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Rant #84
(published Early, 2002)
Shuffle Your Own Damn Papers
by Nicole Boback

Wandering souls, I have learned a few lessons on this path called life, an admittedly short path of but 26 years. And, as such lessons come not without pain and suffering, I will unselfishly pass some along to you. Following is a six-step plan for breaking out of that casual Fridays, navy-blue suit and posture-wrecking dress shoes, sold your soul to Satan for a hot meal, 9-to-5 in a little box mentality. A simple plan for, if you will, ending the cycle of wake up, go to work, watch The West Wing, go to sleep.

1. Quit your job.
You don't really enjoy working for that boss who belittles your every achievement, refuses to acknowledge your contributions to his or her company, and insists that you stifle your talents because they don't fit into the company's vision of greatness; now do you? You mean more to yourself than that. You deserve a gold star! So quit. Get out of there. Run like hell. Sure you'll be unemployed, struggling to pay the rent, eating cold Spaghetti-Os when the gas company disconnects your service— but you'll be happy. Or at least you'll be one step closer to that exalted state of fulfillment. And that, my friend, is much more rewarding than having a nutritious diet and a full belly. Granted, you won't have the health insurance to defeat the germ armies taking advantage of your weakened physical state and thus plaguing your body with seasonal colds that rival the effects of El Niņo. But you're looking for mental stimulation, no?

2. Sit in your house for a week— or a month— or four months, for example.
Make many, many lists of all the things you've never tried, all the things you wish you had time to do, all of your talents that have been suffocating in a corporate-America mindset. Read the lists repeatedly, adding any new brilliant ideas, as you will have many now that you don't have someone telling you you're incapable of free thought. Scratch off items that obviously were written under the oppressive influence of capitalism. Add idealistic goals and top them off with an extreme sense of optimism— no mountain is too high for you! Save the lists to recycle into your very own handmade paper, which you will sell for ridiculous amounts of money to folks who have no sense of creativity. Save your toenail clippings to be recycled into beautiful necklaces— people will buy almost anything. You are confident you will soon conquer the world.

3. Panic.
Realize that you hate cold Spaghetti-Os, you're lost without heat and water, and you wish you had money for all those fabu end of season sales. Doubt yourself and your creative talents. Doubt that you have anything novel to contribute to humanity. Begin to realize that talent runs rampant in the human race; that all the grand ideas you thought would certainly catapult you to fame and fortune have been executed by some schmuck a few privileged steps ahead of you; that you have nothing new to market to the material world that hasn't already been commercialized and distributed through Wal-Mart. Toenail clipping necklaces? Those were so fall of 1999. Above all, procrastinate, for fear of attempting to accomplish your dreams and failing miserably. The last lesson you need to learn at this point is that you are capable of nothing more in life than the role of an office peon.

4. Blame your lover.
Tell him that he wrongly encouraged you to follow your dreams and demand that he feed you and clothe you and shelter you with the money he makes at his life-sucking job. Obsess over the stack of bills piling up on the coffee table, all generated by your lack of foresight and ill planning. Sort and restack them daily, designating priority payment based on whim alone, yet failing to actually pay any of them. Grieve for your dwindling bank account and increasing dependence upon you lover. Yell at your lover for blaming you for quitting your job— he never says that he blames you, but you just KNOW he's thinking it, thinking you should be doing something productive, thinking you should be suffering through a grueling workweek just like everyone else. Awaken him at two in the morning to tell him this.

5. Act in desperation.
Throw yourself full-force into developing a moneymaking scheme surely capable of producing instant results; something for the proverbial sucker born every minute that will create more wealth faster than anything anyone else has ever even thought up. Spend days planning and working yourself up for the commitment of accomplishing it. Question yourself, yet again: what if it doesn't work? What if I fail miserably and thus must return to corporate America? What if the inhabitants of this happy creative place snicker at me and point their fingers? Stop! Hold your breath and plunge into the great unknown world of everythingyouhaveeverwanted.

6. Demand immediate results.
Ahh, here I have little advice for you. This is where the lesson ends. The results are painstakingly slow; the initial rewards sporadic, at best. A sense of self slowly begins to return, yet the incompleteness, the fickle cheering squads, and the reality of financial dependence are daunting. The winners form cliques, excluding those mindless saps in cubicles; the losers shuffle around unthinking and alone, content in said cubicles and unaware that other options exist. And you? You are somewhere in the middle, thinking, feeling, creating, and anticipating the moment you gain access to the winners' league, those esteemed folks who have survived on Spaghetti-Os and candlelight to make their dreams a reality and achieve the ultimate of self-fulfillment. And when you finally get there, you realize you don't even need them.

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