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.