November 4th 2015: Of all the days when it’s pissing it down and there’s a strike, my umbrella decides to suddenly break, and crumple, with my head trapped inside GOOD MORNING
This is an extract from ‘Life of Sam’ during the post-graduation chapter. Going on from my last blog post, I had returned from Erasmus, I had s t r u g g l e d through the everlasting sentence that was final year and somehow had come out on the other end, all be it scarred (from essay writing), but in tact (corner shop wine) and ready to be unleashed on the working world; language degree in hand, LinkedIn profile shiny and updated.
After going through a little bit of a funny limbo period (mini-breakdown), believe it or not, I finally joined the 9-5 army.
Through some kind of miracle (a good network and lots of optimism), I had found myself employed, and not just in any old position, but in one working for a global investment bank – I had my foot in the door of the finance sector. Plot twist, am i right?
Those of you who knew me before my stint in Canary Wharf will know that numbers were not exactly my forte (think calculation lady meme) and money, well, it was an interest – but mainly when it came down to spending it. Still true. On telling my friends that I was to start a new job they congratulated me with glee, and on discovering the position, they reacted with slight confusion, a look that said ‘but…why finance?’ and finally the old ‘fair enough’ acceptance nod.
I myself was R E A D Y to work and to take on all the things that came with it (a wage, mainly); nevertheless, I did start to feel a small pang of self-doubt running up to my first day, and I must admit that I did arrive an hour early for my orientation session – overly keen or extremely nervous, you decide.
Being shown to my assigned floor, I was led through the open office, past various teams belonging to different departments. It felt corporate and intimidating and basically everything I wasn’t familiar with, and suddenly I felt like a child pretending to be an adult, wearing grown-up work clothes which didn’t quite fit right.
Oh my God they’re going to know I’m a phoney aren’t they? They’ll know I nearly failed maths A-level; this is a nightmare – quick how do I get back to the lifts, before I introduce myself to people I will definitely have to hide from for the rest of my working days?!
Anxiety it seems was a big factor for me that morning.
As it turns out, I needn’t have worried so much. And everytime I find myself in a similar situation, i.e. embarking on something new, I try to remind myself of how I felt that very morning, and how it all seems so silly now, in retrospect.
I was actually incredibly lucky to have been part of the team I was assigned to. Everyone was down-to-Earth, we had each other’s backs with tasks, and the thing I enjoyed the most was, we had a laugh. Lots of them in fact. Also we had a lovely Friday morning tradition of going downstairs for breakfast together, which I do really miss (I ended up with maple syrup on my keyboard once but I don’t think anyone found out, so it’s all good). Being part of this little unit made a world of difference, and the work I was doing itself was new, mostly unfamiliar, but actually very interesting.
Fast forward a few months to when I wrote that status. It was a rainy day, and the weather matched my mood entirely. I was more confident in my work-space and had more or less gathered what went where and who did what (also when the best time to take lunch was to avoid the herds), and yet, something was not quite right.
I had an itch.
My Dad used to work uptown back in the day, and was a regular commuter – he warned me of being trapped by the city when I was younger.
“What do you mean trapped??”
“Sam, I’m telling you, you’ve got to get out there, don’t get stuck. I used to work in the city and I’d see the same faces, on the same train, every morning, every evening, same carriages – same seat sometimes. I left London for a while after that and came back to a city job 10 years later.
There they were – same train, same carriage, same seats. Older faces”
I thought he was exaggerating slightly, and being a tad melodramatic, but there you go.
Wasn’t til that day I got caught up (quite literally) in my umbrella, that I understood what he really meant. I liked my job and I didn’t really have much of a plan before starting it, but by GOD I HATED THE JOURNEY. I HATED IT SO DAMN MUCH.
Everyday was the same, the same grey day, the same waiting for the SouthEastern train that was ALWAYS delayed and that was more than likely missing 3 of it’s original 8 carriages. I would pick up a copy of the Metro everyday, and wait at the same point on the platform, which I knew now for certain, was where the train doors belonging to the fourth carriage would open. I would board and find the most convenient seat available (not too close to the doors that you end up with a bag in your face, or the jealous stares of fellow commuters; and not too far down the carriage that you became trapped when it came time to get off). I would get to my desk exactly 30 minutes before I was required to start, and would return home almost two hours after leaving it in the evening. This was not through choice – London’s transport system had well and truly screwed me over, and I was done, SO done.
The commuting started to feel like work itself – everyone was very professional and elegant in their suits and shiny shoes, until it came to train-time and the rules of etiquette no longer applied. In addition to the delays and constant broken promises (LIIIIIESS) delivered by SouthEastern, we also had to endure the barging, sweaty pits, aggressive nudging, elbows to the face, and absolute worst; pushing IN FRONT OF ME IN THE LINE- WHAT KIND OF MONSTER DISRESPECTS THE QUEUING SYSTEM?!
Tolerating this day to day got me riled; it didn’t take long before I decided some things just weren’t worth it. I started hanging around Canary Wharf after work, just to avoid getting on the busiest train home – when I got bored of that, I started going up to central to entertain myself for a few hours before taking the safe and stress-free train home (there was even the possibility of nabbing a seat!) I didn’t want to start spending too much on clothes or make-up I didn’t need any more of (staff had started to recognize me in the local Zara), and so one evening I found myself in a bookstore on my way to Charring Cross. It was so calm – a hidden cove of peace away from the turmoil that was my daily route home.
Having still been a recent graduate, supposedly I should have been in a job which required the skills my degree entailed, and even though I felt okay in my position and very happy and grateful in terms of the experience on my CV, part of me felt a little twang of disappointment as I browsed the ‘Foreign Language’ section of the bookshop. The Spanish section called out to me, and proved hard to leave. Half an hour later and twenty or so pounds shorter, I bobbed along to the station – being a huge book worm at heart, and having the opportunity to go back to what I loved studying just gave me that extra spring in my step. I’ll stop being cheesy in the next paragraph. Apologies.
Reading, not from a tablet/mobile phone/kindle/digital thingymajig, but from a good old hardback, paper page turner, combined with a stable set of earphones, is without a doubt the best way to escape the reality of your morning commute (also the number one reason for almost missing your stop). I was engrossed in these new books I had recently picked up, and no longer felt the gloom that hovered over me at the beginning of every working day, or at least, not as much. I had really missed reading in Spanish, and I was a little bummed that getting through the first few passages proved more difficult than it should’ve been.
I was, it would seem, out of practice. It made me question a few things.
“How could this happen? I can speak Spanish. I was there only five months ago (a pre-results getaway to the good ole South). Have I lost it? Wait. What am I doing?”
I shared my thoughts with Porgeous on one of our Monday mojito nights (the cocktail deals and cheap calamari were too good to refuse, it literally got us through til Wednesday).
“I miss Erasmus. It is just so grey here.” *sips crushed sugar from the bottom of mojito* “Sam can we go back? Do you remember those cocktails in Modena?” *both pause for a moment and sigh* “Carys told me she went to the beach last month – OCTOBER.”
With a few of our nearest and dearest friends living abroad, we were both suffering from extreme FOMO, and jealousy – we were not living our best lives in the sun, nor using our languages while doing it. It seemed to become a running theme; loving the London lifestyle and finally having money to enjoy, well, life; but also constantly reminiscing about the Mediterranean times that were and having those sweet memories be cut short because we had to run for the last train home.
We took a last swig at the icy remnants of our mojitos before wrapping up in ALL of the layers, bracing ourselves for the outside. We waddled towards the station arm in arm, battling against the wind, before parting ways with a big hug and a sigh.
‘Same time next week?’
On the train home a few things kept running through my mind. Like they always do on a weeknight journey home.
‘Oh god I really hope I’ll get home soon. Okay it’s fine, at this rate after I’ve showered, gotten into pjs (and maybe nibbled on a bit of leftover dins) I should be in bed by 11. 11.30 max. Ooh that’s late… Well it’s not midnight, I’ll be fine. I didn’t drink too much… hmm, better drink loads of water before bed, I don’t want a headache in the morning…’
Then I paused.
What was wrong with me. I hated this feeling. I couldn’t even enjoy a few drinks after work with my friend.
And it seems that Porgeous was sharing my sentiments too.
NEW WHATSAPP MESSAGE RECEIVED.
‘On the tube but it’s delayed and someone definitely just let off a stinker in this carriage. I wish we could have cocktails every night. I miss our Erasmus lives.’
‘I think it’s time we made the move too Porg.’
*shocked face emoji* ‘DO WE?’
‘I think so.’