Earlier this year I took voluntary redundancy from my job working in marketing. I had joined the company back when I was in my twenties, and was now clearly the oldest person in the office. Now I’m lucky enough to have a fab role as part of the Selfish Mother team, but this year has also been about trying new avenues. Anyway I spent the first two months feeling fairly elated but then this rapidly turned into shock as I realised that I’d become institutionalised in my office role. When my computer stopped working, I handed it to the IT guy, when I didn’t understand something, I asked a colleague. There was unlimited stationary, staples and office supplies. There was free tea and coffee. A free breakfast once a week and an annual trip where they took everyone away and they all got very drunk in a nice hotel.
At the same time I’d also read loads of articles about freelance life – how it was great to be your own boss and shape your own destiny and I’d also seen images on Instagram of women typing up their novels whilst lying next to the pool or going to exciting events to network with other freelancers. Yet after six months, I found my freelance life wasn’t what I’d thought it would be. I spent an inordinate amount of time washing, trying to locate socks that had gone missing and chasing an obese cat out of the house that tried to take up residence. I also listened to ‘Women’s Hour’ and tried to decide what I would make for dinner. I began reading the Lidl brochure to see what the special range would be each week- would it be Polish dumplings again? Or a Mexican theme? I started texting friends to let them know in advance. I cleaned more than is normal for me. I mainly got emails from Muddle Puddles and Joules.
I guess you could say the honeymoon period was officially over and I was worried.
The thing is there were and are a lot of things I hated about modern office life. I hated the way we were forced to say the word AWESOME many times. I hated the overuse of the word COOL for things that were blatantly NOT COOL. I also hated the orange cube that they threw at people whenever there was a company meeting- this cube was a ‘fun microphone’ that was used to terrorise people in public – to essentially put you on the spot but in COOL AWESOME way.
But any-hoo, that is all water under the bridge now and more time has passed. I’ve come to realise there were plenty of good things too, things that I only really miss now they’re gone. Here’s five. They are the things that you take for granted and don’t really notice until they’re gone.
1. Talking a lot about TV programmes and celebrities
I think if I added up all the time I spent talking about TV shows at work, then it was probably about eight months. And what about celebrity gossip? It’s impossible to talk to your partner about Kim Kardashian’s surrogate baby because he’s not interested right? So now I talk to myself or the cat (not the obese one but my own cat who is very intelligent and has the same taste in TV as me and is feeling conflicted about the surrogacy for some reason).
2. Making an effort with my clothes
I used to really enjoy getting dressed for the office. I was surrounded by young, trendy women and I admit- I liked getting their approval if I wore something cool. Okay some of the stuff was maybe age inappropriate (I once wore a boiler suit with badges on it that made me look like a KWIK FIT FITTER) but being surrounded by young, happening people forced me to push the envelope.
‘I’ve noticed you wear dungarees a lot now,’ one of my friends said to me recently, ‘You’ve joined the ‘stay at home brigade”.
And she’s right. Dungarees are practical and have become my MUM UNIFORM but I miss those days of walking across the office and feeling like I was in a fashion show (even if some people were laughing behind my back).
3. Eating nice food in nice places
When you work at home then lunch is less exciting. Sometimes it’s a few leftover spaghetti hoops, other days it’s baked beans on toast in front of Loose Women (this has become one of my guilty pleasures- a half hour break watching Janet Street Porter being rude about everyone). In the past I went to LEON. I spent much of my morning in the office debating about whether it would be LEON or PRET. I miss that aioli sauce. I miss those cheese and tomato croissants. There isn’t a LEON anywhere close to my house and it’s just too expensive anyway (and yes I realise I’m coming across as a complete luxury, spoilt brat but humour me please?)
4. Good gossip
I need a bit of gossip now and then. The local gossip in our hood is non-existent – at least the gossip in the office was GOOD. A colleague snogging another colleague at the Christmas party, an argument over an appraisal gone wrong in the pub, somebody with octopus arms being reprimanded by HR. Now the only bit of gossip I’ve heard is that one of my neighbours is a ‘bit grumpy’ and has a ‘grumpy face’. Nobody knows why this is but two people have told me. Also there is apparently a squirrel that is terrorising the local cat population (but I think this might be the aforementioned obese cat).
5. Being in the cut and thrust of the BIG SMOKE
So I live in the suburbs of London and so rarely get into the centre anymore. I tend to move inside the same little quadrant- the local cafe, the school, the park and home. When I worked in an office I strode about like a proper city girl and didn’t stare at people in strange clothes. Now when I go into town, I behave like my Gran used to and I say WOW a lot and also point out the ‘massive buildings everywhere.’ I also bump into people because I’ve slowed down and no longer have that street wise London thing where you just zoom about like a mad thing.
So there you go. If you’re in an office job and hate it then maybe appreciate these little things a bit more. Sitting at home, at my kitchen table, the obese cat head-butting the cat flap and I miss that office.
Not enough to go back but then again that’s another story…