I see the upper class when I have to work in their domain. I see the iPhone grappling and Porsche driving bosses with their excessive equipment, expensive furniture and fancy secretaries. I see their fine clothes and their polished shoes, the jewelry on their hands and the tasteless art on their walls. And I desire none of it.
I wear my best suit and my best shoes and groom properly but no matter how hard I pretend, I instinctively feel like a foreign body in their spaces, with a thin facade of pleasantries to veil how alien it all seems to me. It's an environment I recognized from the caricature that advertisements and stock photos present as generic fancy metropolitan office space, but when you're suddenly standing in the middle of it, it's like a caped cartoon superhero appearing before you, the abrupt physicality of it makes it surreal, like a virtual reality production of a bad movie you've already seen. And you realize that this repulsive environment is what people are spending all these immense efforts on. This is why these people gather every day to cram up their Outlook for twelve hours.
Were I to make much more money, I might eventually be able to afford a second-hand BMW and a 4k screen instead of a third-hand Honda and a 1080p screen, but that wouldn't make me so much happier as to justify the work that goes into getting that rich. Other people would strongly disagree because the latest iPad or Mercedes or wristwatch appeals to them, but it doesn't appeal to me. There's lot of stuff I don't own, but I've found I feel better living in a relatively sparse space.
In a nutshell, my very limited financial capabilities already saturate most of my immediate material demand.
So with material gain gone as a motivator, the reason to keep working the same amount of dreadful hours in a job that makes me feel sick is either a) because I'm a responsible adult that wants to put some money aside, more probably b) because I'm a coward and don't dare risk having to rely on my emergency reserve if I don't find a new job right away or c) because the job market isn't designed to have employees reduce the number of hours they want to work. Part-time is unheard of in my field, less than forty hours a week almost scandalous. It's understandable from the employers' point of view that they would rather have one guy work fifty hours than two guys work twentyfive each, but it also means that you're either working full-time or not at all.
All drivers to keep going to work are negative - fear of poverty, fear of not getting something new, fear that quitting early on would look bad on a resume, fear of having to lower my humble current standard of living. I don't want to own an Armani suit, but I don't want to worry if I can afford the dentist either.
There's no positive driver like personal fulfillment. I don't identify with the results of my work. Material gain is the most popular motivator to keep people going - only X more paychecks and you can afford the thing - which is completely legitimate, but I don't want the thing. I only have to provide for myself and I'm good with what I have. The one possession that would make me happier would be a place to live with way more space between me and the neighbours, but that would take decades of saving up.
How do you legitimize working for forty more years when the best possible outcome is becoming one of those abhorrent people and a good outcome is the status quo? Should I start donating to charity? Should I consider more long-term saving? Should my ultimate goal be a big enough cushion to retire early? Or am I just an entitled little shit that should be glad he can keep buying food? It's probably the latter.