several positions that they just never grasped.

  59. E.*

    I really disagree with the the paragraph about “People who are really good at what they do generally build up options over time…” Sure, this is true for people who are the top 1% in their field, who are well-known, etc. But for the average person, it’s pretty unrealistic to think that you’ll get to this point, even if you work hard and do a good job.

  60. boop the first*

    I appreciate the sympathetic response to OP’s letter – it sounds very much like it was written during a moment of pure agony, regardless of how “valid” some deem the cause. I don’t know what to say. Condescending to the writer on their naivety certainly wouldn’t help, since it sounds like it’s coming from someone with already-low self esteem. The ego burst about IT is probably a mask.

    Childhood trauma is such a horrible and permanent thing and this is why. It sets up a perspective for the rest of your life and affects your ability to relate with others.

    For me, I am luckily privileged enough to go part time. I work a few days a week at a low-wage job, and spend the rest of the week “working” for myself. I say “working” in quotes because I feel terrible calling it work just because it’s relatively unpaid (creative). But what little money I DO earn on my own, oh it feels SO DIFFERENT from the corporate paycheque. I feel ecstatic. Amazed. Proud.

    I still feel bad about day jobs. There is an impersonal heartlessness about large business. If I work too much at one, I get depressed and suicidal thoughts. Most people don’t get the option of reducing to part time, but if it’s not over 40 hours, and you’re not a caretaker, there is probably some evening/weekend hours where you can take small steps on starting your own business and it would absolutely be worth it. You can do this.

  61. SandrineSmiles (France - At work)*

    Ah, I remember when this one was published initially.

    As of today, I now know one thing: I can’t not have a boss. There is a special status you can get in France, “auto entrepreneur” , that you can have besides a full time job, or use as your “main job” (but it’s complicated lol) . There was a time when I thought this special status would grant me freedom. I could research clients! Work when I wanted!

    And then…

    Keeping track ? The invoices ? Calculating the taxes ? Scheduling looking for clients ? Proposals ? Ermmmmmmmmm yeaaaaaah let’s find a permanent job.

    I realized I wasn’t cut out for this. Now, I’m not looking for a boss that’ll have a red carpet champagne party ready for me everyday. Respect of my humanity seems good, oh and don’t talk to me like I’m 5 years old. That’s pretty much it. I want a human boss, not an evil overlord Voldemort Dilbert boss.

    Yeah, I can be naive sometimes :p

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