Furlough and the Dread of Back to Work

Sounds like a horrible Harry Potter book for grown-ups, doesn’t it.

I don’t yet know when I’ll be called back to work. They only have to give a couple of days’ notice. The shop I work in opened its doors on June 15th, but only a handful of staff have been asked to go back so far, so they can see how it goes: will enough customers venture out to shop to make it worthwhile?

There have been plenty of down sides to lockdown (let alone the pandemic as a whole), but just in terms of being at home and not constantly around other people? Well, I’ve… really enjoyed it.

In fact, it’s made me realise just how exhausted my life was making me feel (as I’ve mentioned before). I couldn’t remember the last time I didn’t feel tired. Constantly constantly tired. A good day was just tired, a bad day was exhausted and tearful, falling asleep on breaks and on the bus.

Now, I exchange a few social normals with my neighbours if I see them, which is rarely, and that’s it. Everything else is WhatsApp and occasional phone calls from family. And interacting on Facebook and Twitter, but that’s different. It doesn’t have that “weight” that everyday face-to-face human interaction has. You can’t pause for 10 minutes to think of a reply when the person’s right in front of you, mid-conversation.

I’ve also been enjoying having time to devote to the activities I like. I’m doing a lot of research on autism etc, part of which is spending more time around ND people on Facebook and Twitter, and I’m learning a lot from that.
I’m also doing some online courses to learn new skills. I love doing these courses, but obviously I’m normally exhausted by the time I get home after work. The dream would be to pick up a skill that means I wouldn’t have to go back at all…

For years I told myself the same story:

I finished university and spent the summer at my parents’ house. I had all the time I needed to set up as an artist or designer, or to learn a skill for work, and I didn’t. I carried on doing the same kind of low-level design work I’d done through uni to keep me afloat, and by the end of the summer I was desperate for a job as I needed the routine and human interaction (or so I told myself for years).

In reality, I think I “was desperate” for a job because my parents insisted that I wanted and needed a job. I know I applied for jobs that I had no interest in, under a lot of pressure from my parents. Not as many as they wanted though. And I did need some kind of routine. I didn’t know how to keep myself to a healthy schedule otherwise.

And I do enjoy parts of my job. Admittedly mostly the parts that don’t involve selling things: persuading people to buy things that they wouldn’t otherwise have bought, that is. I’m great at taking their queries and finding the information they need. I pride myself on giving accurate information. But upselling, engaging customers in conversation, recommending things that I don’t know enough about to strangers? That I really really struggle with, and to be honest, get quite stressed out by.

Another part of my job that I enjoy is having great, supportive colleagues. I have a habit of inexplicably falling out with every manager or authority figure who comes to our shop, but usually it gets resolved in time once they get to know me. I think my great colleagues are the main reason I haven’t really tried to find a new job. I can’t imagine finding a place where I get on with everyone so well.

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Actually, the main reasons I haven’t really been job-hunting are probably:
1. I hate job-hunting. I hate almost everything about it. I can figure out most systems, but I struggle with people, and every job description that I’m otherwise qualified for lists “excellent teamwork and communication skills” as essential.
I also hate writing covering letters and my CV. If I was being honest they would actually read “I can figure out most systems, or subjects that I put my mind to, but I struggle with people. Other candidates are probably your best bet for that bit”. But you can’t put that.
Same for interviews.
2. I am “comfortable enough” where I am. Yes, there’s lots that I struggle with, but… it could be worse. And any new job is potentially a life-disrupting worse.
3. I would want to move out of retail, but offices also sound like a nightmare. And what does that leave? Skilled work. So I’d have to pick an area and acquire the skills needed. But I don’t feel drawn to anything in particular enough to go on an expensive course to learn it. And skilled work usually involves “selling yourself” and your skills on a regular basis, far more than retail/office where once you’re in, you’re in (apart from occasional reviews).

So, here I am. Sitting and dreading the end of furlough, whenever my employers decide to call me back. I am trying to learn some skills, but they won’t be of a high enough standard to be of any use before lockdown ends. I just want to get good enough to get over that initial “hump”, the initial, steepest learning curve, where you’re still trying to get your head around the whole concept. If I can get that, then maybe even when I’m tired after work, I’ll still be able to add to it slowly.

(Featured Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash)

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