Guestblogger Huggy Bear writes about the fear and dread associated with finally getting a real job.
Offices are baffling. I’ve spent most of my twenties laughing at people who choose to work in them. A fairly large cohort of my graduating class in high school have decamped to London and other cities and chosen to spend upwards of 50, or even 60, hours a week in offices. They wake up early, put on archaic clothing (ties are ridiculous — what are they actually for?), and commute for half the morning to reach their office. When they get there — clutching overpriced, under-strength coffee they bought on the way because they didn’t have enough time to make some at home as their commute was so long — they open a computer and start emailing people who are in the same building, often a few feet away.
Kind regards. Warm regards. Warmest regards. To whom it may concern. Best. Best wishes. Yours truly. Yours sincerely. Sincerely. Dear Sir. Best Regards. Regards.
Nobody says “best regards” in real life. Nobody even writes it with a pen on paper. It’s a phrase that exists only in office emails. Emails written to the person two desks away. Emails written to the person who is so close you could throw a paper airplane to them. Imagine you met someone in person to discuss a project and, just as you were parting, one of you said “best regards”. Just think for a moment about how weird that would be.
Time for another disclaimer: I’m basing this on anecdotal evidence given to me over time by those office workers brave enough to go rogue and speak out. When I was about 10 or 11, we used to contemplate the wonder of girls. I hear they have wings that only appear when boys aren’t around. Someone told me they shower every day. Maybe my view of offices, as an adult approaching 30 years of age, is like our discussion of females 20 years ago.
There are certain milestones in a person’s life when they become more adult. I’m not talking here about your 21st birthday, graduation, losing your virginity, or when you buy a house. No, I mean the big things that masquerade as little things. The first time you buy a saucepan or a piece of furniture. When you’re at a friend’s place and silently judge the poor quality wine glasses they use. Opening a bank account. Suddenly taking a genuine interest in the news. Instinctively shaking hands with people you don’t know (kids who do this are weird and have clearly been brought up a bit too well).
One of these milestones is getting a “proper” job, usually in an office. This made a tonne of sense in the post-WW2 world. Businesses were growing, mail was slow, and telecommunications prohibitively expensive. It made perfect sense to congregate in one physical location. Now it often does not, but we’re socially hard-wired into thinking it does because we’ve been at it for decades. We’ve decided that the same things that made us happy and successful in the fifties are the same things that will make us happy and successful in 2014. We’re slow on the uptake.
Some people move from childhood to full-blown early-to-bed must-open-a-pension-plan adults in a very short period of time, perhaps just a couple of years. Others drag it out over a decade or longer, afraid of the ceaselessness of ticking clocks, physically developing in one direction while psychologically staying put, or even going backwards. Until this month, I was one of those people.
And then I got an office job.
I didn’t mean it. A recruiter who had heard about my freelance work contacted me and played go-between between the company and me. Days later, about half an hour into my first proper interview ever, the company made an offer. I hesitated, bought some time, and asked my parents (aka wisdom reservoirs / guardians of all that is sage) what they thought of the offer. My Dad’s actual words were “you should bite his hand off.” Bye bye freelancing. Bye bye fun weekend job in a pub with friends.
Thanks a lot Mr Matchmaker Recruitment person who I never even met. Thanks for shattering my dreams. Thanks for smashing my holier-than-thou view of the 21st century as a time when people should work remotely and whenever they wish (OK, I still think this is true). And so the next steps are inevitable. I will start saying things like “let’s touch base”, “going forward”, and that so-and-so is “really going places”. I’ll get excited for casual Friday. I will begin using those awful email sign-offs.
Then the ripple effect will come in. The highest point of my day — the zenith, if you will — will be when I get to leave the office and go to the gym at 7 p.m. The fucking gym! I will begin to evaluate potential partners not in measures of lust or wild romance, but in feelings of security and pragmatism. ‘Does this turn me on?’ will be usurped by ‘Does this make practical sense?’