I woke with excitement on Wednesday morning about a telephone interview for a customer service job. When it came the call lasted about half an hour. I thought it went well at the time. I managed to answer all except one question with ease and what I thought was confidence. The question I didn’t manage to answer was one concerning my “passion” for customer service – the interviewer said he had found it a strange thing to read on a CV. “Is anyone really passionate about customer service?” he asked. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t exactly come out and admit that I had just put that there to sound slightly more impressive than the million other people applying for the role.
At the end of the call he told me he’d be in touch by the end of Thursday with news either way. As of yet, I’ve heard nothing. By this morning I could be pretty certain that I hadn’t been successful. Managers in small private companies don’t hang around to contact the people they want to hire, after all. P as usual tried to put a positive spin on things, persuading himself and no one else that there must have been some unforeseen delay and I’d definitely have good news by next week some time. I know it’s not going to happen. It became clear in my mind that I’d messed the interview up. Claiming to be passionate about customer service, when we all know that no one in their right mind would consider it a passion, was stupid. In fact, throughout the interview I had lied through my teeth about my positive attributes. When I described moments in my illustrious career that had made me proud, when I showed off my knowledge of the business I was applying to become part of, I was pretending all along to be someone else. Someone who actually cares about that kind of work. The interviewer probably saw right through it. His words came back to haunt me through the day: “Is anyone really passionate about customer service?”
Clearly they want people who don’t lie about their feelings, so maybe I should have been honest and said that hating the corporate world of ecommerce is what drove me to fight for customers for six years in my previous job. Maybe if I’d been really honest, said that I did it for the money, it would have made him laugh and think I was too interesting and zany not to give a chance. I’m furious that I don’t at least get a chance at a face to face interview. I don’t care what I did or didn’t say on the phone, I know I could have done that job easily. It’s the exact job I did for six years, for fuck’s sake. For someone to dismiss me in five minutes because I didn’t say the perfect thing to them – worse, for them not even to have the decency to follow up with a one line e-mail thanking me for the time and telling me I’ve been unsuccessful – I can’t stand it. I know that’s how businesses are these days, but seriously, how hard is it to send an e-mail?
Yes, I have been playing this game too long to get this upset about it, but sometimes life is hard enough without having to accept crap from these ignorant arseholes. I’m going to have to put myself through it again next week, with a first stage interview for a public sector HR role, and there’s nothing I can do except smile and accept more crap when it comes my way.
Pity party season is well and truly here again. I have no power over this never ending uncertainty, and it drives me crazy. There’s no way out, no easy route through – I’m bound to keep going. Another week of this might make me want to scream, but still I will have to keep going through it. Give up now, and I’ll never get anywhere. That’s the deal.
My reason to be upset is nothing to do with lack of finances and everything to do with how I’m seen in the world. Everyone else seems to find work easily. Everyone else manages to get by and be happy, in my eyes. No one else has these struggles, no one else ever appears to find it infuriating and demoralising. I hear people in meetings say that they feel this way but when I am under this cloud of negativity I just can’t believe them. I’m convinced that they’re lying about it being as hard for them as it is for me. Because outside of the sharing they still manage to keep smiling and looking great, they can still go to their jobs and their boyfriends and their homes, while I can only come back to a lonely hell.
The issue is that I’m comparing myself to others, it always has been. I torture myself needlessly by doing it and I can’t stop it. I just have to think about a comment P might have made, about how it would be easier to find a job and sort my life out if I had a more positive attitude; or what the government and society in general says, that jobs grow on trees and those who can’t get one are fundamentally lazy. I know these things not to be true but just knowing that those views are out there seems really unjust and I can’t stand it. I wish I could just ignore it and realise that it doesn’t matter what the world says, the world doesn’t know anything about me. I don’t know how to do that.
Yesterday gave me the chance of a short break from it all. I’d booked a day trip to Copenhagen with P tagging along.
I was up at 5.30am and leaving to head to the airport for the flight at 6. I met P at the airport and we passed through security efficiently. Had a quick breakfast, got on the plane. Plane took off; half an hour into the flight, I realised I wasn’t nervous about flying. I hadn’t been nervous all morning, which was strange. I was chatting to P like a normal person, excited about the day ahead. Flying to a foreign city for a one day round trip is something that cool people do, and I was doing it. When we got to Copenhagen, the metro transported us swiftly into the centre and we began our epic exploration of Denmark’s capital on foot.
We had loosely planned the day, rather than rigidly setting schedules and buying lots of tickets for things beforehand. I prefer getting to a place and walking round and seeing what takes my fancy, an approach that P was happy to follow. Our friendly chatting continued all day. In the afternoon when we’d done all the sightseeing, we ended up in a gay bar enjoying a hot coffee on a cosy leather sofa. I hadn’t intended on visiting the gay scene as usually it takes up too much energy now, but the bar we found was nice and quiet and not stressful at all. Later on we did dinner and then it was time to go home. Our day trip had been an easy success. When I got home at 1 in the morning I felt like it had been all a dream. I couldn’t believe I’d done it all to budget and had fun (with P!) at the same time. The uncertainty and dread present in my every day life was completely absent all day.
This evening I was due to be meeting A, the enthusiastic AA newcomer, for coffee before the meeting. I went, although I wasn’t in the mood. All day I had been checking my e-mails every five minutes to see if the interviewer from the other day had got in touch yet, even though I knew he wouldn’t. I had sunk into a swamp of melancholic self pity.
At 6pm as I waited outside the tube I desperately wanted to go home and sob but I couldn’t let A down. When we met I think I managed a reasonable impression of someone who was happy to be in company. We chatted for forty five minutes about our lives and our music tastes, and then it was time to head to the meeting. I was about as enthusiastic about going to the meeting as I would be about going to prison, but necessity drove me on because I couldn’t think of any good excuses not to go. We got to the place and A immediately found other people to chat to, while I sat alone in a corner like I do most of the times that I’m there. In the course of our earlier chat A had admitted to being an extrovert, after I had outed myself as an introvert, so our quick separation in the meeting room made sense in that context. Extroverts can flit from one conversation to another with ease because talking to people is their lifeblood; introverts naturally inhabit quiet corners where no one can see them.
I started the meeting wishing to be just slightly different, to not be so drawn to that isolation week after week. After a demoralising day I could have done without it. While A forged multiple friendships around the room I faded into the background, and wanted to explode. I’d have loved A or anyone to come over and sit next to me, tell me everything was going to be all right. But nobody does that if you sit there looking glum. It’s an effort with me not to seem glum.
The chair talked candidly about a childhood of abuse, bullying and isolation followed by an adulthood of addiction and humiliation. It was polished off with some lessons of recovery, i.e. if I can do it anyone can; leave victimhood behind and take some responsibility; pray and God will provide. The steps were outlined perfectly, and I felt a nerve touched. I wanted to reach out to the chair and hold him, I wanted to open my mouth and say that what was true for him is true for me too. I wanted to be how I am when I’m in a really good mood, when sharing and engaging isn’t a battle. I remained blocked throughout the ninety minutes and at the end I was ready to run home without connecting with anyone.
The whole meeting had touched a raw and painful nerve, more than ever. AA always has a way of exposing us to things that we need to hear. Today I needed to hear those things, but because I was extra vulnerable and shaky, I did what I always do, I ran. I was seething on the way home, not with the meeting but with myself, for taking such an old and easy route out of the discomfort. For over a year I have been trying so hard to find ways of reconnecting with AA, I never want to go back to how it was two or three years ago, yet tonight I automatically did the most isolating thing I could do, without even trying to stop myself.
Back home now I feel a bit calmer. I’ve texted a few people including A and I will go to sleep knowing that there’s always tomorrow to get things right again. When things were good the other day I knew that it was all contingent on daily hard work. It certainly is! Success in AA rests on endless effort. Tomorrow, whatever mood I wake up in I will have to do all the right things regardless. I need to keep doing them more than ever now.