Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now: A Playlist

This article is a part of Boss Witch Week 2017.

 


 

Every day when your alarm goes off, your eyes flutter open and a sigh escapes your lips. Summoning everything your exhausted body can muster, you leave your bed, cast off your sheets and get up. The same cycle you go through every time you have to clock in. Flashbacks of your last shift surface: the tedium, the stress, the pure misery of it all. As the machine drips coffee into your mug, you wonder at the people on your Instagram feed who seem to love their jobs — what must that be like?

You open the playlist you’ve compiled just for this feeling — a feeling that embodies the deep canyon between you and the people bounding through their dream jobs online — and put your headphones on. There are the obvious choices, but also some songs that took you by surprise. Smiling, you press play as the bus lurches forward, taking you to work.

 

1. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now — The Smiths

The classic choice and title track of your playlist. When you first heard this song in middle school, it confused you a bit — how could you be sad once you’ve found what you’ve been looking for? Now that you’re older and somewhat wiser, you know exactly what Moz is griping about. Turns out the very sad British boy knew a lot about this kind of thing. Who knew? The bus passes its first stop, and the next song arrives.

 

2. 9 to 5 —Dolly Parton

There’s something about Dolly Parton that’s always inspired you, despite your natural aversion to most country music. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you’re sure it has something to do with watching her kick ass and take names in a very Dolly sort of way in 9 to 5. Her honesty is refreshing here too: “You build your dreams just to watch them shatter/You’re just another step on the boss man’s ladder.” But so is her warm reminder that this is temporary and you’re not alone. “You’re in the same boat with a lot of your friends/waiting for the day your ship will come in,” she sings as you get one stop closer to the office.


 3. Opening Up — Sara Bareilles

While you’re definitely not happy at your job, you can’t help but admit that after this long, the routine of it has become comforting. “It’s comforting how some things never change, never change…..I like the way that most of the days look exactly the same,” Sara Bareilles croons as the bus lurches forward again. She was right: the walking in, clocking in, cyclical nature of the office is a kind of hell, but a bearable one. You smile at the irony of it; being stuck in and being annoyed with a place that you’ve also found comfort in. Go figure, I guess. The next stop is here, and so is the next song.

 

4. Work B**ch — Britney Spears

Since you’re not a complete cynic, you figured you might as well try and put at least one motivational song on here. Who better to get your butt in motion in the office than Britney, bitch? The thumping bass makes the office feel like a club on even the dreariest of days, and you’re honestly all about it. Whenever the copying, the filing, or the water cooler conversations get tedious, you remember Queen Spears’s sage wisdom and stern warning: “You better work bitch!” The driver has stopped for a quick break on their route, midway to the next stop. As you wait, the next song begins.

 

5. Working For the Weekend — Loverboy

The 1980s gave us a lot of great pop culture, but I’d argue that the working man’s pop song is one of the best pop culture vestiges of the era. Case and point: this classic Loverboy bop. Who isn’t working for the weekend? Hell, it’s only Tuesday and your mind is already primed and ready for that sweet, sweet TGIF. The cheery 80s pop marches along as the bus driver re-emerges and continues her journey.

 

6. Raspberry Beret — Prince

Okay, so this isn’t a song solely devoted to the woes of workplace life, but Prince knew what a boring job with a dumb boss was like. As he sings, “I was working part time in a five and dime/My boss was Mr. McGee/He told me several times that he didn’t like my kind/Cause I was a bit too leisurely,” you sympathize because you’ve been there before too. Your current boss is no stranger to the occasional racist remark, and isn’t shy about it. It’s one of the things that kills you a little, day by day.

As Prince sings about riding by Old Man Johnson’s farm, something builds in you. Your cheeks flush with a little heat as every injustice, rude remark, and insult your boss has thrown out floats by you. You can’t believe you’ve made it this long, almost a year actually, without quitting on the spot. Then again, bills don’t pay themselves. The song ends, and you start to see the parts of town you’ve familiarized yourself with on lunch breaks and pre-shift down time. The next song arrives, and the bus approaches its next stop.

 

7. This Woman’s Work — Kate Bush

Okay, so this is technically a song about giving birth (no, really) taken from a John Hughes movie you barely know anything about, but no one can bring ethereal sadness to life quite like Kate Bush. When she sings “I know you have a little life in you yet/I know you have a lot of strength left,” it is oddly comforting. Why, yes Kate, I do have some life and strength in me, and maybe I can get through this next, terrible shift. Of course, it’s nothing compared to the work needed to bring a new life into the world — you know this despite never having experienced it — but there’s something about the soft lull of her voice that speaks to you. And when you really think about it, you’re going through woman’s work in your own way — being the only woman in your office, you think about the unpaid and unspoken jobs you do every day. Put in this position, you have to juggle a number of interactions over the course of a day that often leave you emotionally drained. As the song fades away, you realize you’re only three stops away from work.

 

8. She Works Hard For the Money — Donna Summer

One of your many workplace abandonment fantasies includes a musical number (why not go out with a bang, right?) and this is a pretty serious contender for the honorary song. “She works hard for the money/So hard for the money/So you better treat her right.” Damn right, Donna Summer, damn right. If you could have the Queen of Disco tell your boss off for you, you’d jump on it in a heartbeat, no questions asked. You’ve seriously considered surreptitiously placing the link to the song on his desktop, more of an anonymous reminder than a threat, but you stopped yourself. He probably knows, and doesn’t care. You sigh and look up at the windows. The last two stops and songs are on their way, and so is your shift.

 

9. Working Man — Rush

This is one of the most, if not the most straightforward song on your list. Less pop-y than Loverboy’s magnum opus, but more honest. Plus your dad loved Rush, and this was one of the many songs on your “Rushin’ on the Road” playlist (and yes, it was for road trips, short and long). “It seems to me/I could live my life/A lot better than I think I am/I guess that’s why they call me/They call me the working man,” Geddy Lee sings. He gets it. Every time your parents give you a crack over the phone about taking some time off from work your response is always “I guess that’s why they call me the working man, guys.” They laugh and move on to other topics. You look up again and realize you’re one stop away from work.

 

10. Jobless Monday — Mitski

Mitski sings, “So take me out baby/Makes no difference where we’ll be/As long as we’re out in the sun/Take me out baby,” and even if she’s singing about a troubled love, you could definitely use some time out. You can see your office inching closer through the windows across the aisle.

The thing is, you’ve been thinking about quitting for months now. Beyond your Donna Summer-filled workplace fantasies — you’ve been considering real, no turning back, actual quitting.

It took you a while to summon up the nerve to actually figure out the logistics of jumping ship, but last week you talked to Ben in HR about what the process would be like. When he handed you the paperwork to take home, it felt unreal. Last night, the forms sat on your kitchen counter as you weighed the pros and the cons. That small packet of paper sitting in front of you felt like a way out: an escape, but also like jumping off a cliff. You have some ideas for backup jobs but have shied away from applying anywhere lately because of the constant stream of rejections you were hit with before this job found you. You lost count of the applications somewhere after 30 and then jumped on the first and only acceptance. One act of desperation later and here you are.

As the bus reaches your workplace, you pull out the paperwork from your bag. Filled in neatly with black ink from your favorite pen, it feels like your golden ticket. Gone is the hesitation of the previous night as you move towards the front of the bus — last night you found something curious in your inbox. An application for a position you eyed for months has finally been looked at, and you’ve been asked to come in for an interview. There was the push you needed to jump.  You feel the concrete beneath your feet as you disembark. You’ve made your choice.

It won’t be easy, but at least you’ll be free.

Alejandra Martinez

Alejandra Martinez

Alejandra Martinez is a Tejana archivist, writer, and scholar. When she's not thinking about preservation and access, you can find her reading a good book, watching a David Lynch film, or writing about pop-culture at your local coffee shop.
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