Just over twelve months ago, I turned up in Chester in a blouse I’d bought especially for the occasion, a pair of black trousers I only wear for funerals, and the jacket my mother bought when she returned from maternity leave in 1996.
In short, I looked out of my depth.
I interviewed for the position. Tech Support. Sounded okay. I fucked up the interview, telling my soon-to-be manager that many pharmaceutical companies are corrupt, and squeeze every penny out of their patients. I probably looked desperate. But so was my manager.
I got the job.
Being fresh out of uni, I wanted to make a good impression. When they asked me to stay late, I did. When they asked me to come early, I did. When I had to work all the bank holidays, I did. I gave up any chance of a social life to make life easier for my boss and my new colleagues.
But it took its toll.
During my summer holiday, I went to the Baltics with my sister. We spent a week hanging out with a friend of mine, wandering through northern Lithuanian countryside, visiting castles and lakes and forests. My friend told me, in no short terms, that my colleagues were taking the piss, and I should start afresh. My parents told me the same. Move in with us. You won’t have to pay rent. Just until you can get back on your feet again. It’s not permanent.
At first, I balked at it. Moving back to the edges of the suburbs, where I had no way of getting around, where I had to rely on hourly buses to get into the next town, where I felt trapped.
And then I went back to work.
It was hell from the moment I walked in.
When one Friday, about a month or so later, a well-meaning colleague turned around on a day we were chronically understaffed, and told me another colleague had written a report for my boss that concluded I was lazy, and implied that he may advocate for my sacking, I made a decision.
On the Monday, the last bank holiday of the summer, I handed my notice in.
I spent all of that morning panicking, messaging my friends, my sister, my mother, some old colleagues, telling them I was scared. I spent over an hour staring at a blank Skype message to send to my boss. When I finally plucked up the courage to ask for a private word, it felt surreal. I’d never quit anything before. It felt just… wrong, somehow. I don’t consider myself a quitter. I never have.
Then, when he came to fetch me, it didn’t go as badly as I’d hoped.
He chatted to me about his weekend, and asked how I was. I told him straight.
“I wanted to let you know I’m resigning.”
Gave him a letter. Told him I needed to find something new. That if I don’t go now, I never will.
He didn’t seem shocked. Said it was a shame. Said if I ever needed a job, to call him, and he’d help me out.
Telling my colleagues was harder. I told three in person, and cried three times telling them. I sent an email to the rest of the team. The emails started coming in. We’ll miss you, we wish you all the best, we hope you enjoy your next adventures. People started saying the team would fall apart without me taking all the bad shifts. Other colleagues told me I was dreaming, that I was throwing away an amazing opportunity. The company had spent a lot on training me, and I was spitting in their faces. Why didn’t I just move to another department?
I had to shrug and tell them I wanted to enjoy being in my twenties.
One evening, as I packed up, Julio stopped me.
Julio and I never always got on. When I started working there, he pushed me as far as he could, until I broke down in the office. After they moved me across the office, we started to get on better. We started to understand each other more. He told me about his life, his kids, his exes, his former jobs. I told him about my life, university, my family. We were on the same level.
And he could read my mind.
“Yeah, so this you leaving thing. Is this because, I don’t know, the pressure’s too much? Like, the call volume, the antisocial hours, nobody gives you a break?”
Got it in one.
“Yeah, you need to try things. You’re young. When I was your age, I had a new job every year.”
I had to hold my tongue to not tease okay, Dad. I knew he was right.
The weeks rolled on. On the Thursday, my boss shook my hand, told me he wouldn’t be back until after I left. Could we do leaving drinks then, maybe? I said I’d see what I could do.
The last few days raced past. I walked in on the Wednesday with a spring in my step. One colleague asked me if I was going to cry, and everyone laughed. I told them no, maybe a bit quickly, maybe sounding a bit too happy. They looked shocked. Julio told me I looked happier, less over-tired.
“You’ve looked kind of burned out for months.” He said, over the tubs of chocolates I’d brought in. “You look a lot happier.”
A colleague escorted me out, took the same bus as me. As she went back to her house, I leaned back in my seat and almost cried.
Yes, right now I’m unemployed. But I’m more than happy to be that right now. Life is on the up.