My Butt Hurts: The Unexpected Dark Side of Desk Jobs
By Meg Williams
I’m not sure when I noticed it first. A slight ache in the back from hunching over my computer for eight hours straight seemed pretty normal. A sudden lurch on stiff legs when I got up to refill my water bottle did too. So what if my butt was a little sore from all that sitting? I had just landed my dream job and it required me to be chained to a desk, churning out words for a publishing company. I wasn’t one to complain, nope, not me. I was a writer! Then the leg cramps started, keeping me tossing and turning at night. My sore back got even worse.
What the hell was going on?
Seems like I seriously underestimated the not-so-fun effects of sitting all day on my butt. Up until this point, all my jobs required an incredible amount of physical hustle: I clocked literal miles running to and fro at the grocery store I helped manage, standing on my feet all day in the process, only sitting down for a quick twenty minute lunch. And then I had to drag my aching bones back to my apartment, where I would immediately and gratefully collapse on my couch, like some desperate mariner washed up on a deserted beach.
Sure, it was tiring. But it was work.
And then I got my writing gig. I was going to be paid to sit all I wanted every day! It felt so . . . luxurious. They even ordered me a special chair, and I conscientiously chose a nice ergonomic model, one that promised to remedy all of the ills of constant sitting. See, I was planning ahead already, confident that I would navigate this new working environment with ease.
Yeah, about that.
Maybe the chair would have worked, if I’d gotten out of it occasionally. But see, I didn’t. Except to get water or go to the bathroom or to a sit in a meeting, I didn’t get up at all. I happily ate my lunch at my desk, dutifully (and pleasurably) reading books from our romance novel archives. Life out of my chair just didn’t exist. One of my flaws (or strengths, if you want to look at it that way) is to be totally dedicated to whatever job I’m doing. No matter what it is, even if it’s cleaning toilets (yes, I did this for a living), I’m all in.
And when you're all in like that, it means sometimes not caring enough about yourself. Like, my back was literally hurting, but did I get up and do stretches? No, I just pounded out more words at my keyboard. It doesn’t take a genius to know something was up, but the work just seemed way more important than my body’s aches and pains.
I’d like to tell you that I wised up at this job but I didn’t. My rude wake up call came when the job evaporated one day, due to a flawed business model and a challenging economy. I walked home the day it all went up in smoke, thinking about what I loved about the job. The great co-workers, the excitement of publishing novels. . . the only downside I could come up with was the constant sitting.
And while I couldn’t control the economy, and the effect it wreaked on my job status, I could control my approach to work habits.
I know that my next job will likely involve a whole lot of sitting—that’s what we writers do, obviously, while we’re creating the magic—but I want to meet the challenge head on. Even just getting up for 2-5 minutes an hour can help. That means scheduled laps around the office, doing stretches that might garner me some weird looks, and maybe being the standing desk girl.
Because I never like to take defeat sitting on my butt.