I survived my job with pills
When I told people I had a job, instead of asking me what it is I was doing, they'd just say, "Wow!"
I try not to take this personally. Jobs and sunshine are rumoured to be on short supply in London. To the general population, any job is now considered a good one, so long as it pays.
That's not been my experience though. It's been relatively sunny and warm since I arrived, and I've been working as a Marketing/PR Assistant for exactly a month – exactly the same amount of time I've been letting this blog slide. I feel guilty, so please let me explain how I've allowed this to happen.
The short version involves me popping ibuprofen like Skittles and fighting the urge to lie down on the office floor in the fetal position. I beleieve, in the animal kingdom, that's called "learned helplessness". It's what impalas do when they're tired of running from the lions.
The long version involves me working for the most intense person I've ever encountered – even more intense than the Zapatista rebels in balaclavas who interviewed me to decide whether to allow me onto their reclaimed land in southern Mexico. Even more intense than the Cuban officials who interrogated me for two hours to determine whether I was a literary threat to the state, or a sun-seeking booze hound. And even more intense than my mother while she's cooking Christmas dinner.
Intense. And just as committed to the cause.
In this new job – my first real job in England – I worked for a life coach, a Cambridge-educated psychologist, a BBC reality TV presenter, an ex-Playstation advertising executive, a serial entrepreneur and a leader of a social innovation movement that's meant to change the world. Normally, working with a team like that would thrill me. But it wasn't a team. It was one guy. One guy, and I was his one assistant.
I was the 666th person to enquire about the job. Looking back, that may have been the first sign of what would come. My first day was the second sign. Following a 5-minute briefing in the shadow of Westminster Abbey, I was to memorise a list of tongue-twisted jargon I was quite sure no one would grasp, in the time it took to walk across London Bridge to our meeting. Thirty-six days in the country and I was about to mingle with mid-level MPs and quasi-celebrities at a televised Channel 4 event. Basically, flirting for funding. Every key word I remembered to use elicited a similar, "Sorry?"
That's when I realised I'd jumped – head first into London, and slightly more metaphorically off the London Bridge.
Since then, I've done everything from copy editing a motivational manual, hiring and firing suppliers, re-branding a product two weeks before its launch, writing copy for everything and acting as a sounding board about the trials of being a new husband, new father and entrepreneur. It's been a challenging experience, not because anything I've had to do was difficult, but rather because it was not humanly possible to meet deadlines tighter than American Apparel leggings. And it's hard to admit I'm human.
Working for a professional life coach means emotional sharing is part of the job description. He arranged the seating so that we faced each other all day long, never more than a metre apart, to allow a free flow of 'energies' between us. Energy, in plural. Toward the end, my 'energies' started getting so thick, you could cut them with a metaphysical knife.
As a coach, he expected his motivational tactics to help me accomplish more and more each day. Soon, 12-hour days weren't enough to keep up. So on occasion, I'd try to get a couple of hours in before heading to work for 9:00, where I'd remain until at least 6:30.
But that was just the first problem. My boss wasn't just a coach, he was a psychologist, which means I also began feeling like an office case study. Then, I began having to squish my 'energies' over to make more room for the elephant ego in the room, as is to be expected when working with a successful ex-ad exec. Because he is a serial entrepreneur, everything should've been done already, and exactly the way he's always done it. Every passing second is a second farther away from the deadline: yesterday. And more than that, working for a TV presenter requires grinning and bearing it all, and looking pretty no matter what.
He is a self-proclaimed leader of a social innovation movement, and as this experience just confirmed, I'm still not much of a follower.
So yesterday, I cleared my head of London's favourite past-time – the favourite after looking at page-3 boobs in public, discussing celebrities like they're close relations, emotionally investing in football, worrying about getting the last Tube home before midnight, and recycling tired jokes about Canadian English – and that's recession fear-mongering. I cleared my head, and I resigned.
"I think I'm gonna "peace out"," is precisely what I said.
As soon as I did, I knew it was the right decision. My 'energies' were pissing him off anyway. But I learned a lot during that intense second month in London, including a bit of wisdom from my now former boss, and I am going to "imagine beyond my imagination" what to do next.
Right now, that involves an icy cold beer in a sunny backyard in North London.
This is what the air traffic-heavy sky looks like every day in London, whether you can see it through the clouds or not. Quite often I remember what it felt like to land in Heathrow for the first time, wondering what might be ahead. The love part's going well. The job part? I could use a little help.