In what would be a year of Firsts after E left, I think my first day at work in 19 years was one of the most daunting.
I had literally been at home since September 1998. I was used to my own company, my own rules. I was used to silence and my own space. Whole weeks would go by when, unless I walked into town, I would see and speak to no-one but the kids and E (if he came home before I went to bed that is).
I’d definitely become more and more introverted over the years. I was much happier being solitary and always fretted over being in company (What if I said the wrong thing? What if people thought I was stupid? What if I didn’t know what to say? What if I couldn’t answer a question?), but before I had the kids I could put on a good front, assume my ‘work face’ and chat away as if it was easy to me. But, since I’d had the kids I’d gone out less and less – especially in large groups. In the first few years after we had Oldest Daughter E and I attended a few dinners and evenings out with his colleagues and people would ask me ‘what I did’ – I could see the interest die in their eyes when I said I was a stay-at-home Mum. Whereas E could talk with confidence about his job, his clients, his students (!), his hobbies (football mostly), I could only talk about my children. I felt boring and I could see that I was boring to other people. I did have some amazing groups of friends some of whom I’d known for years, some of whom I’d met since having children, and I felt comfortable and happy with these people. But, the professional world that I’d worked so hard to get into after graduating felt lost to me.
The other thing that I was very apprehensive about was the fact that my new job involved telephone work. I had spent the last 19 years avoiding ever making a phone call. The advance of technology had saved me from myself – whereas 20 years before I’d have to write a letter or make a call (I’d still be inclined towards the letter), now I could email, text, message, Facebook, Snapchat. WhatsApp or Tweet. There were SO many ways to communicate without actually speaking to someone and my introverted self had thrived on this. Over the years, on the rare occasions that a phone call was needed to arrange something, I would just ask E to make the call, and he, ever confident, was happy to help.
But now I had a job that involved making phone calls for a large proportion of the day, and mixing with other adults – none of whom were likely to respond to my usual tactics of threats of an early bedtime or bribes of chocolate in order to achieve what I needed to achieve (although, actually, knowing what I know now, the offer of chocolate might have worked) .
To say I was nervous on that first day would be an understatement of huge proportions, but no-one was more surprised than me by the person who walked into that office. I barely recognised myself – all of a sudden, my ‘work face’ from 19 years ago reappeared and I was talking to people and saying ‘hello’ (and even making phone calls!) as if I was totally ok. I’m not sure how I appeared to my new colleagues (possibly as an over confident nightmare, possibly as just very strange) but for me it was like I was watching myself from outside (I was also critiquing every word I said and fretting over every first impression I made), the whole day was surreal.
My colleagues were (still are) lovely. The team that I worked on comprised seven women of a certain age (I learned more about the menopause in my first few days there than I had encountered in my previous 47 years) and two (understandably, given the hormonal climate) very careful men. One thing that really took me aback was how open and friendly everyone was. Having been used to nobody really taking much notice of me, all of a sudden, as the new person, people were interested in me and asking me questions. I was amazed at how much about myself that I ‘gave away’ – I’m used to being very in control of how much I tell people about myself, but I also tend to give a straight answer when asked a straight question. I wasn’t used to people asking me questions about myself and probably gave out far more information about my personal circumstances than I would usually do. But, whilst I worried at first over the fact that I’d been too honest, after a while I relaxed as I realised that I’d fallen on my feet and into a community where I would make some real friends.
So, that night, when I got home (and reassured a concerned Youngest Son that I hadn’t farted or burped TOO loudly) I realised that I’d experienced another first – something had gone right for once.