What is it about that first week back at work after a holiday? I was not looking forward to going back to work. I try to remember other jobs, some that feel like a lifetime ago, when I actually (he says, perhaps wearing rose-tinted glasses) – was quite happy to return to work. To see colleagues, catch up, etc. Now all I feel is that I’m getting back onto the treadmill.
One of the jobs I most enjoyed was as a university student, working one summer in a bookshop in Cambridge (Massachusetts) way back in the mid-90s. By the end of my two days off I would be chomping at the bit to get back to work. Other young people, casual, not much responsibility, quite buzzy dealing with the general public, a place full of books (which we could borrow so long as we brought them back ‘as new’). Those happy, halcyon days.
What am I doing now? Defending next year’s departmental budget from the vultures in finance who are trying to cut it and undermine it. Dealing with complaints from directors about various things for which I am responsible. Struggling with too many projects and an increasing sense that I am ‘stalling’ in post and that so many of the big projects I’d wanted to complete this year remain unfinished. Preparing for the annual tight-rope walk that is the end of year appraisal. Worrying that I may not be able to pull of the New York secondment. I could go on.
Africa was so vibrant, so colourful, so ‘other’. So different to the rather bland and samey world of London professional services and its unrelenting emphasis on maximising shareholder value. I’m now back to a place where people work all hours, look exhausted, moan, etc. It just feels so meaningless. Surely life it so be lived – not simply endured. I’m thinking – not for the first time – that I need to find work I find more meaningful. The corporate world just doesn’t feel it.
If for any reason the New York secondment doesn’t happen – I will leave this job. Of that I am 100% adamant. I really do like the people – a lot – and I’m well looked after. But it’s just not enough.