01 October, 2012

Who's that Girl? Being the New Girl...Again!

Being New would be easy if I was actually Jess...

Today I was New Girl again, just 12 months after having already done it. Here's my story...
I’ve never not been accepted before. Anywhere. Wherever I have gone, I have always found at least a few allies, I’ve never been on the edge of a group really and I’ve most certainly not felt like a wall-flower (those who really know me will laugh at the idea of me as a wall flower!) I assumed it was just part of who I am to always have some mates and generally be liked by people – I wasn’t so much our schools homecoming queen (if we’d had one), more I’ve not ever really given anyone any reason to actively not accept me, at the very least on a basic level of common courtesy.

All that changed when I went to my most recent job, just one (very long) year ago. I have always had strong gut feelings about places and faces, and I don’t think I’ve ever been that wrong. My gut feeling about this place wasn’t amazing though. Something didn’t fit. The place, the faces – I didn’t see how I would fall into rank there. However my mind told me to go for it, because on paper it wasn’t just an opportunity – for me and who I am, it was the opportunity. A very cool, a very sought after, life-changing chance. And for a risk-taker like me that was too much to say ‘no’ to. So I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life as for the first time ever, I ignored my gut feeling.

So off I went to this new place that didn’t quite feel right, some 50 miles away from home in Leeds and it was as hard as my gut told me it would be. I waited for it to get better. For the faces to greet me with interest, familiarity and maybe even kindness? I waited for the place to feel more like home. And maaaaan did I try. I spent weekends doing wall charts (yeah and I loved it!) to put my stamp on the place, I spent time talking to these people, trying my utmost to fit in. I spent money buying things to brighten up my workspace, I spent Sundays baking treats to open up doors of maybe even the hint of a bond? I spent energy sending emails, having conversations, trying to understand why I wasn’t being included in things or beyond that, at times, borderline persecuted.  I spent hours and hours and hours and days crying to my loved ones that I wasn’t accepted, not personally and not professionally.

Slowly but surely my confidence took a massive nose dive. If it wasn’t for my unbelievably awesome boyfriend, my wise wise Mum and my best friends, I would have been back at rock bottom self-esteem wise. However, I’d been there before and it wasn’t an easy place to come back from, plus I did have these people in my life and so I rose up and out of one out the most challenging experience I have had as a person. Don’t get me wrong I have had shitter times. I’ve been low about men, money, work, mates, family – everything. But is there anything lower than doing everything you can to do things right and yet every minute of every day questioning your own self? Who you are, the things you like, the jokes you make, the life you lead. I am funny. I am fun. I am friendly. I am tough and I am strong. But no-one in this place knew this about me because I wasn’t given the chance. And what I was able to show them, well I might as well have been showing a brick wall.

I will never know why I didn’t gel with these people in a way I have never struggled to before, and I don’t actually regret the experience because it not only lifted my career, it catapulted me massive giant steps upwards in just 12 months. My career and my bank balance will always benefit from the year I just had, but any sense of self-worth I have clung on to is all down to me and my near and dear. What I do know, is that the best thing I ever did was leave. Yes it was hard to admit defeat (I am a fighter if ever there was one) but it was easier to know that actually I wasn’t defeated, I was choosing to take myself out of a world I would never be happy in. The sooner. The better.

Luckily for me, after much soul-searching, a hard decision and just a few job applications, a new dream job came up. It was a promotion and a substantial raise and it was a long-shot. It was the first job I applied for and within 2 weeks I had an interview. Just 12 hours later, the job was mine. Sometimes when things happen too easily it feels like a trick, but sometimes it just means it couldn’t be more right. By the end of that week I’d handed in my notice and had a formal offer. Needless to say, my bosses didn’t seem to care (what, with me being so disposable as a person) and neither did I. I cried actual tears of relief when I told my boyfriend – and no doubt he sighed a massive sigh of relief as he’d witnessed so much utter heartache from me for nearly 12 months.

Needless to say, due to the unexpected social difficulties in my last role I was really very very nervous about being the New Girl again today. My confidence wasn’t what it usually is and it meant everything to me to get it right this time. I worked my ass off to make sure I started this one on not a good note, but a brilliant one. I met my new work team a few weeks ago for dinner and was relieved to find they were all not only friendly and normal, but actually very very on my wavelength. They play netball, they baked cakes, they have girly conversations and they are kind to each other. They care about each other and work as a team. After the year I’d had, this alone was sweet relief and after that first meet I couldn’t wait to get started.

The week leading up to my departure from one place and arrival at another felt surreal, but I did what I could to feel ready. As a girl I think it is so important to feel like you look the part. So I had taken careful note of what the other girls in the office wore and took myself on a big spending spree to buy the right office gear. In my last place you could wear a bikini and be considered smart, so needless to say my work wardrobe needed a re-vamp. I don’t like feeling restricted and I am certainly not one for suits, but I managed to find some outfits that felt smart, but also like me. I am talking coloured chinos, skirts with bows on, lacy tops and polka dot dresses. Nothing ground-breaking, but trying on the clothes the night before the big day I felt a lot more ready for the next chapter of my life. New place, new face. Oh and I got my eyebrows done for good measure! I don’t usually as mine are alright, but I wanted to feel sharp. A good brow always does that for a woman.

Obviously the night before I went to bed really early, after a good old pep talk from my Mum and boyfriend and watching Rylan go mental on X Factor. I thankfully slept really really well, which doesn’t always come easily to me. I am OCD about time and organisation so was up at 6.30 even though I didn’t need to leave the house until at least 8am. I think it is really important not to feel rushed and flustered when you want to make a good impression, so I was up with my alarm, and did everything from hair wash, to moisturise, to nails and of course the donning of the pre-selected outfit. Good thing I wasn’t wearing white I’d have thought it was my wedding day. I chose a black skirt with a bow waist and a burgundy lace blouse – as I felt they were smart but showed a bit of me. Something that was and is so, so important to me this time. I don’t want my own personality to be squashed or silenced. I want to be proud of being the slightly quirky, slightly crazy but also a little bit girl-next-door type that I am. YES I spend my weekends baking, but I also rock a great polka-dot so there!
New Girl Face - this is how I felt this morning!
When I was as ready as I’d ever be, I forced my 3rd cup of tea of the morning (!) and some Special K down me and off I went into the brave new world. Just a short distance from my own house and in the city I live in and love. Already this was bliss! I was soooo early, so I walked around the city centre, breathing in the gorgeous autumn air, trying to mentally prepare myself and tweeting like crazy. Tweeting my followers updates of #hannahsfirstday really calmed my nerves – the response of encouragement and love were actually over-whelming, and it really helped me to realise this was just a job. Not the make-or-break scenario I had built it up to be (perhaps understandably given my last experience).

Finally it was time. As I typed in the door code and walked into my Narnia, I knew I’d always remember this moment. I was greeted by the Chief Executive, but because I am Hannah I didn’t know this was who he was so asked where I could make a brew while I waited for my manager to arrive. Luckily he’s a lovely man it seems and he was happy to direct me to the PG Tips. Or maybe he was just happy I’m a brew-maker! I have always believed that if you have someone nice at the top, that amiability filters down and if the rest of the day was anything to go by I stand by this. I have never been so taken care of. Each member of my team sat with me to talk over their role and how I’d be working with them. People asked me questions and smiled and told me what a lovely place it is to work. The girls in the office chatted about girl stuff and offered me so much support and kindness. I did all the usual first day fandangos and even got a proper lunch-break. The day ended before it had even begun and although I’d not done much actual work, I came away feeling exhausted. Exhausted from all I’d had to take in, but also exhausted from relief. I don’t want to count any chickens (I prefer to just eat them) but if my theory that first instincts ring true prevails, then I am going to be very very happy there.

I got home by 6.20, which is amazing when for the past year I have been lucky to get in before 8, and now I have had time to spend the evening writing. In the morning I will have time for a run before work, something else I have sorely sorely missed. And after work I will be able to meet my boyfriend – not after a nightmare 2.5 hours travelling, a shivering wreck, but at a normal time and we will be able to go home and cook tea and watch TV like normal people who don’t travel to a questionable job in Leeds every day. Honestly? I couldn’t be happier. Come payday, I will be happier still as for the first time in my adult life I will have actual spare money to spend. And not just on bills! I’m not materialistic, but at 26, I am quite frankly buzzing about that.

This blog post has been therapeutic more than anything and maybe a bit self indulgent, but there is a message in here. One, is always go with your gut. Two, if you didn’t go with your gut or just find yourself in the shit anyway, get out. Just get out. If you’re a good person, with great friends, a lovely family and a doting partner, then why the hell should you be made to feel like crap every day? By anyone or any circumstances? You shouldn’t. Never be afraid of what other people may make of  your decisions, or the scrutiny and judgement you may come under. Stick with your heart. If you have the courage to be 100% true to yourself regardless of what others may think or say, then you will be rewarded. I am proof of that.

"When I felt my feet slipping, you came with your Love and kept me steady"
This post is also dedicated to Gareth as a massive thank you for catching my numerous tears – sometimes for nights and nights on end –  cooking me tea when I got in late and starving, getting up at the crack of dawn with me so I could get to work on time, having my pyjamas ready for me to climb into when I couldn’t move another step, putting up with my mood swings as a result of my misery, supporting me financially and emotionally, always answering the call when I needed him, always giving the best advise, absolutely always being there for me and never asking for anything back. If it wasn’t for him I don’t know if I’d have had the courage to leave that place so soon, for fear of judgement and failure, but his faith in me gave me a reason to change my life back to what it should be. I am so excited for this next chapter, and I know no matter what I will have the support of Gareth, my friends, family and indeed Twitter following!

Now it is bed time, before I go back for my second day of being New Girl for the millionth time. Let’s just hope this one sticks.


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