New job. Pandemic. The mere fact that the two words are uttered in the same breath brings crushing pressure to be endlessly grateful for the opportunity. But, while being offered a job as thousands lose theirs is certainly an immeasurable privilege, for many that’s where the rainbows and smiles stop.
Starting a new job during a global pandemic against the backdrop of the elusive new normal is, well, really fucking hard. It’s especially hard when you’re doing so in Melbourne; the city currently under the strictest lockdown measures in the entire world.
Firstly, there’s the gratitude. The underlying feeling that you’re not allowed to find anything hard, because you’re one of the lucky ones. You got an opportunity, you got a new role, others have it so much worse. Meeting the required quota of gratitude and humility is a full time job for your mental health in itself, before we even dig into the logistics of actually starting a new job from behind a laptop screen.
Then comes the interactions with your coworkers. If you’re introverted and a little bit awkward like I am (not to mention being perpetually uncool and forever in fear of being outed as a die hard Westlife fan who’s never been to a festival or taken recreational drugs or really enjoyed “gigs”) you’ll understand the emotional pressures of trying to ‘fit in’ while working from home.
It’s trying to talk enough but not too much. It’s never really being certain if anyone heard you or if you offended someone or if you’re even talking about the same thing. With everything happening on Zoom, there are no first day welcome pleasantries, no office orientation, no lunch chats, no proper introductions. Not being able to read body language, make eye contact or really have any sense of who the heck anyone is – or show who the heck you are – makes it really difficult to connect.
Of the twenty one working days I’ve spent employed in my new job (it’s a part time position, 3 days a week), I’ve cried at least once on about 15 of them. No, I’m not exaggerating.
Is it because the people are horrible? No. Is it because the work is too hard? No. Is it because I miss my old company? No. Well, maybe a little bit. But mostly it’s just because it’s a lot.
A lot of forever wondering if you’re doing okay. Of trying to act professional yet friendly yet a part of the team. Of not getting any kind of physical sense of where you fit in, of not knowing how people are really reacting to what you’re doing and saying.
And let’s not forget this is all happening in your own little head, while the rest of your life (aka the sweet, sweet relief from the emotional turmoil) is confined to 45 square metres of home. There’s no popping round to a friend’s house to debrief. No going for a walk after work to decompress because god forbid you break the once-a-day rule. No blowing off steam at the gym. No after work drinks with coworkers where you get a bit too drunk and have ‘the conversation’ that renders you best work pals for life from there on out (and no, Zoom drinks do not count and only add to the aforementioned anxiety). Add to that the fact that everyone else in your social media feeds in other cities around Australia and the world is enjoying restaurants and bars and seeing family and having people over. It sucks more than just a little bit.
Ultimately, of course it’s great to have landed a new role during the Coronavirus pandemic. I truly am incredibly grateful. But if you too have changed jobs during this weird old time, it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. It’s rough, it’s a lot, it really flares up anxieties old and new.
Feel it. It’s okay.