A Single Girl’s Take on The Big Unknown: The Office

[Disclaimer: I’m certain this is a bit redundant if you’re a regular reader, but for the unlucky few, I give you prior warning, what ensues is a fair bit of rambling on a drowsy mid-summer Saturday afternoon. Be warned.]

Hurrah hurrah. I have successfully managed to get through seven months of employment largely unscathed (nervous laughter) and while this hardly counts as cause for jubilation for the large majority of you reading this, my fellow recent graduates will- I’m sure- share my sentiments. I’ve managed to successfully (albeit with a few hiccups along the way) bumble my way into adulthood quite well, if I may admit. The past seven months have served as my first stint at employment- unless watering my mother’s plants counts- and truth be told, it’s been a pretty steep learning curve so far.

Seven months- The magical sweet spot where I’m still sort of a newcomer but also old enough to have a vague understanding of the ropes. Now in the spirit of complete transparency, let me be honest- I had no big  dreams, no great ambition and no elaborate master plan before I decided to start working. My initial motivation was to get better at my craft (read: EaRn SuM d$lLa D$LlA bIlLs Yo) which, in retrospect, is not an ideal way to begin a career.

Without having to sugar-coat things, one of the greatest lessons that employment has taught me is how the process of learning in real time seemingly has no horizon. I’ve spent a good nine-tenths of my life in academic institutions, which I have now come to realise is an emotional safe space. It doesn’t showcase a reality beyond the safe- but largely false- confines of a textbook. There hasn’t been a day since I started where I haven’t spent a full five minutes reflecting in mute shock on simply how much I am unaware of. In a world devoid of textbooks to piggyback on to, there is no start page, no index, no end page and no author to scour for. And that, in all honesty is the most daunting reality I’ve had to face.

In the absence of a guide book to understanding the how’s and the what’s, I’ve found myself coming up short on more occasions than I’d like to admit. We’ve had to bear the burden of being raised in a system that deems you unfit if you are not in the top one percentile, if you seek assistance. I’ve found myself, for days on end, drowning myself with castigation at being so ill-equipped. But here’s the thing- you are your biggest critic. There is no shame in not knowing the answer. There is no shame in the admission that you are wrong. There is no shame in the admission that you need help. As Amanda Palmer rather eloquently puts it, “Just take the fucking doughnut.”

I’m a self-professed non-conformist. What that means? An erratic and largely unpredictable approach to life- be it in my purposeful disdain for cleanliness, punctuality or discipline. For the longest time, I was of the opinion that this rebellion against stability helped define a superiority; my refusal to settle for a life of mediocrity. Fast forward to five years later and I come to the glaring realisation that it is this very discipline I grew up loathing, that is the mark of the superior individual.

Routine is the one of those things I seem to be forever chasing, but in vain. The sudden surge of meetings, deadlines and investing a very large part of your day in a space that isn’t entirely yours to claim when combined with the insecurities that come with having to carve out a space for yourself in the professional realm can get truly overwhelming. In a time of such boundless confusion, my inability to hold onto the small things is one of the things I’ve been finding hardest to come to terms with. To develop discipline- even if it simply means waking up at the same time every morning. Consistency is no longer equivalent with boring, consistency is a milestone, one of the greatest victories of my day when I manage it.

(I’m going to leave an entire body’s length between me and finance because there is enough heartbreak in the world without having to dive into the fiscal vacuum that is your early twenties.)

Discipline, work and time- concepts that I’ve had to grapple with over the past few months but concepts that weren’t completely alien to my primitive understanding of employment. Truth to be told, my entire repertoire of knowledge for what working in an office environment entails was limited to my yearly re-watching of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’. I braced myself for stony silences, pointed glares, castigating sneers at my every move and possibly walking into oncoming traffic. But in a truly pleasant turn of events, art doesn’t necessarily always imitate life, and what I was greeted with instead was some of humanity’s finest.

A wise man named Jim Morrison once said’ People are strange’ and boy was he bang on the money. Support comes from the unlikeliest of places- be it the security guard greeting me every morning with a beaming smile and standing watch at night till I safely get into my car, the cook who coaxes me into eating just one more spoon of kesari while my diet plan dies screaming into a void, the office help who makes it a point to greet me everyday with a salute, the boss who pumps his fist in the air when we meet a deadline on time and last but not least, my colleagues who, in a matter of a few months have become team-mates, fellow soldiers as we go out to battle, and more importantly, friends.

It’s hard not to foster a sense of kinship with people whom you spend close to ten hours a day with. It’s harder still to ignore the bonds that form of them being witness to all your vulnerabilities. A few months back, these faces were the faces of strangers, mere names I had no prior association with and today they are my safety net when shit hits the roof.

I feel I have rambled quite enough for the day so I take leave with some pearls of wisdom for my fellow new employees from the best boss I know, Michael Scott.


No two ways about it.


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