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.
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...