I hate obligation. The very idea of it elicits frustration, a task that I would not being doing otherwise, without the application of outside influence or expectation. In most cases, it is because of a social construct or familial mandate to not only do something that I would rather not, but that I must do so without letting on how much I really would rather not be doing it.

Work is an obligation. It is the first obligation that I found myself willing to stop bitching about because, unless you are a child or independently wealthy, practically all humans are subject to it. I leave out the stay at home mom from this, because although you are not leaving the home or being paid for it, staying at home to raise kids is definitely work, and counts as such. However I do lament the nonsense of work, not the work itself (which one could argue is in itself mostly futile), but the social constructs of what amount to confined animals in a “civilized” yet enclosed workplace environment.

The social construct of confined animals theory is as follows: As a species, humans (I believe) evolved from a wild animal that lived freely with little confinement unless by choice. Eventually, we figured out that living together in small groups benefited the species as a whole. The formations of clans, villages, and countries with a set of codified rules are all basic amplifications of this basic social construct. You sacrifice some of your freedom and autonomy for the safety and security of living in numbers with a collective effort towards a common goal, which in most cases is simply not dying. These days, though, it’s more like to make enough money to keep a roof over one’s head, clothes on one’s back and food on one’s belly, in exchange for production of goods or services that benefit the whole. In essence, a job.

On the surface, that sounds pretty simple and reasonable. However, eventually the natural spirit of man starts to surface, and you realize that although you need to be there, you don’t really want to be there and so the disparity is formed. Once you start factoring in the more negative aspects associated with the unnatural confinement that one must accept in order for these manifestations of social constructs to work, one begins to display symptoms like those of a caged animal: stress, anxiety, conflict, angst, frustrations and anger. Without an acceptable outlet for these symptoms, the caged animal begins to either turn them in on themselves (self-mutilation and repetitive stress behaviors) or to unleash them on others (rage or violence).

Since none of these things are acceptable in “proper” society, one must find alternatives to pulling the pressure release valve to allow some of this pent up steam to be let out. Passive-aggression, gossip, sarcasm, back-biting, and manipulation are all far more likely venues for releasing some of the pent up anxiety and stress of the “caged” work environment. Some turn to drugs or alcohol, and although exercise is the best possible solution, very few people actually do it.

Factor money into the equation, and before long, you are dealing with two very different constructs. First you see a human, who for all intents and purposes, would have no purpose to be in your life other than the fact that you work together or (more likely) for them.  You must be nice, friendly even, in spite of obvious character flaws, in search of the almighty paycheck. They deem this professionalism, but really it’s just enhanced lying. The second, is that you must repress the genetically embedded tendency to smack the bejesus out of the lesser, more annoying human simply because it might get your ass hauled into HR or off to jail. You grit your teeth, smile and get through it. Because you have to.

Some folks can skirt a lot of their obligations by relying on others and refusing to “grow up.” While this used to irritate me (and on occasion, it still does), I realized that in order to do this, these people sacrifice a lot of control over their own lives to suckle the teat of someone else’s income and amenities. While I get frustrated because I work pretty hard for what I have in life, and to see someone getting it for free makes me feel cheated. I take solace in the fact that eventually the host of this parasite will wise up, go broke, or die, and the sponge will be left to their own devices. They must find a new host to begin the cycle again or be lost. Sad as it is, I get no greater pleasure than watching someone realize far too late that they have no clue what they’re doing now that no one’s around to babysit them. Meanwhile, I can pull the tab on my own pudding cup and call it a day. Small as it is, at least I’ve earned it.