It being Monday, I wasn’t looking forward to work this morning per se, with five whole days to go until another weekend and another luxurious lie in. But there wasn’t the same intense level of dread as this time last week. I managed to remember what I was talking about last night, that every day can feel like a Friday if I choose; that Friday is always just around the corner. Plus I knew there would probably be stuff to keep me busy today. When I got in there was plenty to do, and I got on with it without having much of a conversation with anyone. With others around me chatting away like lifelong friends, I easily felt like the office loner. It’s so easy to think that it will be silence and drudgery forever when I slip into that Monday mindset, when I forget that Monday is just a day like any other and Friday is always around the corner. I keep asking myself “When it’s going to change? When’s it going to change?” The disease can’t believe change is possible without proof, and there is no proof.
It looked like it was threatening rain at lunchtime so I decided to try eating at my desk, to see what it would be like. During the past fortnight when there’s been rain I’ve paid to eat in cafes and restaurants, so I could avoid being stuck in the office for my free hour. Today I didn’t enjoy the experience: it meant I would be in the basement for nearly eight solid hours. So I know now that I have to go out at lunchtime every day, even if it means spending a lot of money. I have to make that sacrifice, like I make the sacrifice in the evenings with AA meetings.
After lunch I’d finished all the main tasks for the day and got a bit fed up when J had nothing else for me or V to do. This was the third or fourth time this had happened. It’s rather ironic that I left a job last year where there was often nothing to do, came to this one thinking it couldn’t possibly suffer the same problem. Not wanting to stare into space for the rest of the afternoon, I went onto the Guardian website and read some opinion columns on Brexit while we waited for something to come up. Eventually the team leader of our neighbouring team came over and gave us a huge pile of documents that needed to be scanned into the system. It wasn’t a task that my team would normally get involved in, but since we were at a loose end J thought we might as well help. I was happy to help: it was bound to keep me occupied for the rest of the day. It would also be the opportunity I’d been waiting for to have a proper conversation with some of our neighbours, since I’d need them to show me what to do.
One of them, A, a quiet-ish guy who sits at the desk opposite me, came over and showed me and V how to upload the documents to people’s accounts once they’d been scanned. Somehow, in the course of teaching us he turned the conversation into one about travel, and I was talking about my recent adventures in Europe. I almost got carried away and became myself for a minute, until I realised and quickly put the barriers up, started saying generic non-risky things about the places I’d been. I quoted guide books that I’d read for safety, rather than expressing any of my actual opinions, not that A would have known. I wasn’t ready for him or anyone to see the real me yet.
That urge to be cautious in a situation with strangers, especially heterosexual strangers, is engrained as deeply as any other urge. I couldn’t possibly say why I had chosen the places I’d chosen to visit, or why I’d gone on my own; I could only say that they were all beautiful and I’d gone to have a good time. My meaningful, spiritual reasons for doing the trip aren’t something I’ll be ready to share with these people for a long time. I’m sure we can all be cautious at first in these situations, and it would take a true extrovert to share their heart and soul with someone they’d just met in a work environment. But it still makes me sad that I don’t feel able to say anything real to someone who is showing an interest in me, just because I don’t know them. I could only think about how he was probably judging me and how he’ll probably never talk to me again.
Now that I’ve achieved something I thought impossible last week, it should be great from now on, right? Wrong. Clearly there is still a very long way to go; engaging in very superficial small talk with a neighbour for five minutes is only the start of it. Although I’ve made that start now and it’s quite encouraging, I still fail to think of anything I like about my job. I spend most days waiting for a sign that things are improving, for someone to surprise me and remind me of my friendships at my last job. My conversation with A today doesn’t count yet because it’s just one conversation; I need to see that he’s still talking to me tomorrow for that.
I want to feel comfortable in my job NOW, I don’t want to wait any more. I feel like I’m getting too old to wait. Maybe I am old. I read an article on the Guardian today which described Prince William as middle aged. Christ, he’s only six months older than me! I’m middle aged, surrounded by dozens of youngsters with whom I don’t seem to have all that much in common (that I can tell from the conversations I hear all day). Faced with years of days like today, it’s hard to summon the strength I’ll need. AA tells me to just take this one day at a time, and I suppose I will, but damn, I can’t stop my head from drifting into the future and wondering where the hell it will take me.
I’m lucky I’ve always kept this blog and I have all the entries from late 2009 when I started at my last company available at my fingertips, to remind me that it was once like this. Going through the same thing again, I’m writing all this down in the hope that it might help me at some point in the future. Who knows, maybe it will.