Back in the race

It has begun again. After 12 days away from the chaos of the real world — and 5 days in the organized chaos of Saigon — I’m back at work. The first week of my new job has just sailed by, and it has been a slightly strange, but enlightening, five days, probably because this is only my second job ever in this country and I have only the one job — which I ended up hating — to compare it with. I didn’t have very much to do this first week; nevertheless, it gave me an opportunity to sit quietly and take in everything I saw and heard around me.

The most immediate, and therefore shallow, observations that I have been able to make so far are:

  1. My office is very quiet. At my old job, the environment I was in was utter pandemonium all the live long day, which I could only successfully shut out by stuffing my earphones into my ears and turning up the volume of my music. Now, it’s so quiet that everyone’s cell phones seem to be silenced, with beeping heard only when messages are received. That, in turn, has compelled me to turn off the ringer of my own phone too, and to shut myself in a meeting room when I want to make phone calls, which can be very frustrating for someone who spouts profanity as often as I do.
  2. People are mostly left to their own devices, as they are out of the office most of the time and speak to one another usually only when it’s work-related. This is a stark change in my eyes, and it struck me the hardest because at my old job, the lack of efforts to socialize and participate in office banter would typically result in one being labelled a snob and branded an outcast.
  3. There will always — always — be at least one person in every company who is capable of leaving such a strong impression on even the newest employee that they know right off the bat how much or how little they want to interact with this person. At my old job, I ended up labelling one such person most accurately as a social climber. I hope with all my might never to have to go to such extremes again.
  4. Lunch hour is taken most seriously here — so seriously, in fact, that when people aren’t out taking exactly one hour to have their lunch, they’re spending it in the office, eating at their desk, or appearing not to even eat at all. This is another aspect that struck me as odd, because at my old job, everyone took at least two hours for lunch, and each didn’t care if the other lived or died on the way back to the office.
  5. Companies that need to hire third-party groups to handle their events and public relations matters are generally the most disorganized, as I very quickly saw for myself entering into this job. This is inadvertently a nod to my previous company, which did everything in-house and still managed to get it right most of the time (score-fudging on The Star‘s part notwithstanding, but that’s for another post).
  6. Getting thrown into the deep end of the pool and having to flail around until you break the surface — otherwise known as ‘learning the hard way’ — is still the best (and most common) way to go. I flailed at my old job, and I’m flailing now.

This is so similar and yet so different from what I did in my previous job, not so much because of what I’m doing, as the way I’m learning to do it. The kind of life doing what I do now will definitely be difficult, but I’m already beginning to see that it may be the closest to what I needed to regroup myself and resume the journey down this inconceivably winding road towards figuring out the difference between what I want to do and what it is I’m really good for (the latter of which probably isn’t much, but it’s still worth trying to find out) — and hope I don’t fall flat on my face again this time.

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