A matter of perception

It would have been nice if my last week at the bank had been in any way interesting, but it wasn’t. It was the most boring week yet, with hardly anything to do, nothing to learn or be challenged by. I probably picked the best time of the year to leave, a quiet time in which I was hardly needed. But I never deal well with boredom at work, and I’d have killed for something fun to do. Anything not mind meltingly dull would have suited me.

As my final day approached and as I had so little to occupy me, I got to reflect some more on what might have gone wrong with some of my colleagues at the bank. By now I had fairly normal working relationships with most of the people around me, but on the last day there remained three people who I never said ‘hello’ to. With K in particular, it’s hard to accept that we never got over that awkwardness, because there was no awkwardness on the day of the interview back in April. It was only when the job started and we were put in different teams that something happened, and a barrier went up between us. I’m not saying we were great friends at the audition, but I clearly remember feeling sufficiently at ease with him to share a few words of encouragement with him that day. At the end of the interview we shook hands and wished each other luck, and I remember hoping that if I got the job, he’d get it too, so that I’d be starting at the bank on friendly terms with at least one person. Months later, I’m watching him interact normally with the people around us, wondering what I did wrong. I’ll never know now because I’ll never see him again. If this were a film or TV drama, a person in my position would have been able to have it out with the K character. There’d have been a cathartic confrontation that brings to light the truth and resolves everything in the space of a few minutes.

Because it’s not a film or TV drama, confronting K would have been unthinkable. All I could do was sit it out until the end. For a moment, even though K was a stranger to me and shouldn’t have mattered a bit, he mattered by reminding me of an old drinking buddy that I felt out with through my stupidity ten years ago. I saw something in his expression that recalled so strongly this old friend who disappeared from my life without a trace after a drunken argument, taking all control in the matter away from me. With K, and to some extent with all people that I fail to connect with, I experience that lack of control again, and it hurts not being able to change or fully understand it.

Up until the minute I left the bank yesterday, time was dragging, and getting slower by the minute. As soon as the day was over, it was like my whole time at the bank had passed in a flash. It’s funny. I wonder at why time is always so predictable: when you want it to pass quickly, it doesn’t. Knowing that it’s entirely a matter of perception has never helped. The perception I’ve always had of it is too powerful to break through.

There was a flurry of excitement in the team as my last day passed. V, J and a few others were exceptionally pleasant to me all day, sharing in my excitement for the future. In response to their kindness I felt a small lump in the throat, realising that I would never see them again after yesterday. I only hoped that they wouldn’t embarrass me in the afternoon by making me stand up and give a speech to the whole office, like other former colleagues have been made to do.

Years and years ago in an AA meeting I remember someone talking about their work, how they’d been surprised by colleagues who made them a cake on their birthday. At the time I’d just finished university and didn’t think I’d ever get a job, let alone have colleagues do anything so nice for me. I was proved wrong at my last job, of course; and at the bank I have been proved wrong in some ways, too, by one or two teammates who’ve turned out to be genuinely nice people. They didn’t make me stand up and give a speech in the end, but they did give me a card and a present an hour before I left. It was a nice thought and I left the office pleased with how it all turned out. I didn’t get sacked; I didn’t flounce out of the job after a week and leave them all in the lurch. I worked my full month’s notice without complaint, and I left as a liked and respected member of the team.


After the interview last week they called me up and told me I was through to the second and final stage of interviews. It would take place next week on the 30th; I should receive confirmation of the time before too long. That was a week ago and I haven’t heard anything since. I sent a chaser email on Monday, to which HR replied that they were still waiting for confirmation and I’d have to wait. I haven’t sent any further chasers because I don’t want to come across as pushy. But I’m thinking I probably should send one more chaser – knowing what HR can be like, they might have forgotten, or lost my details, or anything. One more chaser email five days after the last one can’t seem that pushy.

It’s so frustrating. I mean, do they want me back or not? I sometimes marvel at the incompetence in the world. But, as with most things, I have no control over it, so there’s no point in worrying about it. It’s been tempting as hell to fret about the job search this week, go back to how I was at the start of the year when I was desperate enough to take anything. Truthfully I have enough to live on for a long time, and I’d be doing myself a huge disservice by putting myself through that worry again. I know everything will be all right.

I’m in France now. I booked this holiday ages ago, and I’ve been looking forward to it for months. It’s nice to be here again, especially now that I’m celebrating freedom from a dead end job. I’m in Lyon, and it’s swelteringly hot. Things almost got off to a bad start earlier, as I panicked about getting here without any glitches. At St Pancras this morning they announced that there were some delays on the trains, which was inconvenient to say the least as I had a connecting train in Paris to catch. Long delays didn’t materialise in the end, but that didn’t stop me from worrying. I panicked about finding my way from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon on the Paris Metro, then I fretted about finding the right platform there. I worried about being mugged or attacked by the first person to spot my ‘lost tourist’ credentials. I brooded about getting sunburnt in the extraordinary French summer heat; and finally, when I was in Lyon I agonised about finding my way from the train station to the hotel. Strangely I happen to be staying on one side of a motorway, with the rest of the city on the other side facing. To get here one has to cross the motorway somehow. At first I had no idea how to do it. There were no signs, no obvious walkways or tunnels. It could have been a complete disaster.

One would think I’ve never travelled before, never done holidays on my own before. I’ve done dozens of solo holidays over the years; finding my way around in foreign cities is nothing new. Yet every time there is the same level of panic over getting safely to the place I’m staying. Tonight as I rest in my hotel room, it’s clear to me that today’s worrying was disproportionate, as it always is. I found a walkway under the motorway, and since then I’ve been able to enjoy a pleasant evening. I really couldn’t stand for another holiday to be ruined by anxiety, like last year’s big European trip nearly was. So I must keep anxiety at bay, by continuing with the program, with my meditation and everything I’ve been doing recently to bring it down. If I know the anxiety is just a perception and not reality, I’m fine.


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