After two years of self-employment I went back into an office. Money had been tight all year and I’d got into a bit of a debt, so I didn’t know what else to do and didn’t want to go through a long recruitment process. I just wanted a quick fix, to go and do something relatively easily to give me space to do my writing and other work in the evenings and weekends.

I called my trusty recruitment consultant that helped me out years ago and within a day she sent me details for an interview at a University that I previously worked at. I’d done a similar type of job in the past twice so I thought it wouldn’t be too much of an ask. I got the job and felt relief that I didn’t have to worry about money for the next few months. At that point I didn’t realise how much going back into an office would affect me.

In the years since I’ve worked there I’ve written a book, got deeply into spirituality and passionate about a variety of things, such as politics, mental health, art, creativity and writing. I have dramatically changed as a person, but within a very short space of time I felt like I’d been dragged back to the past, and that everything that I’d achieved in the meantime meant nothing. Maybe it was seeing the people I used to work with. The office was in a different building, which was full of art. It was like working in an art gallery and I enjoyed that for a while. What I wasn’t ready for was the pace of the work, which was non stop and very process driven. Following procedures. Mainly checking documents and data entry (I probably should have asked more about the nature of the work).  In a way it’s good to have your day fly by and not drag, but it’s not good to struggle to come up for air either. I found myself shrinking to fit in, dimming myself and my personality even though I found some kindred spirits in there who were into the same things as me. I was even doing card readings in my lunch break which helped to keep me sane.

I found the energy and behaviour of some of people I worked with difficult to be around. I didn’t like the way I was spoken to, so I went on high alert for any bullying behaviour or tactics. A few weeks in I went into panic mode. My brain felt like a thick block of wood, and there was a constant heavy feeling in my chest. I found myself going to the ladies’ often to breathe and pray. I began to feel more and more disempowered, I missed my freedom and the lifestyle I’d been living. I hated the routine the most. It was like all of the self-care techniques I’d learned had gone out of the window. The nights got darker and my motivation to exercise and eat well waned, but I managed to pull myself out of it and start doing yoga again and eating more fruit and veg.

I also found it difficult to take typical daily events seriously like ‘fridge management’ being discussed at a meeting, or reading an email telling us that we couldn’t put tinsel around our screens. There seemed to be meetings about meetings and there was too much work and not enough staff. Holidays weren’t being worked out very effectively leaving days when there was barely anyone in the office. Digging below the service there was lots of in-fighting and power struggles, with people bitching about other staff members via Skype and other temps leaving because of bullying tactics. They had obviously tried to improve the ethos of the environment with a pet wall and by sticking encouraging “Yay” signs around the office to celebrate hard work, but it all seemed too little, too late. 

After five weeks, one day I just snapped and told one of the line managers that I had to leave. At least she was a bit sympathetic. I aimed to give a week’s notice but after I’d had the conversation I didn’t get any real sense of relief, so the day after I let them know I wouldn’t be coming back. Then I could start to feel the weight lift from my chest and the fog around my brain disperse.

If I go back to employment, I’ve learned that part time is probably a better idea. I also need to make sure I’m doing something creative to keep me interested. It’s easy to panic and think you need to just take any job to get back on an even keel financially, but take some time to think about how much you’ve changed since you left employment and what type of work you would be happy doing now. Don’t sell yourself short or fail to take into account what you’ve learned since you last worked. 

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