Part ten in a series exploring my work history, revealing how I ended up working in a library. This post: the cubicle.
By the end of my gap-year in Canada my life had been transformed. I returned home to the UK with something completely unexpected: an American fiancee. It would be more accurate, however, to say that I returned home without my fiancee, since we were now conducting a long-distance relationship (me in the UK, she in the US). Our plan was that after getting married we would live in the US, all we had to do was plan the wedding, get married, and then I would move to America.
So how did this influence my employment? I had just spent a year as an office temp in Canada, and now I was going to continue to be an office temp in the UK, because I didn’t see the point in trying to find a permanent job if I was going to be moving to the US in the near future. I registered again with the employment agency in my home town, and after completing a few short-term placements, I was offered a long-term, temporary job with an international pharmaceutical company.
I worked in a huge open plan office, complete with water dispensers, potted plants, grey carpet, grey desks and grey cubicles. On my first day I decided to have lunch in the staff restaurant; I saw a group of friendly-looking people sitting at a table so I asked if I could join them. They glanced at me, said yes, but then continued to ignore my attempts at engaging them in conversation during the meal. That pretty much set the tone for my time working there; the only person who seemed remotely interested in getting to know me was my supervisor. I gave up on the rest, and quietly kept myself occupied in my little grey cubicle.
It was a miserable year. Only at my lowest ebb, after the sudden death of my best mate, did going to work become slightly positive; it then became a distraction from grief, a way to get through each day. My fiancee and I got married, but had to wait nine months for my visa to be issued before I could join her in America. I was more than happy to kiss this job goodbye. What I learned from this experience: life is too short to stay in a job that makes you unhappy.
Part eleven to follow.