People obsessed

The weekend brought beautiful early summer weather and everyone was naturally happier for it. I enjoyed walking and sightseeing around London, repeating some of the relaxed freedom I’d experienced the previous weekend in Paris. Sunday evening I was due to be meeting my sponsor in town for our fortnightly mass in the west. I got to town early, it was a very pleasant afternoon weather wise, so I decided to take a walk through the royal parks, take some pictures on the way. In the parks that day there was hardly a spare inch of grass thanks to all the sunbathers and families. I found a spot in the shadow of a tree and relaxed, tried to meditate, half succeeded.

The mass when we got to it was nice, as before. I appreciated the feeling of sanctuary, and of being amongst fellows seeking a spiritual experience in beautiful surroundings. Afterwards it was the fortnightly social group for LGBT Catholics; for once I wasn’t into it, and neither was my sponsor. Since my first visit a month ago my status as newcomer had faded and I was clearly expected to make my own friends now. I didn’t find it any easier than before to approach people and have conversations. At one point my sponsor, who had been supporting me with his patient company, went to get a cup of tea and one of the younger crowd beckoned me over, noticing I was momentarily on my own. I thought this was finally my chance to ingratiate myself, repeat some of the success of four weeks ago. But alas, a minute after my arrival, cake was announced at the top table and everyone’s attention was instantly drawn away from me. I easily and quietly faded back into the background with my sponsor, whose enthusiasm for the event was waning as fast as mine. He said he had just been propositioned by someone at the tea counter, not something you expect to happen in a church hall. We decided there and then that our presence wouldn’t be missed much by anyone, so we left.

I haven’t decided if I’ll go to the social event again when it runs in two weeks’ time. There’s a conflict between the instinct to give up and the instinct to persevere, in case I’m wrong and things prove to be different to how I perceive them down the line. I never like to act on fear these days, and avoiding the group forever would be acting on fear. I don’t know what the right decision is yet, so I’m going to have to wait two weeks until the time comes round again.

The working week started busy again and continued thus. My manager J was back from her holidays, and at the start of the week one would hardly know she was there, since she spent most of the time with her back to us chatting to her neighbours on the other side. Ironically I wondered if it would always be like this or if I’d somehow learn to get past her barrier like I did with my old boss after six years.

Yet again in the midst of my laborious work I found myself reminiscing back to happier times in life. The summers of 1995, 2001, 2007, when life was admittedly simpler and less demanding. I think it must be more than just daydreaming; it must be an obsession now. I want to stop doing it but I can’t. Memories of past summers when the weather was always good and I could do what I wanted are too attractive at the moment. After nearly six weeks in the job I’m no longer experiencing intense dread around it, but it definitely isn’t fulfilling work in any sense, and a quiet, underlying doubt remains all the time. I already know that the job I’m in is never going to be personally fulfilling. I don’t think anyone in the team could say it is. The question is how soon can I politely leave without damaging my career prospects? I knew from the beginning that they wanted people in jobs for at least nine months before they allow them to look for promotion within the bank. I could do nine months and then start applying for things internally – but there’s no guarantee I’ll get something better. I could be stuck where I am for a long time.

One should trust God with this as one trusts God with everything else. Only God knows the answer to this conundrum. Every day my self will is being beaten into submission by the unchanging situation. I’m learning a lesson here, I just hope it becomes clear what it is soon.

Yesterday J called me for an informal catch up in the office kitchen area. She said she just wanted to know how things were going as she’d been away for so long and felt out of the loop. About 10% of me believed the real reason for the meeting was for her to let me go. My mistakes of the past few weeks must have caught up with me and the moment I’d been half dreading / half looking forward to was finally here. In the end, J had no such intentions. She really was just looking to have an informal chat about things and to answer any questions I might have. I asked her about getting a locker (everyone has lockers there instead of drawers), and I requested a day’s holiday for the Friday before the next bank holiday, giving myself an extra long weekend when it comes around. There wasn’t much else to talk about. J was pleasant and helpful; I guessed we were getting on again.

After the chat I went to get a locker with her and I was able to put things away safely at work for the first time. Now that I have a locker my place in the company seems to be confirmed. We’ll know for sure when I pass my probation at three months, but it seems increasingly likely now. There’s no indication of them wanting to sack me. J was reassuring about my mistakes in the role – her words were “don’t worry about it”, just like the others had been. But still, something stops me from trusting them completely. I’ve probably never trusted anyone completely in my life, so trusting in this situation was never going to come easily. Something stops me from relaxing in the idea that I’ll be at the bank more than a few months. I’m waiting for the next thing to go wrong; I’m waiting for the opprobrium and humiliation to come crashing down on me.

It would be easier if I knew whether I wanted to be there but I don’t. The prospect of applying for other jobs in the bank and moving up the chain is only comforting so far as I see myself having a career in such an organisation, which isn’t very far at the moment. No doubt there are great career opportunities there for those who stay around and persevere. But everything I don’t like about the place keeps bugging me. And yes, I had all these same doubts when I was at the last place, and yes, I stayed there for six years and ended up doing extraordinarily well. I’ve worn myself out at times comparing this place with the last. I really can’t do it any more – the present can never be an exact replica of the past.

It’s possible that Wednesday is the worst day of the week. Monday, strangely enough, doesn’t seem so bad these days. I know Monday’s going to be a drag, I prepare myself for the dreariness. As the week fades into Tuesday and then Wednesday, one starts to expect to feel better, more excited about things with the approaching weekend. The halfway point in the week comes on Wednesday, and it’s there that the heaviness of time seems the most salient. The weight of the whole week sags in the middle. You wait for the halfway point to pass so that you’re on the other side of it, closer to Friday than you are to Monday. It takes so long to come; you want Wednesday to be over so badly, so that you can say you’ve made it through half the week and there’s only two days of it left.

I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about it today as it was another busy one. But I did find myself dwelling on it a little during the lunch break. Earlier in the week I was mostly occupied with sending out our fortnightly mail shot; that was done now and my main tasks for the rest of the week would be less important, easier stuff. The kind of stuff that could be done quickly, leaving me with nothing to do. I began to worry that I’d soon run out of things to do and the rest of the week would drag even more than it usually does.

Although I don’t go to work feeling like I have a knife at my throat any more, there is the aforementioned doubt under the surface that they don’t want me there. Even though I’ve had a supportive manager reassuring me that I’m doing well, the quiet voice in the background continues to remind me of how insecure my position is. If I run out of tasks to do, that voice quickly becomes louder to the point of being unbearable. I can start to dwell on how I have no real friends in the office, never will have any real friends there.

Not that I expected to find a bunch of lifelong bosom pals there, but everyone around me seems to come to work with an unchallenged expectation that they’ll talk to people and be friends of some description with most of their colleagues. Just today I listened to one girl nearby tell her neighbour that she considered them friends. “You’re my best friend!” she said in a sweet, slightly patronising way after the other had expressed a hope that they’d keep in touch when their temping contracts end. Now, they may never see each other again after the day they leave the place. But while they’re still there working side by side day after day, they can have that enviable working friendship that has come about in a matter of weeks. It still astonishes me that they’ve only been there for the same length of time as me.

It would be easy to say I don’t need that kind of friendship at work because it’s probably not real or meaningful anyway. But when I’m there witnessing the fun and laughs they have eight hours a day, five days a week, knowing I can never be a part of it with any of them, it’s really hard not to crave it. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t yearn for the same connection with someone. It’s well known I did have that connection with many people over the years at the last company, and we’ve already touched on the fact that given time it might well happen here too. In months and years to come, the people who sit around me ignoring me all day will leave and new people will come along, and maybe just maybe I’ll feel confident enough to connect with them instead. In five years time, these people won’t matter to me any more; I probably won’t remember any of them, important as they have been in my thoughts these past few weeks.

I’ve included them in my daily prayers for the past couple of weeks in an attempt to make letting go of this obsession less arduous. I don’t think I need to pray for any of the hundreds of other people at the bank that I don’t talk to yet. I don’t sit next to all of those people so I don’t have to put up with being excluded from their conversations all the time. It’s the three or four people immediately around me that I have worried and obsessed about for the past five weeks. I think my only hope with them now is prayer.

There were people at the last place who I didn’t talk to for years. Not anyone that sat next to me every day – it was usually people from different floors that I didn’t need to have a working relationship with, people I felt I could sacrifice making an effort with. By the end I didn’t mind the fact that there were dozens of people whom I’d worked in the same building as for years and never had a conversation with. Well, that’s not strictly true: I minded on my last day when a single one of them didn’t come to my leaving do. I didn’t mind all that much, but it did bother me a little because I understood it as little as I understand my current situation.

Oh, but I can understand it with a bit of effort. I never tried to have a conversation with any of those people, just as I’ve never tried to have a conversation with any of this group. What makes it seem more important now is that I’m still at the beginning here. I’m still in that stage where I feel I’ve got to make an impression there because I don’t want to be sacked.

My mind tells me they’re so much worse than the people who didn’t come to my leaving do at the last company. They all hate me for some reason and will always have that power over me. I know that can’t be true when I’m being logical about it. While I’m occupied with complicated and laborious tasks as part of my job, I can get on with life and put the internal debate to one side. When they start automating tasks, which I know they’re planning to do to save on costs and errors, I could be left in that dreaded position of never being very busy, which will leave me with these thoughts all day every day, my worst nightmare. So that’s why I need to get out as soon as I can.


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