Written By: Nourhan Hesham
There comes a time in a young freelancer’s life where they realize that perhaps an ounce – nay, a morsel - of stability would increase their quality of life. Perhaps this young miserable freelancer is me! I acquired my first full-time office job (please clap.) As a wee teen in the midst of a peculiar communist phase in university, I would scoff at the miserable capital chasers taking the train into the city every day to sit at a desk from 9 to 5 under fluorescent lighting. Not me, I said. Never me, I said. Fast forward to the end of my degree, chasing unpaid invoices, gazing up at a mountainous student loan, I have welcomed 9 to 5’s with big slutty open I-wanna-get-paid arms.
And here I am reader, a couple of months deep at a job in beauty, figuring out how many ways I can describe doe foot lip-gloss applicators. One thing to note about office jobs that no one tells you about is how much it impacts you physically. My garbage post-university body is violently reckoning with rising at the same hour every morning and attempting to loosen the pretzel knots forming in my shoulders. Something about going to a 9 to 5, five days a week, is emotionally, mentally and physically draining. But it’s a phase and an adjustment, and in order to adjust, you need to learn. In order to learn, you need to observe. So, I put on my metaphorical anthologist’s vest and went in.
Below are notes from the field. Hang tight.
1. Everyone rolls into the office around the same time, save for a handful who are there at an ungodly early hour. This excludes a totally different camp that slides through at about lunchtime. This depends on what stage of your career you’re in, which ranges from “I need to put in 110%” to “I dare you to fire me bitch, you don’t own me.”
2. I work in an open concept communal workspace, so I can see more or less everything. As everyone settles into their desk, peculiar substances begin to manifest on their desks. Everything from spirulina and water (the devil’s potion) to protein shakes and a handful of supplements (which I am guilty of gorging because I will ingest anything said to improve the quality of your life.)
3. The prospect of having to imbibe green powder and water is unfathomable to me, so I stick to $5.00 coffee from the café across the street because…I don’t know how to use the Nespresso machine and at this point, I’m too afraid to ask.
4. No matter what you ingest in the morning, all bathroom stalls are full by 11:45AM. There is something cute about a community-based morning shit, as a team. When the stalls aren’t full, people discreetly use the handicap stall or the last stall to the right to do their thing. I pick the middle stall, not out of confidence, but as a power play. Here I am shitting remorselessly in the middle stall, coworkers, hear me roar.
5. Getting familiarized with coworkers can be difficult, especially when you learn that the bearded gentleman with a neck tattoo is actually three different bearded gentlemen with neck tattoos. I retire any effort to make these distinctions.
6. The bathroom thumps like an all-ages nightclub. I complain to the front desk (like a lame, MOM) and she directs me to the person who controls the music. I, drunk with the prospect of attaining such power, begin selecting the finest of Britney Spears’ discography to boom through the loo.
7. Your first few weeks are usually task-less, so I recommend reading countless articles online to feed your brain, and ruminate endlessly on the moment you get fired and how embarrassing it’ll be when you have to pack up your tiny cactus plant.
At the end of the day, this is the place where you spend most of your time. It’s important to make your working space yours, so that you feel comfortable. It is also important to arm yourself with discreet power moves and find a hiding space so that you move through the office invisible and unbothered. Expense everything you can, and leave in no more than two years.