Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The 7 Year Itch

I had a strange feeling at work today, and it wasn't the raw, stabbing pain of my second mouth ulcer in a week. Instead it was a sense of something sorta important - but not that important - and I couldn't quite place what it was...until my brain started to drift during my walk home;

It's my work anniversary. Right now. Today, on August 1st. It is exactly seven years to the day that I started my temporary, stop-gap, I'd-better-get-a-job-'cos-I-need-cash-quick means to an end I blagged back in 2005.

I was 31. The year before I'd attempted my version of a gap year backpacking around SE Asia (i.e. travelling for just 2½ months a full ten years after leaving University), and returned to get any job I could find. That job was in telemarketing, officially The Worst Thing I've Ever Done, work-wise. My direct boss was basically a Chelsea hooligan, with moods that became violent and jittery and nose-wipey after one of his many visits to the toilet.

If ever there was a good example of willpower and dedication in my life, it was lasting 6 months in that place as I scrolled down bottomless spreadsheets, phoning up people who didn't want to be phoned to sell them tickets to some dumb conference.

I left after panicking myself into an employment cul-de-sac. It was like some unpleasant epiphany realising I absolutely could not spend one more minute in that office with those people doing that thing anymore even if they paid me, which obviously they did.
I took the afternoon off "ill" - half true as I walked out for lunch and the merest thought of walking back became a Sisyphean task. I would not, could not, roll any more rocks for that place.

Just before I quit, I'd been forced to move out of my house share I'd lived in for three years, as my mates had got themselves 'girlfriends' and moved in with them. (They're now their 'wives', and they're all 'happily married', with 'children'). Meanwhile, I'd drifted from one friend's sofa to another, then ultimately back to my mother's, which was humbling.

Cut to the summer. I was now unemployed, and living back in the bedroom of my youth when some indoctrinated scumbags suicide-bombed London during the rush hour. I'd been going for job interviews at a place my stepbrother had put me on to, and that station had been one of the bombed. It was eerie because I'd been there days earlier for a job interview. Which I got. And a few weeks later, on 1st August, I'd started.

Seven years ago today.

It's my longest stretch of employment ever, this temporary, stop-gap job of mine. I actually quit it, a few years ago. I snapped, and said I'd had enough, and stormed off to get my lunch. I'd calmed down afterwards, and realised I didn't know what else I'd do instead. My boss didn't bring up my resignation again, and neither did I.
That was in 2007.

A year later, and we were at our desks watching the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. It was impressive for two reasons. Firstly, it was really impressive. Secondly, the BBC were streaming it live over the Internet, and I was impressed at how we'd effectively stopped working to watch TV. Call it a high point, if you will.

And then, not long afterwards, there was a housing crisis in the US, with all its talk of sub-prime mortgages, toxic debt, and some kind of "credit crunch" - and neither did it seem to stop. People over here were starting to say "this is bad." Within weeks, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, followed by Iceland, the fucking country of Iceland.

Worldwide economic Armageddon.

Like everyone else, I panicked. Now I was counting my lucky stars to just have a job, so I decided to stay put for a year or two to see how things panned out. With a bit of luck, I thought, all this would've sorted itself out by 2010 or 2011 - certainly 2012 at the latest. That, if you like, is my explanation for not bettering myself.

It had been even worse, though. These aimless years had been more wretched; I not only had a dead end job. I lived it above a chemists in Chiswick with a Large Northern Flatmate, and a mouse.

These days, I live in a nice cosy flat. I still have this dead-end job, but my days flatsharing in shitholes are over.I no longer have to strive for anything meaningful in order to escape that rut. I've contented myself spending my evenings in watching Mad Men, or Game of Thrones, or the Wire, or the Sopranos, or Breaking Bad, just about anything that allows me to splay myself out semi-naked on my Big Bastard Sofa (all mine, in just 21 more payment's time). And it's a bearable, liveable kind of existance, one where I never quite really live. And I can stay here forever, cocooned in beige-carpeted cosiness and quality American drama, anesthesia for my soul, while I try not to think about the job I do that I really don't mind, really, and that's way, way, way better than telesales and, y'know, pays the bills, keeps me ticking along, and besides, you know full well I have ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT ELSE I COULD DO....

But still, seven years...

... Seven years?

I don't remember breaking a mirror...


Anonymous said...

I recognise that feeling of "never quite really living". It can have different flavours from contentment to a nagging feeling, to a worse one that time is slipping past. I took a stop-gap job and ended up there for I think it was four years. To my relief, I got made redundant, which made it easy to claim dole and housing benefit.

I'm not sure the country has a careers service any more but I'm sure that there are more possibilities, maybe even abroad, for you to consider. Maybe write into that bloke who gives career advice in the Guardian?

Anonymous said...

You seem to like writing. Instead of watching endless tv dramas why don't you write one. I'd tune in. The job will seem less shit when you're doing something cool with your evenings. I know, I worked in a warehouse for five years with a bunch of wankers and learned street dance in the evenings. Now I'm a street dance teacher and love every minute of it. I'm an Adidas girl myself but JUST DO IT!...whatever it is you really want to do. Good luck.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

I'm forever doing that "this time 10 years ago I was..." lark, and sometimes it never feels like you've got anywhere particularly amazing in that time. Depends what you rate success on. Personally, I think you sound happier with yourself now than when I first started reading your blog (cor blimey, 5 years ago or so) - but the job has always been a sticking point. One day you've got to take the leap. It won't get any easier, so you might as well do it now.

matt said...

There's loads of us out there who for one reason or another, in my case pure bone idleness and the ability to talk myself out of doing anything remotely risk based, now find ourselves in similar situations. I agree with the last comment though, it does depend on what you consider to be success, if it's making a load of cash then good luck on that one but if it's having an interesting opinion and being able to put it across well done, you're already there.For anyone with any sense of questioning in them office based work's always going to be like a cat's fur ball anyway..

i am not your freud said...

have you tried to look for another job? think of other stuff that you can do. DO IT!

Anonymous said...

How are you getting on, mate? Getting out there? There's a lot of love here, people hoping you take a big step. Hope you do. Streetdancer x

luna said...

I dunno you're stumping me for a change, maybe you could start helping the less fortunate that 'd take your mind off.

an aquarium?

hmmm...potted plants?/ No??

eva said...

you know what what's gonna finish off your blog in the end is not your lack of entries, or even the repetitiveness/dullness of your blah life, it's that bloody word check for every comment, it's so tedious and makes me cross eyed and just cross every time, most people in the end won't be arsed wasting 1/2 an hour if they're not huge fans...

fwengebola said...

Looby ~ I don't know anymore. Part of me thinks I simply resent losing my liberty and having to clock in anywhere five times a week. That said, it's great to be getting paid for doing what you love. I just have to work out what I love.
Fuck, why's this so hard?
I'll look into career's advice. Cheers.
Anon Dancer ~ Thank you. I have tried writing though. It's not easy, plus it's particularly difficult when your attention/ belief in your own abilities wanes. Again I will have to think about this. Very hard.
PDEWYMO ~ I think I'm ready to leap off the 'Secure yet bored' cliff of my job. It's just petrifying and I've no idea what I'll do. It's so much easier when you have, y'know, desires beyond getting home for chocolate and TV.
Matt ~ Thank you Matt. That was a comfort and a pleasure to read, at least the shared experience part. The lack of knowing what I can do didn't help. Please tell me what to - ah, fuck it. I'll have to figure this out alone.
ET ~ Stop being so obvious. Oh bloody hell
Anon Dancer ~ Thanks again. Still here. I've got a holiday coming up, so that'll be Dwell Factor 12. Except this time I'm going to dedicate the rest of the year to actively looking for work. I'm sick of whinging about it.
Luna ~ Hurrah, you're back! With impractical suggestions again. Yay.
Eva ~ Seriously, the word verification thing's a necessity. Without it I get spammed to fuckery. I must've deleted, uh, several over the years.
I'm turning it off RIGHT NOW - for you - but trust me when I say it's going to go right back on when I notice I'm a spambot's free-for-all again:
"Hey, that was a great story, I can totaly relate lol! Check out my website for CIALIS VIAGRA"

Anonymous said...

christalmighty...i've been telling this prick intermittently for the best part of ten years to pullhimselftogether. so, not for the last time: PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!

fwengebola said...

Anon ~ Right. Thanks.
and Eva ~ I've had to turn word verification back on. I'm getting spammed to buggery. Sorry.

fwengebola said...

And now I'm turning it back off seeing as I've discovered Blogger automatically sends them to a spam folder... Hurrah!!