Editor's note: This post is inspired by the one here at TechCrunch.
"If I don't do nothin' I'mma ball
I'm countin' all day like the clock on a wall
Now go and get your money little duffle bag boy
Said go and get your money little duffle bag boy, get money"
—Lil' Wayne, "Duffle Bag Boy"
Every person starts life with a clear vision for success. You will be a fabulous human being and only work with amazing people. You will fulfill the promise of your expensive education and build a stellar career working for a cool company. You will delight others with hilarious things you say and jokes you post on the refrigerator in the break room. You will have an interoffice affair through which you either discover your lifelong mate or develop lifelong sexual apathy toward all coworkers. You will eventually write a bestselling book inspired by your storied life. Maybe make a YouTube video that goes viral. It's going to be absolutely awesome.
Then, after working all day and all… well, all day, which is frankly quite enough thanks, because you have other shit to do and reality shows to watch, you wake up to find that things did not go as planned. Your life did not unfold like those of the brilliant authors you worshipped in college, or even like Ally McBeal. Your fulfilling career is just a job at a startup that pays enough to keep you around and demands enough to keep you from doing anything productive for yourself, yet still does not allow you to pay off your student debt, go on real vacations or say things like, "I'm just taking a sabbatical and working on my book." Your officemates are all dim, annoying and/or unattractive. Your boss is kind of a dick. You are running low on cash and your parents tell you it will be difficult to raise money given the impending European catastrophe.
Your video has only 86 views on YouTube.
You lose your morale. You lose your drive. You lose (uh-oh!) your startup job. You eventually get another startup job that's exactly like the other one, only the benefits are worse. The walls start closing in. Where did you go wrong? As your dreams turn to nightmares, you find yourself in The Struggle.
About the Struggle
The Struggle is when you wonder why you started working for startups in the first place.
The Struggle is when people ask you why you don’t quit and you don’t know the answer. Or maybe you do know the answer: It involves your rent.
The struggle is when food loses its taste, but you shovel it in anyway.
The Struggle is when the CEO of your company should not be the CEO of your company, and you know that you have no power to replace him.
The Struggle is when you are having a conversation with someone and you can’t hear a word that they are saying because all you can hear is hipsters hand-grinding coffee and talking about going to see Band of Horses.
The Struggle is when you want the pain to stop, but you're not quite far gone enough to start drinking at work.
The Struggle is when you plan to go on vacation to feel better but feel worse upon realizing you can't afford it.
The Struggle is when you are surrounded by people, yet you are all alone, because they are all talking about venture rounds and you can't divine what a single one of them actually does for a living.
The Struggle is the land of broken promises and crushed dreams. The Struggle is a cold sweat. That cold sweat may also be your hangover.
The Struggle is not failure ¬— it is being dragged down by your company management's failure. Especially if you are weak. Always if you are weak.
Every great person, from your parents to the owner of the Chipotle franchise where you go to bury your sorrows, went through The Struggle, and struggle they did, so you are not alone. But that does not mean that you will make it. You may not make it. That is why it is The Struggle. If you aren't getting the idea after that series of thoughts, you are likely to struggle even more than others in life.
The Struggle is where fat comes from.
Some stuff that may or may not help
There is no answer to The Struggle, but here are some things that helped me:
Stealing petty items from the office.
Remembering that you are not a female employee at Kleiner Perkins.
Watching other people's viral videos on YouTube.
Don’t put it all on your shoulders – it is easy to think that the things that bother you don't upset your boss as much, especially when he asking you to restart the servers at 1 a.m. from his house in Cap Juluca. That’s not true. The things that bother you don't upset your boss at all. He has no idea what you even do.
Nobody feels it more than you, because no one is even in the office anymore. They have all gone to the beer garden.
This is not checkers; this is mutherfuckin’ chess – never mind that you have never played either game. The point is, there is always a move. How about quitting your job and just seeing how you can get by on freelancing in New York City? I made that move. I made it in 2001, and it was widely regarded as the worst time ever to try to stick it out in New York City. My creditors at Citibank think it's the best decision I ever made.
Focus on the road. A DUI is the last thing you need right now. If you focus on how you might fail, then you will have to take another sick day and you have already taken two this month.
Even if you only have one bullet left in the gun and you have to hit the target, focus on the target. Okay, put down the gun. You've gone too far and he's not worth it.
Play long enough and you might get lucky. If you survive long enough to see tomorrow, it will bring you coffee and your paycheck. It will also bring you the staff meeting, but try not to think about that now.
Don’t take it personally – the predicament that you are in is probably all your fault. You had the tequila. You made the decisions.
But you knew the job was lame when you took it. Everybody makes mistakes. Just ask the last person you hooked up with. Giving yourself an “F” doesn’t help. But harassing the intern might. Or maybe writing parodies of rich people's essays on TechCrunch.
Remember that this is what separates the women from the girls, or is it what separates the men from the boys? Unless you're in a sweatshop, in which case it's just all kids. Wait. What was I saying?
When you are in The Struggle, nothing is easy and nothing feels right. You have dropped into the abyss and you may never get out. Who are we kidding: You will never get out. But work on your book proposal anyway. In my own experience, but for some unexpected luck and help, I would not have even found my pants today.
So to all of you in it, may you find strength and may you find peace. Because you probably won't find a bonus this year.
*Disclaimer: This is fictional. It is an amalgam of experiences, mine and others'. It remains true, for better or for worse, that I have never in my life smoked pot. Similarly, stealing petty office items is a weak fabrication that any startup employee would immediately sniff out, because most startups do not have anything in the office worth stealing.