Discover more from All the Fanfare
I Have Entered the Stanley Hudson Portion of My Career
The Office as an unintentional career roadmap
I was in my mid-20s when The Office originally aired. At that time, I strongly identified with Jim Halpert—tall, gangly, likable, good at basketball. The likeness wasn’t identical—I wasn’t as charming as Jim, and I was more career-minded—but it was close enough.1 Yes, I saw myself as the main character.2 I’m probably not alone in that. (Did anyone see themselves as Toby?)
The inclination to see myself in Jim returns whenever I rewatch The Office—which is fairly often—but the likeness no longer rings as true. I’m in my 40s now and Jim will forever be a 30-something. But more than that, I’ve adopted a different character as my avatar, one that closer reflects my mindset these days.
If you’ve never seen The Office, allow me to briefly describe Stanley Hudson.
Stanley is the personification of world-weary. Frequently frowning or scowling, he’d rather be anywhere other than at work. Stanley lives for two things: 5 PM and pretzel day.3 (I guess technically, Stanley lives for three things: 5 PM, pretzel day, and illicit affairs.) He’s been in the workforce long enough that he’s tired of the politics and the mind-numbing repetitiveness, and he’s realized he can just nope out of both without serious consequences. He’s not the first one in the door but he’s definitely the first one out. He naps during the day and works crossword puzzles during meetings. Stanley gives zero craps.
Stanley Hudson is my hero.4
If you think this is impressive, wait till you see me compare myself favorably to Bob Vance.
I’ve known several Stanley Hudsons in my day. There was one guy at my previous company who could’ve been Stanley—mid-50s, frequently nodded off during meetings, never took the initiative, never came in early, never stayed till 5. Whenever I walked past his desk, he was looking at his 401k. I’m not joking! The dude was literally running out the clock. I always looked at him with a mixture of disgust and disbelief. How can you be content contributing nothing? Are you really going to spend the next 10 years just existing and letting everyone else pick up the slack?
While I still don’t condone his cavalier attitude—Stanley at least did his job—I understand him a bit more these days. It’s hard to do anything for over 20 years and still care about it the way you used to. I certainly don’t think about my career the way I once did. Gone are the days when I was determined to climb the ladder. Mostly I look forward to the day I can just walk away.
I used to get excited to wander Barnes & Noble and buy bulky textbooks about new programming languages. (If you ever wondered if I am a huge nerd, there is your irrefutable proof.) I would spend my off-hours reading and practicing. Somewhere along the way, I lost that zeal. I would never even think about reading a programming book these days unless I was doing it for work, during work hours. Homie don’t play that.
I think some of that is the natural evolution of a life. There’s only a small handful of things I enjoy today that I also loved doing in my 20s, and even those are probably enjoyed in different ways now.5 I love video games but I probably play 20% as much as I once did, and I find it hard to play longer than an hour. Anything more and I get antsy because there’s always something productive I should be doing instead. Modern adulting is the sense you are always behind, and probably forgetting something really important.
In a funny way, writing has actually done more to push me into the Stanley Hudson camp than anything else. I now have little tolerance for how much time is wasted at work because that is time I’d rather put toward writing or writing-adjacent activities.6 And, too, once you’ve been working long enough, every new project has the smell of similarity. Been there, done that, over and over. Humans crave novelty. Meanwhile, every new piece I write is a new challenge and a new experience.
When Stanley finally retired, he moved to a remote waterfront house in Florida and spent his days carving birds. I look forward to such a day, when I can write without the weight of a day job dragging me down.7 In the meantime, I’m treating work like Stanley. I’ll show up and do my job. But I’m also gonna sneak some me-time into the day. It’s better for my mental health, and it makes the day more bearable.
If work doesn’t like it, they can shove it up their butt!8
I was an overachiever for the typical reasons—money, prestige, a crushing need to prove myself to my ever-unimpressed father. I’m over all of that.
This reminds me of a hilarious meme. I maintain that I’m still Jim in this scenario but secretly am afraid I’m Toby.
I, too, love a good soft pretzel.
Apart from all the affairs.
A list of things 20s-me and 40s-me enjoy: golf, fantasy football, video games, Dungeons & Dragons, reading, movies. I didn’t watch much TV back then—TV also wasn’t as good back then—and I didn’t get serious about writing until my late 20s. I’ll probably think of something obvious after publishing this but this list feels pretty complete.
Little stuff, like growing my publication empire.
I will not be retiring to Florida. I barely like visiting.
That’s just Stanley’s short-lived catchphrase, Mom. You would’ve gotten more out of this if you’d watched The Office like I told you. At least you liked Ted Lasso.