I have never been a productive employee.

I'm in my early forties and I've never been dedicated to my jobs. Any job where I can get away with slacking off, I'll do it. From the mid-1990s to the late 2000s I worked three office jobs where I did as little as possible, and sometimes less. I was sometimes vaguely aware that my slacking meant my coworkers had to work more, and sometimes they actually told me, complaining to me. I told myself they didn't mind because that meant they got more paid overtime, and maybe that was true to an extent, but I felt horrible all the same. I felt horrible not just because of what I was doing to them by making them work more (as if that weren't bad enough), but also horrible because I couldn't seem to devote myself to these jobs, even though I'm no idiot. I just didn't want to, so I didn't do the work, and there's no justifying that.

How I managed to avoid getting fired, I'll never know. I think I probably was on the brink of getting fired more times than I'll ever guess. I was always like this as a student, too--a smart kid who didn't do his homework or study, but who did okay because he could slide by with minimal effort. When I worked jobs like driving a delivery van and washing dishes I had no trouble sticking to it--mindless tasks like those aren't that hard. It's only when I go unsupervised that I wander off into the weeds.

So I quit my last office job a few years ago and entered grad school to become a teacher. Part of my reason is that I enjoy teaching, and it doesn't help that I'm patient and that I'm actually pretty good at it. My other reason is that you can't really goof off in the classroom, not with all those kids watching. I mean, I know it happens. I was a long-term substitute recently for a foreign language teacher who had clearly not been teaching her students anything, and that parasite managed to skate. I don't feel like I could ever do that, since it would require having a classroom full of people passing judgement on you every day for slacking off. I know my coworkers talked about my slacking off at my old jobs, but I was able to somehow not be aware that I was being noticed, which is ridiculous.

So here I am, nearing the end of my grad program, and actually doing well, even though I've been slacking in my studies, like I always did as an undergraduate. I'm dreading having to go to work again. I feel guilty as h*** about feeling that dread at all, especially since my wife's been working all through this transition while I'm not pulling in much money at all. I feel like a heel, a parasite. Worst of all, I feel like I'm going to let her down by s******* up this career, too. Everyone who meets me is impressed by how smart I am, and I really am smart. But I should probably just give up on these better-paying jobs and go work for the post office or something. The apparent monotony of that job is probably better suited to my temperament, even though the students I've had have, for the most part, learned the subjects I've taught (foreign languages and English as a second language), and have reported to my supervisors that they love having me as a teacher. H***, some of my former students even started a Facebook group to get me back to their school.

I carry around my past slacking like a chain around my neck. I can't talk to people about it because I don't want to be judged harshly. I can't make up for what I've done to them. I realize I'm not the only goldbricker who's ever lived, but that doesn't make it right. I don't know if I can ever make it right, and I dread the possibility that I might never be able to break the cycle, and that I'll just wind up doing this to other people again in my next jobs. I feel like I'll always be a worthless human being, and that it's just a matter of time before everyone I encounter will realize just how worthless I am. Past performance sort of bears that out.

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  • Thank you for posting. It hit me that I'm in kinda the same boat. Different a little bit, if I find something I like I throw my back into it, but honestly everything I've tried has ended up getting boring to the point where I begin to do what you described: Slack off, do nothing, find an exit.

    I'm only in my early 30s but I did the same thing: Went to grad school, and just finished getting my Law Degree. Minimal work and I still grad'd a semester early with a decent GPA. The bar exam is in 8 days and I haven't prepared at all. Pretty much know I need to put it off, or go in and fail and immediately start ACTUALLY preping. I love legal work and want to be a lawyer but somehow I have to get around this need to avoid anything that would actually mean responsibility that's plagued me all my life.

    It was good to read your post and realize there are others out there who're going through the same thing. Can't really help you much on what to do but hopefully it'll help to know you're not the only one, and it doesn't make us bad people. We just have to find some way to overcome this challenge and I know you can, and believe that I can.

  • u sound like a commen s*****who would f*** a guy in the ass and not have the commen decency to give him a reach around

  • Some time in your early life, you were made to feel very guilty about something you did (or rather didn't), and you've always felt like a lazy piece of crap, therefore you are.

    You are what you think.

    You aren't lazy, it's just that you don't know how to properly allow yourself to work hard, and then enjoy your time when you don't have to work. There is a time for work and a time for play, and you think work is bad. Work is actually play, but you've been conditioned to think it is a burden.

    You're going to make a great teacher, but only if you enjoy doing it.

  • Thank you for this post. It made me reread my post, which I did not enjoy doing, but I had to see what might have given you the notion that there was something early in my life that I was made to feel guilty about. Indeed there was, but I don't know how you guessed that. Exactly what it is isn't important, I guess. I can think of two instances where I was lambasted for something I didn't do, and I did come away feeling like a lazy piece of crap, and I never was able to atone for it, to make it right. What you've done wrong is wrong: you suck, and there's no making up for it. A lot of people think that way--just look at the comment from the other person who responded. Some people just enjoy kicking others when they're down, I guess.

    Your comment that "work is actually play" is an ideal I've always held, but I don't think I've ever believed it. I want to believe it. I'm studying something I enjoy right now, but there's still hard work involved. I need to figure a way to look at what I'm studying as a privilege and a joy, not as a burden. I've known this; I've just forgotten it. Thank you for reminding me. I still have to work out how to put this into practice.

    I had an interview for a long-term substitute job last week. Hopefully I'll get it. I enjoy showing kids language, and guiding them through my culture. I like showing people the light, I like it when I see them learn, and it's a privilege to be part of that process. I realize I might be sounding a little corny right now, but what can I say? That's what I believe.

    I've got a presentation due for one of my classes this week. Now I've got to properly allow myself to work hard at it. Thank you for your advice, and for your kind words. I made the above post at my nadir, but I think I'm figuring out how to make at least some of it right. What you've said only makes it better. You wouldn't happen to have any books to recommend on the subject of learning to enjoy work and get over these demons, would you? If you do, I'd appreciate it. At any rate, thanks very much for what you've said.

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