It’s a beautiful Saturday (sunny and cloudless in the middle of January, no less) and yet I’ve been lying in my bed, under three large comforters, all day. I haven’t moved much. My longest journey has been to the kitchen sink to fill my water bottle.
I know it’s a beautiful Saturday because I have my window open just a smidge. The sunshine wants to come in but I’ve given the blinds only about an inch so it doesn’t come slamming into my room and swing hard at my already pounding head.
I’m sick, and on the aforementioned beautiful Saturday, it sure isn’t ideal. However, it’s given me plenty of time to read, skype, write, and do some applications for summer opportunities.
I’m tempted to blame this bout of feeling icky to what I like to call 8 to 5 syndrome. That is, becoming physically ill from the demanding transition to a full-time, 40 hours per week JOB.
Of course, that’s not it. I mean, at least I don’t think it is.
I’m sick with some body aches, headaches, a slight temperature, and the general I-just-don’t-feel-very-good-sort-of-thing.
Thank the good Lord for a comfortable bed. It is doing wonders for me. Being home and sick is a lot different than being sick alone in a foreign country.
I started a job this week. And I am so lucky and grateful to have it! It’s at a wonderful company with really people oriented advisors and leaders. Two people on the leadership team are dear friends for my mom and step-dad and so they are definitely great people to work for.
I work in a fast-paced investment firm that helps people with accounting services, financial planning for the future, tax preparation, and that kind of thing. On my large notepad that I received from the office on my first day, I almost immediately started making a list of “financial language” because seriously y’all, this world incorporates its own sense of jargon, phrases, and linguistics.
Soon, I’ll be speaking about 401K rollovers, cost segregation analysis, investment portfolio reviews, and business valuation as if these are just casual conversational topics. However, in the meantime, I’m just barely trying to stay afloat by absorbing as much as I can. It’s a great learning technique and it’s a darn good thing that I’ve always loved school because in a lot of ways, starting this new job is an educational experience.
More than the words, or the seemingly endless amounts of software programs I will need to be familiar with, it’s quite difficult to get used to this job thing.
I know that sounds, well, weird, but I’m coming off a job that was demanding and difficult in completely different ways. Yes, on paper I only taught 20 hours per week (which at my school, involved even fewer hours) but I was almost always “on”. That is, being so tangibly different and continually trying to fit in took a lot more from me than 20 hours really conveys. On top of that, I spent a lot of my extra time continuing other efforts, like GLOW Club, and making friends, that believe me, were quite taxing. It wasn’t a job in the traditional sense, but a lot of what I was doing in Rwanda was in fact, a job. It was just a strange mixture of work and life, whereas now my work life and everything else is kept quite separate. There’s this transparent but incredibly obvious line; I work from this time until this time and when it’s finished, well that’s when my “other life” begins.
The culture shock continues and now it extends into the way we organize our lives and how we live them out.
The first day of work, this last Monday (also my best friend’s birthday!), I recall walking into the office, on the 4th floor of a multi-use building, nervous and a bit unsure. Be courteous. Be serious. But above all….girl**, be professional.
My office has a glass-door entry way and I entered with a smiling and bright face. I put my coat on the dark mahogany coat rack in the large conference room and got to work right away. I was shown the overly complicated coffee machine, how to place the beans correctly, and that because of the internally located grinder, it will sound like an airplane taking off when you start to brew. Good to know.
Soon after, my training began. I’ll be a receptionist of sorts for this firm, and so this involves scheduling appointments, answering the phone, greeting clients, data-entry, and having an intense understanding of our many clients-whether they have prepared their taxes with us, own a small business and we do their payroll, or if they have investments by way of one of our advisors. I was slightly dizzy when my predecessor was telling me all of this. That was before being shown all of the inter-workings on the computer. There’s a software program for this, and a software program for that, and my goodness, there’s all these clouds and I’m not speaking of the white things in the sky sort of thing. Technology is crazy, y’all. There’s a certain process to transfer calls and you better communicate primarily through email; there will be as few interruptions for our advisors as possible. They are busy. My goodness, everyone is so busy.
Each day got a little better and a little less confusing but I remain confident that this will be a pretty hard job for me.
This, coming from someone who was most recently employed by the government to go live and integrate into a rural African village. But seriously. We’re all different, right?
The good news there is a lot to know and I think I could learn some pretty valuable things from this company. As of late, I’ve developed a strong interest in microfinance and lending and social enterprise (perhaps from some great books I’ve read, like: The International Bank of Bob and Rwanda Inc. and from reading on Kiva by recommendation from Rachel, which is a non-profit, microfinance institution) and while this particular company doesn’t focus on these things, being immersed in some realm of the financial world is a good place to start.
My first day as a teacher in Rwanda was shocking too, you know. That time around I was a bit overwhelmed by the obvious lack of things. I couldn’t believe the kinds of classrooms I was in. I didn’t understand how I was supposed to teach with just a piece of chalk. This was really it? Most of all, I thought to myself, “how in the world did I get here? And TEACHING? Seriously? I can’t be a teacher…I am not qualified…” But after two years, I did it. It’s probably a bit debatable as to what I actually taught, but I did it and that’s what matters.
So sure, starting this whole 8 to 5 business is really hard. And it’s different. And it adds to all the strangeness of coming back to America. But it’s a starting point and it will pay the bills and it will fill my time as I continue this whole process of coming home.
The adjustment will never end, I’m beginning to think. And that’s okay. It’s just the way it is.
I’m planning a bit for the future in learning more about some potential exciting opportunities. And for now, I’m doing the “8 to 5 thing” and getting by, being crazy and working out at 5:00am, and just trying to show up and do the best I can.
It’s crazy to jump from a job where I was working with people who are some of the poorest in the world and then sifting through files that may have touched the wealthiest of the wealthy, so to speak.
I’m sure I’ll process that. Someday. Eventually. Maybe.
But for now, I’m just going to watch some Parks and Recreation, drink more Emergen-C, and get in tip-top shape for Monday. No time to be sick. After all, on Monday it’s back to the grind and the “8 to 5 thing” all over again.
**I should note here that one of the greatest challenges I am having in “being professional” is limiting my use of “girl” at work. It’s not easy. It slips all the time. And to be sure, it’s quite embarrassing. It’s a work in progress.