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Take me back to Armadillo…. 21, August 2006

Posted by babychaos in Grumpy Old Bag.

I’m out of sorts today, experiencing one of those crap, lethargic mornings when you can’t be arsed to do anything, even though there’s lots to do. It could be the fact that my entire neighbourhood is obscured by a miasma of greasy rain and the statutory accompanying darkness. Or it could be because I’ve had 30 e-mails only three of which were to me – and even they were round robins from people like iTunes and Amazon. The other 27 were from people I’ve never even heard of with names like Milton Truncated offering me crap financial advice, dodgy loans, fake watches and pills; pills that don’t work to make me lose weight or little blue pills to make my willy stay stiff which might work were it not for the fact that I AM A GIRL, therefore, I don’t have a willy.

It’s when I’m like this that I really miss working, working full-time, I mean, for other people. I would have had an in-box crammed full of interesting e-mails from friends, colleagues and associates, this morning. Nobody would be offering me shite I don’t want although a couple might be warning me to watch out for slippery floors and broken lavatory lights in some far flung premises somewhere else. Nonetheless, I was wired then – even though I never actually managed to earn as much as Mr Babychaos pays in tax. I was up for it and there was never time to feel lethargic. My head was always buzzing with ideas and I hit the ground running every day. I had to because there was so much to do. I loved my old job. It gave me direction. It gave me kudos and it gave me myself. Oh dear! Perhaps I’m having a mid-lifer.

No that’s not right, I’m only 38 so it’s at least two years before I hit the danger zone but today I do miss my job. I miss it keenly. It’s stupid because I only ever had one full time job which fired me up in a 13 year career! All the others were crap or temporary. But now when I think of what going back to work would be like the pink, fluffy Cartland zone of my brain takes over and I’m certain sure that every day would be like the good bits of the best one….

Never mind the fact I’m not actually qualified to apply for a job like my old one – no experience doesn’t count, or at least, not unless you don’t have any, then it does. Never mind the fact that there are only a handful places in the UK where a job like that exists – the nearest and previous one, the one I couldn’t return to, being 100 miles away from where I live already. Never mind the fact that if I went back to work now I’d have to go in at the bottom and work up again – mostly for people who would regard any achievement on my part as a threat to their position rather than as a testimony to their motivational skills. Never mind that my colleagues and I literally (but in a thoroughly platonic sense, I assure you) loved each other and that doesn’t happen everywhere. Never mind the fact it’s a non starter! I still wonder…

I suppose everyone, in their lives, has moments where they know that this is one of the GOOD BITS. Where they are at the top of their game. In some ways I’m having one now – nobody deserves to be as happily married as I am right now. It hasn’t always been like this and I live in fear that somebody somewhere will realise I don’t deserve it and it’ll all go horribly wrong – but the professional one, that was definitely a few years back now. Doubtless I’ll have another at some point but right now that seems a long way away. It was my last job. A job I did for four years from 1998 until 2002. I started off in top 10 company in my field as the marketing manager for their group. I don’t know how I got there, I was working for an academic institution in a position just a couple of rungs lower than ear wax on the hierarchical ladder, then suddenly, having applied in desperation for a job way out of my league I get it! I’m given more responsibility, more money and a much ritzier mobile phone than my old boss’s boss. Ah it was peachy! The people I was working for were way, way smarter than me but they’d worked up from the bottom. They didn’t have degrees and they didn’t have any pretensions either. To them, being “professional” was about being able to do your job nothing more, nothing less. Working life wasn’t a competition to see who could be the most po faced. It was a tough industry and the only way through it was as a team. It was a hard job delivering a service to an unforgiving public which they were predisposed to dislike before they started… We did our best and they treated us like crap but we didn’t care because we were a team and we neutralised their scorn with our humour. Mostly bitchy. Mostly about them.

It got better. After two years I moved on, through acquisition by another company, to be a product manager with the kind of multi-national all but 2% of the population Britain have heard of. They’re as ubiquitous to British life as rainy beach holidays in Worthing or dog pooh in parks only not quite as popular. Somebody even wrote a pop song about them. It got to number 4. Nice work if you can get it. I stayed there for two years, survived two changes of MD but fell foul of the usual Machievellian shenanigans surrounding the arrival of a third. Not before the MD of the entire division had told his junior managers that I embodied everything he wanted from a manager and an employee… four days afterwards to be precise. Oh well… he did say I was “going places” but I hadn’t thought to take him literally.

I looked at the job market but it was the usual story for my locale… would I like to work twice the hours for half the salary oh and of course a phd in biosciences was required… do I have maths o’level? No. Do I want to work in the notoriously principle-free area of drugs marketing? (Legitimate drugs, obviously) No! Especially not after all those e-mails. I’d had a job doing something worthwhile where I believed I was making a difference. Geez I was pretentious back then.

So I took a year out, and then somebody asked if I could help them with some marketing advice and before you know it, I’d started my own business. I have two now. I also paint but I still miss the camaraderie of REAL work.

Then there’s this personality, mine. It provokes such different reactions in people when I say what I do…. For years, it was plain to me that everyone thought I was a bit la la and a bit thick, albeit in an amusing and friendly way. My own worst enemy. Never going to get anywhere unless I buckled down, never trust your business to a clown etc etc. In some ways this is an advantage, people tell me stuff they’d never tell anyone else because they think I’m too thick to remember, which of course, I do, like an elephant because it’s gossip but on the whole it’s galling. Then I got my ritzy job and when I said what I did I could see them thinking, blimey! She’s outrageous and makes jokes and yet in spite of that she’s half way up a multi-national she must be smucking fart! They didn’t know I worked in an industry – the only industry, it would seem – where pragmatism, realism and a sense of humour are considered a GOOD thing! And now I don’t work for a multi-national any more. It’s the same brain, the same me and the same personality but now when I tell people what I do without the household name in there I can see them thinking “la-la can’t possibly be any good at it” all over again. Mr Babychaos doesn’t, thank god, but everyone else does. For example; I did some work on subcontract as part of a package. The agency paid me but to the client I was a freebie.

“I didn’t want you to work for us at all, I thought it’d be a waste of time and that you were bound to be useless… now I am amazed. I could never have done this in a million years.” Their MD told me. Adding, “this stuff is really, really good.”

Thank you. I think.

It’s kind of frustrating…. being “professional” is so often confused with not having a sense of humour… It makes me sad and it makes me want to go back to an environment – the right kind of environment, I believe – where being good at your job was what counted and nobody gave a toss about anything else.

I miss having to work with people and having to enlist their help and cooperation on a human level – not by being a humourless automaton – to get results. I miss being told I’m smart by people with brains the size of planets who, incidentally, can also boil a kettle. I miss the crap jokes, I miss being perennially teased in just about the most un PC manner possible by people I am absolutely sure of…… I miss working with people who would lie down in traffic for me and the knowledge that I would do the same for them. I want to go where it’s simple and cut and dried and I don’t spent three weeks negotiating my rate for one day’s work. Where the work is all “found” for me. Where I don’t have to look for work, I don’t have to motivate myself, I just go in and it’s there, waiting to be done and when I’ve finished, everyone thinks it’s great.

I want to go where the people I’m working for are down to earth and honest and say what they think. Where they won’t be “unhappy” with what I’ve done, refuse to pay me and yet be “happy” to use the “sub-standard” corporate puff I wrote them, word for word, in every piece of marketing material they produce about their company for the next three years. I want to work where there’s an air of mutual admiration between myself an my colleagues like some kind of exclusive put-upon pointy brained people’s club…. where I am part of the establishment so I can be as outrageous as I like because people know I have to be brainy just to be there! Where I’m doing something that counts, where it’s brilliant…..

And here comes the reality check.

In the last 18 months I’ve had two knee operations a miscarriage and a car accident. Sometime in the next 12 months I may need another knee operation. When I realised I was going to have to have some knee surgery I decided to put off looking for another job until it was finished. I was going into limbo but at the time I saw it as strictly temporary. When you factor in eight months or so of appointments and phaffing around before the first op, a six month wait for the second one and a 12 month recuperation period before my final evaluation after which I may be discharged or may have to wait another six months for another op you begin to appreciate that’s a long, long time to be in limbo. Two years so far. Longer than I thought. I’m two thirds in but I don’t do limbo well.

There’s quality of life, too. The amount of holiday I’d get each year in a normal job does not compute with that of my husband. Then there’s potential families, yes, we’re waiting to start trying for a baby – that’s in limbo, too… at least until after our holiday.

I was honoured and blessed to have that job but even then I was torn between loyalty to work and loyalty to Mr Babychaos, or more exactly, my lack of ability to be able to go on holiday at the drop of a hat the way he often likes to. I can’t believe my luck that I kept it up for so long… but nowhere else would be the same. I could never go back, it would never be like that and somewhere else might be a lot less accommodating about holidays than even they were.

I know that’s true and I know that working for myself is the right thing to do because right now I’m spending too much time on crutches or one leg to work for anyone else – putting aside the fact that if we managed to make a baby I wouldn’t want to. I have to work for me because it’s the only way I can have any kind of career but I don’t do limbo well and I miss the easy uncomplicated nature of having a job. I wish I could have spent the last 2 years working for somebody else, not scraping a living between bouts of surgery. I hear Mr Babychaos talking to his colleagues and see how close they are, I remember what it was like for me and all the stuff I was learning which I have less opportunity to learn now and I’m jealous. I guess it’s as simple as that.



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