Ladies who Lunch

The Guilt.

It’s been an odd time at work recently. Quite honestly, if it had been like this all the time I maybe would have made more of an effort to stick at my job.

This is what my week looked like recently:

On Monday and Tuesday the manager left at around 3pm, leaving the rest of the team rudderless. On Wednesday I worked my contracted hours; 9.30am to 5.30pm with a solid hour for lunch. In thirty four months in my job, I don’t remember ever working just my contracted hours. The concept of a lunch “hour” still seems slightly bizarre. On Thursday my manager announced “It’s too hot to work. I’m going home to work in the garden. You can do whatever you like.” On Friday my manager took the day off, and told me not to bother coming into work at all.

All of which gave me plenty of time for filling out job application forms. Right? Wrong.

On Monday and Tuesday I beavered away, studiously filling out each section of an application form. It was quite interesting… to begin with. By Wednesday night I was bored. Starting on another application form was an exhausting thought. Each one has to be tailored, which should stave off the boredom, but because each form is so similar, there’s nothing new to keep my interest levels piqued.

So on Thursday afternoon, I had time to spare and I knew that I should get down to the next application. Of course, first of all I have to make lunch. And while you’re making lunch, you may as well cook up a batch of meals. For economy, you know. Then, well, I do deserve a rest, maybe I should have an hour ‘off’. After all, it’s not that often it’s 30ºC in Britain, so I should probably make the most of the sunshine, shouldn’t I? I’ll just sit out in the sun for a bit and then I’ll definitely get on. I wonder when I’ll next get time to go running. I should probably head out now. I never had the time when I was working long hours, so I should make the most of the free time I have now to run. Oh dear, now where did that afternoon disappear to?

Time for cooking...
Time for cooking…
"Working" in the garden
“Working” in the garden

The novelty factor is fun; having time to cook from scratch, to enjoy the rare sunshine, to go for a run. I get so much pleasure and enjoyment from these procrastinating activities.

BUT. I have a cloud of guilt. It’s hovering just above my head. I catch sight of it throughout the day; it’s just within my eye line. I’m unbelievably grateful to everyone who has offered me a place to stay while I’m unemployed. I’m so thankful to everyone who has expressed support. But now I’m (whisper it) enjoying myself, I feel bad. After all, I’m supposed to be hard up and miserable… aren’t I? By not spending every spare minute I have working on job applications I am abusing the kindness of my hosts and loyalty of my supporters.

In my own mind I feel I should be punished for not sticking at that stupid job. It’s just a lack of determination that resulted in me leaving, so I don’t deserve to enjoy myself. It’s the moral thing to work, to play your part in society, to contribute by paying your taxes. I chose to leave my job, ergo I should be penalised for not doing the moral thing, not playing my part in society, and for relying on rather than contributing to the social security system.

Perhaps, in a twisted way, the very kindness and generosity I’ve been shown has encouraged my inertia. I don’t have the spectre of homelessness or abject poverty, because my family and friends wouldn’t allow it. So I’ve lost the urgency I felt before.

In true twenty-first century style, though, I can’t feel total guilt, because I feel “entitled”. In this instant gratification society, where anyone can become a celebrity not by “doing” but by “being”, we have almost lost the notion that good things don’t come for free. I’ve taken exams every single year since 1999. I’ve been through a hothouse private school and worked flat out through four years of university, followed by three years in a high pressured corporate environment, studying alongside long hours chained to the office desk. Then again, all I’ve done is followed my life’s path; I didn’t feel like I had any other option, I just did it. It wasn’t a hardship to be educated in a privileged institution, to study for a degree I loved or get well paid for a job I didn’t enjoy. Was it?

Corporate Girl
Corporate girl…
Tea and Ibuprofen
… hard at work

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