It’s difficult telling people when they ask how the new job, which I was quite keen to start, has panned out. It hasn’t.
Not at all.
Most people, fairly, assume that I’d just done something to cock it up, like showing up hung-over to a review, or eating a live squirrel at my desk. But the real reason is a bit more complicated. Or simple. I just didn’t like it. I could tell that, in time, I could learn to deal with it, just like you can learn to live with constipation, but there were still going to be times when, during any given day, I’d find myself wondering, “When last did I give a shit?”
I want to make quite clear up front that the company I resigned from isn’t a terrible place (I mean, don’t think so, I never was allowed into the lab), the people who work there seem like very nice people, and although the coffee situation was unacceptable, the canteen was quite nice.
It just wasn’t for me. I feel a smidge badly that I wasted their time, and a substantial portion of my own as well, but I did swallow some bitter truth pills that I want to regurgitate and feed to you.
On an unrelated note, won’t you be a dear and please click all of the ads on my site? I earn a few cents every time, so, you know…
I Didn’t Want to Let Heather Small Down
What have you done today to make you feel proud? Heather Small croons, and Miranda Hart quotes.
Since going freelance, I’ve been able to focus almost entirely on the projects that really appeal to me. Even when they’ve been out of my comfort zone, or have required busting some serious ass, I got the satisfaction of being able to send new, potential clients samples of work that I was truly proud of.
After going through a few runs of the work expected at this company, I felt really depressed. I didn’t like what I was doing. I had no interest in sharing it with anyone. Hell, I didn’t even want to read it. It was shit, and that made me feel like shit, because I don’t want to be a shitty writer. And even if I am a shitty writer, I don’t want to feel like I’ve got permission to stay shitty.
The Commute was the Pits
Quite literally on one memorable occasion when I got so lost I ended up at the entrance of the Silverstone race track. 360-ing the roundabout like Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s European Vacation, was a bit of a high/low moment, like: ‘Yay, it’s Silverstone! Dammit, I’m lost again!’
Some people enjoy driving, and I enjoy being driven by them, but doing long distances alone leaves me frazzled. Which means I drink more in the evening. Which makes me a worse driver in the morning. So, really, it’s in everyone’s best interest that I don’t do 34 miles (54km) in either direction on country roads every day.
The American Office for National Statistics has even proved that, “when compared with those who worked from home, commuters were less satisfied and happy, and when compared with each other, for each extra minute they travelled commuters became less satisfied.”
The Culture Clash
My bad for thinking that my innate charm and good looks would be enough to help me scale any social ladder. The company is quite old-school corporate in some of their ideas about human behaviour. For instance, my manager explained I could take a ’50-minute’ lunch. Not a full hour, mind, let’s not be ridiculous.
Or, I could take the option of having a 30-minute lunch break and two 10-minute tea or coffee breaks. This is apparently what ‘flexibility’ looks like if you live in a fascist dystopia. I didn’t like being given rules about my coffee intake. If we’ve worked together in the past, you know that the most dangerous place in the world for you to be at any time is between me and my next cup of coffee. Not to be overly dramatic, but I will literally tear you apart with my teeth and toenails.
Beyond that, I don’t like the implication that other grown adults can assume to tell me when I can drink a tasty beverage, or how long I should take to do it. Or when to eat lunch. Or how to dress. Or why I shouldn’t take my shoes off. Or how to talk. Fuck that. Fuck that right in the ear.
Some people might enjoy being told what to do all the time. Probably people who read the 50 Shades trilogy and thought it had some good ideas. I don’t like having my time treated like someone’s naive sex slave. No thank you. Which brings me to:
Too… Many… Meetings
I’m not going to say I’m a misanthropic hermit, but I don’t mind you thinking that if it means you’ll leave me alone.
I will admit to being an introvert when it comes to doing what I’m good at- or at least what I enjoy. I need to switch off and focus. Having meetings four times a day to discuss the same damn thing over and over again is draining, and it doesn’t leave me with any enthusiasm to put into the actual product I’m charging for. Operating from an energy deficit has only ever made me more exhausted, and my work, my relationships and my health suffer.
Again, I understand I might be in the minority here, but if we can ever discuss something via IM or email instead of having a meeting, then let’s always do that. Especially when said meetings involve going through something like a monthly report. The format of the report doesn’t change, just the data, and probably, some of the data is only relevant to some people, some of the time. So why spend three hours going through as a group what you could rather spend an hour going through it as individuals, in your own time?
But even the worst meetings can be made bearable by a nice, hot, delicious cup of coffee. Alas…
The Coffee Situation was Unacceptable
Back in South Africa, even the smallest little projects and companies I worked on, or for, offered their employees and partners tea and coffee. And yes, for free. It’s not even considered an ‘employee benefit’ as the HR lady described it when I brought up the dearth of Ceylon in this strange new place.
As far as I’m concerned, providing tea and coffee to employees, visitors, and even non-violent home invaders, is not even all that polite. It’s just what you do. For my new British friends trying to understand how unimaginably rude it is to tell people to bring their own hot drinks to work, just imagine someone purposefully making eye contact on public transport, or getting straight to the point when asking you for a favour.
It’s just like that.
It’s a small thing, and I know it’s petty, but having to suddenly bring in my own milk and coffee felt a bit… uncouth. For one thing, the fridge was about 70% full of individual semi-skim half pints of milk. Like 17 of them. No shit.17 Individually labelled half-pints of milk- in the middle of a countryside literally crawling with fucking cows.
I don’t know what half a pint is in millilitres, but it doesn’t matter- no civilised country that uses the metric system would also deny its employees a shot of hot caffeine and make them bring in their own individual supplies of milk. Every identical little bottle individually labelled with the initials of its owner. I don’t know what happens when you use someone else’s milk. I assume they take you outside and shoot you. This ‘every tea and coffee drinker for themselves’ mentality engendered no sense of community, no sharing, no ubuntu. It was a terrible and barbaric situation.
There wasn’t even that one big, manky, reserve jar of Frisco (or the English equivalent) in the bottom cupboard that every office in South Africa has.
I wouldn’t have even minded chipping in for a big, communal bottle of milk, but when I was presented with a shiny Apply Mac Pro, complete with a brand new mouse and keyboard, I couldn’t help but feel that the company’s funds were being lightly mismanaged by a pack of untrustworthy decaf-drinkers.
You can’t trust a person who doesn’t indulge their vices in front of you.
In Conclusion: I Chose Life
Like I said at the beginning of this. I feel bad that I couldn’t have better predicted my own reaction to a much more restrictive environment, with a much less exciting workload. In retrospect, typing it out like that, I feel really stupid. But I did serve a decent chunk of notice and did my best for the limited time I was there. You are welcome, desk slaves.
What I don’t feel bad about is choosing to spend my days and my hours being happier. I won’t have as much cash as I would have if I’d stuck it out for a few months, or a few years. But a few months can be a long time in a life that is all too short, and while I still have the option- any option- to choose what I love, then why choose anything else? No one looks back on their lives wishing they’d spent more time in traffic to get to place they didn’t like, with people they didn’t get on with, to create work they didn’t feel good about.
It’s been a tough lesson, but I’ve learnt a lot about my own boundaries. I believe in my own abilities enough to know there’s something better out there, and I’m selfish enough to think that I deserve to enjoy my work.
Now seriously, click on some fucking ads, I’m dying here.