Saturday, March 15, 2014

the real world

Last Monday I got off one stop earlier on the subway and looked up at my new office building.  It's brown, which can go either way, but in this case the right way.  It was probably built in the 80's.

My former co-worker made a joke implying that I would need help navigating the "real world".  In my former job, which apparently was not the real world, I was a consultant who spent much of his time looking out the window of his office building at the other office buildings, wishing he was in one of them.  I'm glad that's not the real world.

The real world, my world now, is a polished brown stone office building, an isosceles triangle capped by a semicircle, resembling an ice cream cone with one miserly scoop.  There is a conference room at the vertex of every floor affording a panoramic view of perhaps 300 degrees.  I sit right where the cone meets the ice cream, in a small but adequate office.  There is a large window behind me that looks out at the street and several other buildings.  The office sits just off a wide hallway with four chairs arranged in a square, and while the office wall is glass, I keep the door open anyway.  When people arrive in the morning, everyone who works in the cone and people in the northern part of the scoop enter through the doors across from my office.  I do a lot of waving.

In the real world, people say good morning to each other.  At my last job, saying good morning to someone was the exception rather than the rule.  I'm the kind of person who prefers to say good morning, which reinforces the fact that I probably belong in the real world.

At my old job, I arrived anytime I liked on most days (although I usually arrived early).  Similarly, when things were slow <insert coughing fit with many of the coughs sounding suspiciously like I'm saying the word "always">, I was free to leave anytime that I liked.  (It would have been frowned upon if someone higher up noticed I was often gone at 5:45, but most of the time no one checked).

After arriving anytime I liked, I could do pretty much anything I wanted for most of the day.  At the same time, I was under immense pressure to record on my timesheet that at least six hours of the day were being spent doing things in furtherance of something which our clients had engaged us to do.  Although no-one really checked that I was doing the things I put on my timesheet, I had to at least consider the unlikely possibility that a client (or a manager) would spend more than two seconds looking at the bill and consider whether the activity for which I had billed two hours was in fact worthy of those two hours.  I also had to consider the even more remote possibility that the client would add up all the hours I was spending on a particular activity over the course of weeks, or even months, and wonder the same thing, so I had to be very careful with what I recorded.

Admittedly, this could be read as an admission, which would reflect poorly.  I would prefer it if you read this as a narrative of how a person spends their time when they are not living in the real world.  Also, you will note that I have been very careful - almost as careful as I was with my time sheets - not to actually admit to anything, only tell you about what I had to consider and be worried about on a day to day basis.  Due to my overly cautious nature, I may admit a thing or two eventually, but not now.

I am a bit nervous about the real world.  In my prior job, personal relationships were far less important than the work itself on a day to day basis.  Everything I have read about the real world implies that here, personal relationships are of equal or greater importance.  I hope that my time as a consultant, which translates to someone who spends their whole day alone in their room doing homework, hasn't exacerbated my Aspergers to the point where I am going to have difficulty maintaining human relationships.  I think I'll probably be fine.

I just added the word "probably".  Thank goodness I can deal with those awkward stops and starts in this posting, and hopefully avoid being equally awkward in real life.  I just added the word "hopefully".  (Kidding).

There are several things that those living in the real world have to worry about that those living outside the real world do not.  (Lawyers, you may want to consider these things).   This includes one's health, a social life, the daily commute, the timing of one's poop breaks, and the inability to take a meandering walk for two hours in the afternoon as long as you bring your cell phone.  As a consultant, most of these things, such as your commute, and poop breaks, are done randomly, at odd hours.  Not so for the real world.  A social life is now something to cultivate, rather than something synonymous with "go to the bar".  Health, that thing that non-real-world dwellers are aware of but don't give much thought to, is suddenly on your list as "something to maintain".   The list could go on.

The thing which I most appreciate, even after just a week, is that I am no longer doing work that is essentially homework.  There will be some of that, but there will also be group work, which means human interaction, and the chance to delegate a task to someone else :)  (as well as all those good things that come with human interaction, like sanity).

I'm glad I've moved to the real world.  I have no regrets.  I know there will be new types of stresses I had previously not been aware of, but I will manage it.  I will not miss time sheets.  And most importantly, at the end of the day, I will not miss boredom.

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