Friday, November 10, 2006

My first Leicester week ends - 26 more to go

Today marks one week into my Leicester life adventure. I remember reading an article recently about 'Expectations' and it came to mind when I was trying to figure out whether my expectations had been met. What was I really expecting and had I achieved it? What have I learnt so far - especially about myself.

In the first couple of days, I realised I was desperate to be liked. I'm not sure if everyone feels this way in a new job but I was irritating the hell out of myself and I did not know how to switch it off. I seemed to have this permanent inane grin on my face, I was agreeing with things I thought were crap and laughing at the most stupid jokes and wise cracks. I wanted to present my authentic self but I did not know how. The funny thing was when I got home in the evening, I still did not know how to behave around myself.

The team I'm working with are a young team, my training partner is only 20, my immediate boss is 23. The other 2 trainers are 24 and 27. They are all internal staff and the only other contractor is probably closer to my age than the others. The guy who interviewed me, my boss' boss is 30 on Saturday. I feel ancient. I feel like what have I been doing with my life if a 20 year old girl, who did not go to university is right now working in the same role that I am? I was amazed and gushed all over her the first day, telling her how clever she must be, how sorted her life is and how bright her future is. I am supposed to mentor and coach her being more experienced but that seemed besides the point.

So imagine me desparate to be liked and to fit in with people so much younger than me. Pathetic. Anyway, I wanted to snap out of it.

The team dinner went well. It was at an Italian restaurant in the city centre. Around 4pm, it was suggested we close early, go home and change before meeting up at the restaurant. "Go home and change?" I thought, "into what?" I had only packed work clothes and my nightwear, nothing in between. The life I imagined I'd be living seemed disconnected from reality. I was like the 'Office Barbie' - you unpack the box and bring her out with her array of work clothes - and that's it. Nobody lives like that in real life, but that's what I was trying to do.

It was interesting to find out more about the people I was working with. The 20 year old's mother was in hospital with stomach cancer, the 24 year old's mother died of a heart attack when she was 11, she has no relationship with her father or step mother even though they all live together, the 27 year old hates religion and the 23 year old has an English mother and a Mauritian father who he has not seen since he was 3.

That was what did it for me. I did not need these people to like me - not in that way - ofcourse I know we all have to get on and work well together as a team, but I did not need their mobile numbers, I did not have to need to hang out with them after work, I did not even need to spend every single lunch break with them, I did not need to meet their parents and get invited to their homes. I really did not need to be best friends with them, there was really nothing they had that I wanted and they had nothing to offer me.

What a breakthrough! The next day, we all went to Sainsbury's accros the road during lunch, I had a packed lunch and wanted to buy a memory stick, they wanted to get sandwiches... "I'll see you guys back at the office" I called out merrily as I broke away from the group heading towards the computer section. "Are you sure?" the 20 year old said "Yes, no problem" I replied, and that was it. Done!

So what have I learnt this first week
1. I have a need to be liked which is so strong it can compromise my authentic self and I am no longer me.
2. I'm uncomfortable around me. I always need to be doing something and can't just be still.
3. My brain still works - and works well! I have a natural curiousity and enjoy learning.

I have not missed my old life as much as I thought I would, actually I did not think I'd miss it too much but I have tried not to think too much about my baby Kitan because once when I did, I got tearful. I have no pictures of him either. I'm not sure I can take that on right now. I speak with him 2 or 3 times a day on the phone, sometimes all he does is breathe into the phone, the phone is pressed tightly to his ear and he's listening so hard to my voice trying to stick himself to me somehow. Still, children are resilient I know, 2 minutes after the call and he's fine again. I can't keep beating myself over that.

Tunji and I have a 'calling schedule' to keep the lines of communication open, even if it's not 'sweet nothings', I know 'just talking' will keep the bond alive.

The next challenge is my first weekend back. Will I be pulled apart by all their needs? Would it be selfish of me to meet a friend for lunch or spend the whole day in the Salon or go shopping by myself?

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