It was three months ago when I dragged myself up the stairs of the office first thing in the morning. I knew what I was going to do but didn’t know what I was going to say. I walked between the open plan rooms, it was early and those enthusiastic employees that had started super-early hadn’t yet switched the lights on and so just a glint of early morning sun lit the room through the reflected grey of the clouds in a dull lacklustre fashion. It wasn’t through laziness that they hadn’t switched the office lights on but through some kind of geeky cocoon they create so it’s just them and the screen. No morning chitchat just the glare of the flat panel and the contrast of pixels feeding the mind. I dumped my hoody on my chair, headed to the bank of switches by the door, and lit the room to a reply of groans from the few that were in woken by sharp neon tubes.
It was first on my list of things to do. A meeting with my line manager who had, over the weeks, delivered varying quantities of disagreeable commands from those at the top that hadn’t understood the situation on our office-equivalent of the shop-floor; and I disagreed. The thing is in my career many of those are people I work with are in their twenties and tend to shut up and put-up. They’re being well paid and doing something they find interesting and so rarely question the motives behind decision made by management and even if they want to it’s usually to their colleagues in the form of a moan over lunch or whispers over the desk. I’m older and more outspoken now and there came the clash and this particular day everything had come to a head.
My line manager, Justin sent an instant message over, ‘You ready for the meeting?’ People don’t phone each other in that company, there are hardly any phones on any desk, and hardly anyone ever seem to use their feet to communicate. I headed to a small new-media style meeting room. Floor to ceiling white board that allows staff to scribble designs and ideas all over the wall which usually works until someone picks up a permanent marker and the wall has to be repainted in special paint – or someone writes on the wrong wall. Funky chairs made from dull brushed aluminium that give the sense of something contemporary from Habitat if it weren’t for the fact they looked like wooden school chairs of the seventies but brush-painted silver. The windows look out into a high street that should be busier considering it’s size but is just a funnel for city buses, the odd taxi and loud motorbike. A few old trees lining the other side and enough of a distracting when meetings get boring.
Justin came in and took a chair, as he sat he asked “So how are things going since we last spoke?” I didn’t need to think or construct any kind of planned way of saying it. I didn’t need to deliver it in some kind form or choose my words carefully. My head just went automatic and I spoke how I felt, “I’m done.” I said with a genuine sigh, “I’ve had enough, I’m handing my notice in today.”
Of course he was surprised. Surprised I’d made that decision rather than fight my corner another day or found some middle ground but he did know why. In fact I was more surprised myself when a few weeks after my departure I’d heard that Justin had also resigned. It just happened to be a chapter in my life I had to bring to an end. If there was one thing I didn’t need in my life right now given everything that was going on, all that thinking I, like many, have to do, stress from the workplace was not one of them.
Over the weeks I found myself free to do what I wanted. Work on my own work and take time to decide what I would do next while burning what little savings I have. It was expected though. I didn’t quit my job on a whim but months and months of thinking and one-more-chances.
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A couple of months later, another day like most, checking for jobs, doing bits of a project and chatting to my best friend over email from time to time. It was just one of those days that were perfect for being caught unaware. My mind on other things, not just the here and now but my future. I’d been doing things around the house and returned to my laptop that had been sat on the dining table around an empty plate of lunch crumbs and half a cup of cold tea that had been reheated twice. An e-mail had come in from my friend – a long e-mail. A very long email.
My heart raced as he described how he’d found my blog about me. I’d been having problems with my e-mail the night before and I remember it coming up with a window saying, couldn’t contact server or something like that and to choose another, the list had two entries, Google Mail or Google Mail. I picked one and thought nothing of it until the next day when it appears that I had been chatting to my best friend via a ‘Hannah’ account. An email address that I barely even use had simply given away something I had kept to myself the entire time I had known him – most of my life.
I had even felt physically sick by the whole thing just from the sheer nervousness of what had happened. If there was anyone I would find hard to tell it would have been him because we’ve known each other so long and having been through so much; one friend I didn’t want to loose. I wouldn’t publish here what he said in his email, it’s private after all, but what he did say was that of a real best friend, one of the few that I could count on my one hand and not all of those fingers are reserved. Supportive and to some extent not that surprised. Him and his wife knew something was up and it was probably just a matter of time. I didn’t pull the plaster off myself in one quick rip, my laptop did that for me. I should have known better. Being one of the most intelligent people I know I shouldn’t have expected anything less.
We batted a few emails back and forth, he was even practically on the edge of rushing over to make sure I was ok. The one thing I do take from this, other than the fact that our friendship hasn’t changed at all, is the feeling I felt about myself the next day. I remember the exact word that came to my head – disarming.
Until next time.