After surfing the latest wave of anxiety, yesterday was better. B was in one of her friendly moods, as she initiated a chat about past mistakes she’d made in the role to give me some reassurance. We tittered about the time she accidentally transferred £4k into a customer’s account. How I wish she had said these things before, instead of leading me to believe my mistakes were stupider and worse than any made by anyone in the bank.
I also got some encouragement from my manager, who told me that all the work of mine she’d checked so far was faultless. Therefore I am back on the right track. It’s nice to think she might have been impressed with me for once.
Later during my lunch break, M turned round and asked me what I was reading. I’d been browsing an article on a lifestyle website about why some people find it more difficult to make friends than others. Of all the things I could have been reading when he looked over my shoulder and decided to interrupt me, this would have to be the most embarrassing. Nobody in the company knows about the daily struggle I go through with the world. I haven’t yet come across a person there I’d dream of confiding in, and out of all of them, M would be the very last person I’d think of talking to. Not knowing what on earth to say, I could only tell him the truth, at which point he shocked me again by asking me to send him the link to the article. I had to wonder why he was so interested in my reading habits all of a sudden, but I daren’t ask. M is like an army sergeant, confident and authoritative when he talks to you. Not the sort of person you say no to.
I’m still wondering now why he wanted me to send him that article. He hasn’t said a word to me since the event. For the rest of the day I daren’t try and see if he was reading it on his computer. My mind naturally wanted to explore the possibilities and it didn’t take me long to come upon the worst ones. So, maybe he had been looking for an opportunity to humiliate me because secretly for six weeks he had hated my guts. Now he’d have his opportunity, all he’d have to do is tell everyone I’d been reading sad online articles about how to make friends.
Well, so what? One could say. I don’t need anyone’s approval there. And it’s unlikely anyone would really care that much, anyway. Thus I was able to talk myself down from a ledge quite quickly, once I’d realised the chances of M, a virtual stranger, deciding to humiliate me in such a random and elaborate way were slim to non-existent.
This still leaves the fact that people like him are a complete mystery to me. Why would they act like I don’t exist for weeks, only to randomly show some interest in me on a Wednesday afternoon? Admittedly, it was a dull day, but not that dull. Even as he was talking to me, M didn’t seem all that interested. It was more like someone at the bus stop asking for the time.
I recall thinking a few weeks ago that there can’t be some special problem with the people I work with. They look and sound like normal people in every way, apart from how they are with me.
In every other situation in my life, I understand people (on the whole). People outside are safe, trustworthy, human beings most of the time. Occasionally at work I come close to believing that there are some safe, trustworthy human beings working for the bank. And then they turn away, go cold on me again and leave me to feel like a ghost. I’m this close to believing that it must be something I’m doing – but the readiness to change sadly hasn’t visited me yet.
I’ve been working at the bank continuously for thirty-two days. I take small comfort from that, and the fact that every day is one more day, and that eventually, if I just keep going, there’ll be many, many days behind me and I’ll lose count. I first learnt this lesson in AA nine years ago. If you keep going at something you can do it for a long time, and things always get better. I’ve stayed at the bank in spite of regular, strong urges to leave because of this seemingly unshakeable knowledge that it’s too early for me to give in. Every day I struggle to go there and face another day, it feels like I still have a mountain to climb, but once a day passes that’s it, no tomorrow can ever be the same as today. I’ve noticed that each day generally passes in the blink of an eye now – a minute ago it was Monday morning, now it’s almost Friday! I may hate every minute when I’m there sometimes, yet still, still underneath the hate there is faith that it’s all leading towards something. A faith in some higher power has entered me and can never leave.
And that’s why I look back on the dark days of late 2009 fondly now, because it was the same as now, and eventually it led on to better things. It was the greatest time of stress in my life, and I kept going. I’ve absolutely no idea what my current experience will lead to. It may lead to a glittering career in banking or it may not. Even if it doesn’t, something tells me it will all work out for the best tonight (nope, I won’t always feel this positive, and that’s all right.)
Tonight I inadvertently marked my 32nd day at the bank with a trip to the theatre. There’s a play getting rave reviews in the West End called People, Places & Things, the story of an actress who’s an alcoholic and drug addict as she enters rehab and finds recovery. I didn’t book a ticket to it because I wanted to celebrate lasting so long in my new job, I just really wanted to see the play after hearing good things about it from AA friends. But as I walked there from the office on a pleasant, dry evening, I felt like I had something to celebrate. Maybe I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go to the theatre without this job. No, that’s not strictly true. Having this specific job doesn’t allow me to do nice things, I could do them before I started here. What allows me to do nice things in my life today is the fact that I worked hard to get where I am, I stayed in the last job for six years and got the payoff. I made a decision to stick with work when it was tough and soul destroying, to practise patience and wait for a good end result. I can choose to do the same thing here, or with another job in the future if this one really doesn’t work out. I’ve just got to stick at it. By ‘it’ I mean life, I guess. It was the message that I took from the play tonight, and I loved it.