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“Yes, they’re stereotypes, there must be more to life?” Stereotypes, Blur.
As a self-employed person, I am fortunate to be able to work just from home and my client’s offices. To start with I really missed having “workmates,” and felt myself going slightly strange and socially inept as a result. Five years on, and I have adjusted to my own company and really love being home-based.
Today, my wife was working from home as well, and the sun made a surprise visit, so after work we decided to go to a local pub garden for a drink. It is usually fairly quiet but when we got there the garden was mobbed with a couple of work leaving parties. After a few minutes, my wife said “isn’t this horrendous?” She was reading my mind. Is it just me or are all these occasions exactly the same? You can instantly identify the factions: from the people who look so uncomfortable it appears they haven’t set foot in a pub for several years (yet at the same time look like the kind who will later sink a couple of bottles of wine with the curtains closed,) to the well turned out middle-aged secretary nursing her half pint of lemonade and not managing to even disguise the fact she is waiting until it is socially acceptable to go back to her house in deepest Surrey and water her garden.
The only thing any of these people appeared to have in common, other than their place of work, was the fact they were all willing to dish out small-talk and wear a false “well isn’t this NICE?” expression. The only group that seemed to be even slightly enjoying themselves were the few lads in their early twenties, sure to be the last to leave and waiting for the oldies to go, probably so they could drop all the pretence and chat about the clubs, drugs and ladies they planned to enjoy at the weekend!
We found the whole thing rather depressing. Is it just a British thing that everyone seems to have a real persona and a work version? Will it be the same when we get to Portugal? I’ve not realised it before, but being self-employed has allowed me to be myself a lot more – if clients don’t want to work with me they don’t have to – and I get to wear shorts when it’s hot 🙂
I genuinely hope that all of the people we saw tonight at their office party have more exciting and fulfilling lives than it appears to someone sitting at the next table in the pub garden – whether that fulfillment comes from stamp collecting or wife swapping makes no odds to me! Furthermore, I hope I will always be self-employed, but if one day I do end up “working for the man” again, I hope that when someone says “are you coming to the pub?” I have the integrity to say “no, I have plans tonight!”
As a somewhat contradictory footnote I should mention I have made some fantastic and lasting friendships with people from work in the past, but I don’t think it’s too much of a generalisation to say the percentage of those who sign your leaving card who become lasting friends is still pretty low!