The Rule of THREE.

Famous last words of Ex #4: “You better not be having me in here in three years taking these things down!”

He never understood.

He was mounting wall maps in my classroom at a new school. After three years at my first school in the district, I had switched schools at the behest of Ex #3, to a school closer to home. I loved that first school. Love, love, loved it. But I don’t know if that would have made a difference. After three years at my second school in the district I was moving on again. I did not love the school I was leaving… well, I loved a lot about it, just not the people ‘running’ it. (Note to self: this may be something to examine more closely.)

“Shut up! I am sure!” I said back, with what I can only describe as honestly sincere intention. I wanted to believe that I could find a place that would be engaging and purposeful and fulfilling for more than three years. I could do it.

“What was that about?” My new neighbor asked. I told him. He raised his eyebrows.

Three years later I left.

I have a very good friend who explained to me, not too long after I was beginning to show signs of my second 3-Year Itch, that the situation was actually totally logical in his mind and made total sense. He said he actually made an effort to make sure he changed jobs at least every three years. Not switching careers, but changing jobs within a career. He said it keeps you sharp. As he described it, the first year was the “Oh wow!” year. Everything is new and you are alert and figuring everything out. The second year is the “Now I am the shit” year, where you know what is up and you are probably at your most efficient and you are still totally dialed into what it is you are doing. Then comes year three. The year the shine wears off and you begin to see the things that are not going to change and you become less tolerant of them. Your efficiency drops, only because you feel frustrated and hemmed in. You feel conflicted about leaving and start blaming yourself for the inability to stay put.

If you are like me, that is when you freak out and/or leave.

I have been beating myself up about this 3 Year thing for a while. But as of today I have decided that is stupid. If three years is what I can do, then that is what I can do and the shift should be considered a positive… maybe even life saving measure. This is relevant as I sit in Hong Kong at this moment because I fucking HATE my job today. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my work… and I have always considered myself fortunate in that regard. But loving your work doesn’t make up for a job that makes you homicidal.

I hate that I work six days a week.
I hate that incompetence, impertinence and inflexibility are treated with kid gloves.
I hate that I do not get vacations that are commensurate with the amount of effort that it takes to do my job well.
I hate office politics.
I hate the guy in my office who refuses to button his shirt and lets it fly open sharing his nice white t-shirt and man boobs with the world.
I hate the fact that I watch the sunset from my office. Everyday.

Someone actually asked me if I had “a case of the Mondays” today, and they were not being funny, because they are NOT funny and I doubt they have ever even taken the time to watch one of the best movies ever made about the perils of mindless adherence to a job: Office Space. I hate that.

I realize that in today’s financial climate, hating on your job is probably not too cool. In fact, when I was pouting about returning to work after the Chinese New Year, I said to a friend in the States, “Work is for jerks.” He said, “Yeah, I thought that… until I got fired.” Oops. And to be fair, I generally have an inappropriate level of job satisfaction. I am just not cut out for office work and that is what my job seems to be reduced to these days.  I suppose I will fight through it.  Having said that, my job has never consisted of office work before and the Rule of Three has always held.


Today I Googled “Three Year Itch” because I wanted to know if anyone else is suffering from this syndrome.  I got 480,000 hits. Of course, these were all to do with the demise of relationships after three years, not work… but it is sort of the same concept:

It is somewhat ironic, then, that it is our old-fashioned belief in happy-ever-after endings that is dooming many a relationship to an early death. Yet is that necessarily a bad thing? As Francesca Lawson observes, ‘You have to be true to yourself. Rather than carrying on in a relationship that is less than perfect, surely it is better to give yourself the chance to find something – and someone – exactly right?’

Put in those terms, I feel far more okay about my never-ending Search for something new. And of the search – “What is the nature of the search? you ask. Really it is very simple; at least for a fellow like me. So simple that it is often overlooked. The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life.” As I decided today, this is not a shortcoming, it is a survival strategy.

Peter Gibbons: Let me ask you something. When you come in on Monday, and you’re not feelin’ real well, does anyone ever say to you, ‘Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays’?
: No. No, man. Shit, no, man. I believe you’d get your ass kicked sayin’ something like that, man.


About Amanda

I am repatriating expatriate trying to work it all out. Well, to work some of it out anyhow. I am writing here for sanity, focus and general over-sharing.
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One Response to The Rule of THREE.

  1. driss says:

    i’m going on nine years in my same job now… five changes in job title, mostly lateral moves; two cities. it became so routine that i ended up writing scripts and programs to automate the vast majority of what needs to be done, leaving me with more idle time than i know what to do with. for most people, that would be a dream job- but once you factor in sacrificing every friday and saturday night, working twelve to fifteen hours a day, and being required to be in an area covered by Verizon’s network in case something happens off-hours… it’s no wonder why the three-year itch rings true here for most people.

    my social life is a joke, i’ve become used to living vicariously for so long that in a way i think there’s a subconscious fear of any real change back to a more “normal” line of work.

    at least you’ve got the skills to be able to pack up and leave when the three-or-so-year-itch arrives at a place even the most yoga-flexible arms can’t scratch.

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