Sitting & Missing

by Jane Moneypenny

First, let’s all breathe a sigh of relief for the passing that is Gustav, but also hope for the best in the communities that got hit badly. It was a tense weekend as I crashed on Mr. Former Harmless Crush’s couch with our laptops and watching the news with bated breath. He finally demanded we get out to take some time away from the doom and gloom, so we ran around Dave & Buster’s Sunday night and forgot about reality for a couple hours.

I left Houston on Monday and moved into Austin; the actual move was short since half my stuff is still in New Orleans. I still feel unsettled since I’m only at my friend’s temporarily until I make enough to move out and closer to work (a 40-minute heavy crawl in traffic to work is not worth the cheap rent and large space). I also have no idea where I’m going in this city and the newly purchased shiny GPS doesn’t ease the discomfort of being completely unaware of Austin’s geography and not knowing anyone.

My first day of work for the second time this year was yesterday. It was the exact opposite of my first day at my last company in February. One of my biggest worries was this “corporate” environment that I’m not used to, but I decided I was up for the challenge of learning more and experiencing outside my comfort zone. And outside my comfort zone it has proven to be.

When I arrived Tuesday morning, the HR woman greeted me warmly and showed me where I would be sitting. Due to the quickly expanding offices of these two companies sharing a space, I was stuck without a cubicle in a lone desk against a window with my back facing the rest of the large room. I hate this position due to sheer paranoia of people popping up behind me (I solved this problem at the last job by placing a little mirror on the wall). But it is what it is and until I find my place in situations, I’m painfully shy and passive. And so I sat. And sat. For an hour doing nothing but skimming over the folder of paper introducing me to the company and the usual computer setups. An hour later, HR lady showed up again and we went through a 30-minute explanation of an even bigger folder of paperwork (another woman started the same day, but was much older and a little cold). Then back to the desk I went. And sat and sat and sat some more.

I guess I was expecting a lunch excursion or a tour of the office or meeting the team, but no one spoke to me or wondered about the new person sitting there. And I kept on sitting there, surfing the web until the hunger pains became excruciating and  encouraging emails from my old office sent me to the streets of downtown Austin looking for food. Of course, not knowing my way around, I wandered for a bit in the 90-degree heat and contemplated running away. The rest of the day was like that; other than a short meeting with the art director to show me some work, I spent the day alone at the desk reading encouraging emails from my old office and trying to tackle the large stack of paperwork. Also, to add to the hilarity of this situation, the art director had incredibly bad breath and body odor. No matter how much I leaned back in the seat or away from him, the smell permeated every breathing space around me.

Of course, there’s the usual comments of, “It’s the first day. It’ll get better” and “Maybe everyone was just very busy” (which is true, due to transitions in the company right now) and “Go talk to someone.” But I’m not kidding when I say I’m seized by a bizarre case of social anxiety in unknown and new situations. No matter how many new things I’ve tried this year, suddenly fixing that problem will not happen. So please don’t tell me to just start talking to people. Everyone’s really busy and due to these transitions this week, everyone’s tensed and stressed. Sitting here alone has made me feel like going to the bathroom and crying (that I couldn’t find for the first half of the day due to no tour of the office). I almost burst out crying yesterday after lunch and it takes a lot to even get to that point of holding back tears. The one person that introduced herself only stopped by after seeing my Greece photos on my desktop background and didn’t realize I was new until the end of the short 2 minute conversation.

I thought day 2 would be better, but here I sit again. I showed up 9am and frankly, I could have arrived hours later and no one would have noticed. I feel horribly homesick for my old job, St. Louis and New Orleans. I miss my giant large cubicle with massive file cabinets and pretty window view. I miss the close-knit environment of my funny co-workers that became like family in the short 4 months I was there. I miss having my boss be like a crazed uncle calling me on the phone whenever the ice cream truck ding-a-linged by. I miss Europe. I miss the feeling of being settled and knowing a city like the back of my hand. I miss having friends around.

But I knew it would be tough when I made this choice. Position-wise, I’m lower a rung, but being paid more. I took it with the idea that I could learn a lot in a bigger company, no matter how much I wasn’t a fan of the “corporate” environment. If anything, it was temporary until something better comes along. It’s not that I regret the choice to take this job/city over the other one; I know it’s the right long-term choice. But I’m not going to lie and say it’s hard not to think “what if?” or desperately crave familiarity.

And food.

P.S. Also, even though the attire of the office is casual with jeans and flip flops, all the girls are dressed incredibly cute. I do not own cute, so I need to go shopping (where the hell is the mall?!), but I have no money! And I need to find an apartment and furniture and move the rest of my stuff. I need to win the lottery.