Working through it

I finally renewed my swimming membership at the weekend. I had been meaning to do it for months, after cancelling it a couple of years ago when I thought I didn’t have the time to swim any more. I really missed swimming when I wasn’t going, and I’ve been to my favourite pool in central London every week for the past few weeks. It’s only when I got in the pool for the first time after my long break I realised how out of shape I’d gotten. Since then I’ve gradually built up the stamina to manage twenty lengths, which is good, but nowhere near how many I used to manage in one session. The price of membership has gone up a lot in recent years, but it’s sure worth it. Swimming has become my favourite healthy hobby – one of the few I actually like.

I’ve been going on Sundays when it’s quietest in the pool. P usually goes to the gym in the same leisure centre at the same time. For the past couple weeks we’ve been meeting up for dinner afterwards. Re-establishing the tradition on Sundays has been fun, so far. I like the food where we go and it’s been good to enjoy P’s company for the first time in many years. I’m clever enough now to know not to do it all the time; I think we’ll stick to every other week from now on.

All we ever seem to talk about at this time of year is going on holiday. Most years we’re planning our summer holiday to Spain around this time. We were at it again on Sunday, discussing whether to blow a load of cash on a December trip to Cuba. P’s wanted to go there for ages and, for a short time I thought I could afford it. That was before I remembered I’d be paying a huge fee for the next level of counselling training, should I continue to that level (and I have every intention of doing so). I need to be sensible; I can’t afford any big holidays to far flung exotic locations in the next few years. I’ll still stretch to the usual European summer city breaks, though, which makes it a little less sad.

I’m getting on much better with P than I have in a long time. He is still who he is – but it’s become much easier to accept him and his ways recently. It’s easier to look forward to future holidays with him, now that we’re more independent of each other. Our annual tradition of going to Spain is once more a cherished event in the year, one that wouldn’t be the same if I did it alone. It was always nice to know I had someone to travel with; for a time I got too over involved in his life and it spoiled things.

On the subject of finances, P thinks it would be unwise for me to stay in my current job for more than a year, since I’m having to pinch the pennies so much. He’s probably right when he says I should be earning far more at this stage of my career. I’m on the wage of an eighteen year old shop assistant. The trouble is, my job isn’t very difficult (which is why it proves so unsatisfying at times), and I’ve chosen to be there. I knew what I was getting into when I took it. I thought I wanted the easy life, job-wise, for a couple of years while I studied for my counselling qualification. Little did I know how stressful an easy job could be.

Despite how little I’m enjoying the job on a daily basis, I still strongly feel that I should give the charity at least a couple of years. I can’t face going through another job search this year. Even though the new job hasn’t turned out to be as perfect as it seemed to be in the beginning, I’m working for a globally recognised name, it could be a good stepping stone to something bigger, and I never know what might happen in two years.

After leaving P Sunday night I immediately began to dread the return to work on Monday. Even though I could predict what was going to happen at work – nothing much – I was distressed by the thought of another uneventful week with little responsibility, stuck in an office with my colleague P, a person who clearly doesn’t like me for some reason. I knew I had to manage my feelings about her, as it was getting out of hand. Monday morning as I dragged myself out of bed, I wished I didn’t have to be an adult for the day.

As expected, there was next to nothing to do at work at the beginning of the week. Many would remind me how lucky I am to have a job that’s so non-taxing. Yes, it’s fun to be able to spend time on facebook at work, but this week it seemed so stupid, sitting there wasting time when I could have been at home studying. I have so much studying to do for my course it’s ridiculous, yet I highly doubt I’d be allowed to get my text books out at work, even though it would be a more valuable use of my time.

Some storage space in the office needed clearing, and I’ve essentially spent the week stood by the shredder, destroying old office receipts and invoices that we no longer needed. I enjoy shredding as much as the next person, but on Monday and Tuesday the monotony of it made me seethe. I had to ask myself: is this really where I’m meant to be right now?

Middle of the week a psychodrama was beginning to erupt in my head. I had been marked off sick last Thursday on the online HR system that we use, and my manager was having trouble ending the sickness record, so it still showed that I was off sick, nearly a week later. I understood that it could affect my pay for the month if she didn’t manage to close the record, so I was understandably approaching a state of panic. I’d spoken to HR over the phone a couple of times, they were adamant that they couldn’t close the record, only my manager could as it needed her sign off. I was furious, and in the end I had to risk upsetting my manager by telling her what to do. I’d found the guidance online for the procedure; I allowed myself ten minutes of debating whether to send it to her, or whether to let the debacle carry on until payday. Going for the latter option may have been satisfying in the sense it would show the stupidity of the system and my manager’s incompetence. I’d have grounds to really throw a tantrum then. But I chose the first option, sending her the guidance and waiting for her to close the bloody record. It haunted me that a very similar thing happened last year at the bank when I took a day off. And I thought nothing that stupid could happen again!

That night, even though the situation was resolved, I was thinking about it last thing before I went to sleep. The next morning, my first thought was also about work. Never a good sign. Although one problem had been resolved I still faced the prospect of P’s apathy towards me. While I’d been panicking about the sickness record not getting closed, the resentment against her had bubbled inside me poisonously. As is always the case when I’m stressed about something external, resentment will always seem worse at those times. I have to think about the words of Victor Frankl, who said that an insult can hurt far more than any physical pain. I feel insulted by my colleague, the injustice of it really rankles. Reading about the philosophy of someone who was imprisoned in a German concentration camp, however, makes it rankle a little less.

Today things were a bit better. I had slightly more to do other than shredding, and P was being nice, for once. I realised that it must be down to the concerted effort I’ve made all week to be extra polite, to smile kindly when I’ve felt the most vicious. I found out that I may get to spend one day a week out with our social care services, visiting people in their homes and helping out in a genuine way. It would make life a lot easier for those services, and it would break up my week at the office, which may become stagnant otherwise. I’d be a nervous wreck when I’m due to start the work, but I’m aware it would look good on my CV, and it would certainly chime with the eventual career path I want to take.

I’ve started chatting to my old friend P by email at work again. We used to exchange emails during the work day all the time when I was at RG. It was a nice time filler, sometimes. I think it could be again, if I don’t take him too seriously. When I explained about some of the difficulties I’m facing he did his usual devil’s advocate thing, starting sentences with “well, at least…” I used to hate that so much – it seemed unjust to always be told to look on the bright side. Now, maybe I can just take it with a pinch of salt, know that he’s well meaning.

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