Rachael Llewellyn

Let’s face it: you never liked that job.

Lizzie said it made her sad that you didn’t love what you did. Yeah, like you could imagine the little girl you used to be, sat up at night, wistfully dreaming of her future, chatting to strangers about insurance.

But Lizzie never laughed when you said any of that. She said it made her feel guilty, you’d moved from the green fields of your childhood to this grey concrete city for her.

So, for her, you stopped joking about hanging yourself in the morning. You stopped cheerfully telling people that your office cocktail was black tea and bleach. You stopped referring to your boss as Satan’s Scrotum. In fact, for a while, when Lizzie asked you ‘How’s work?’, you’d say things like, ‘Great’ or ‘Standard’.  

You did your 9-5 rolling your eyes. You did it when customers coughed directly into the phone. You did it when colleagues talked about Saturday’s football match as if they were the actual players – ‘We’re gonna thrash you lot this weekend’. You did it whenever your boss sent you a vague, micro-managing email, spelling your name wrong.

When lockdown began, you thought it would be easier doing the whole 9-5 thing at home.

Before lockdown, it had been weeks of anxious news stories, worldwide reports, everything starting to look more and more like a depressing dystopian film you’d never choose to watch. Your colleagues stressed you out more than ever. The avid tabloid readers among them insisting that it was fake news. Your boss, ranting about how in his day, people weren’t so sensitive to every little thing, he grew up ‘playing outdoors’. He sneered at the notion of gluten-intolerances or lacto-free living as if these things had any kind of correlation to the coronavirus.

So when lockdown started, it was pure, unadulterated relief. It meant Gran stopped going to B&Q for a mosey around. It meant you didn’t need to get scared every time you left the house in the morning. Lockdown meant staying at home with Lizzie. It always felt unfair that you moved here for Lizzie, and then had to spend most of your waking hours with colleagues.

You started off with a routine. You weren’t going to waste this opportunity to do the job you hate in the home you love.

8:00 AM: Whack the laptop on and say hi to your colleagues on Teams.

8:15 AM: Make coffee, make toast, kick back and watch cartoons while your emails load.

09:15 AM: Start the day with relaxing yoga.

11:AM: Take an 11am cardio break, that video in your YouTube ‘Watch Later’ you always say you’d do if you have the time.

13:00 PM: Take a lunch break, pop outside and get some fresh air.

13:30 PM: Sneakily watch TV while working.

14:30 PM: Do that other cardio video on YouTube.

16:00 PM: Do something creative, maybe that relaxing colouring book you bought in 2015 and forgot about but always said you’d like to go back to if you had the time.

17:00 PM: Say goodbye to your co-workers, resist the urge to answer sarcastically when one of them asks if you’re doing much tonight.

Reminder: Get your 250 steps in every hour of your Fitbit will guilt-trip you. You don’t need that kind of negativity right now!

For the first week, the routine is golden. Lizzie on the sofa, watching Disney + and enjoying her time away from lesson planning. You sat at the dining room table in your pyjamas, bashing out emails and pretending you were having issues with the Calls programme IT installed on your laptop.

The outside world is scary. The people who stand too close in the supermarket scare you. The woman who touches all the fruit before leaving without buying any scares you. The news scares you. Not knowing how long this will last is scary. But you’re together and you’ve got this.

You joke around about how queueing to get into the supermarket was like waiting to get into the world’s strangest club. You add the Stay At Home sticker to your Instagram stories. You go jogging. You tell Lizzie you love her and you’re so happy to be locked down in lockdown together. You started reading before bed. You drink too much and work the next day in bed, eating Doritos and drinking too-sweet tea.

All of this wonky peace ends with an email from HR.

A representative you’ve never spoken to before emails to ask if you’re free for a chat. The email is phrased in a HR-friendly sort of way. But you’re a pessimist, a glass half empty, a ‘The End Is Nigh’ person. To you, the request for a quick chat is already bad news.

You joke with Lizzie that you’re probably fired, and she laughs and reassures you that it’s just a routine catch-up. Lizzie is an optimist, a glass half full, a ‘Brave New World’ person. To her, the request for a friendly chat is just that.

You say yes, and minutes later receive a call from a polite, robotic man who tells you that your contract is being terminated due to company losses during covid19. He thanks you for your service and tells you that you are effectively giving your notice as of now. He asks if you have any more questions.

You have a few: How am I going to pay my rent? How am I going to pay my bills?

But those are things you can’t really ask so you just say no. He tells you to have a nice day. You do not.

Let’s face it: You never liked that job anyway. Shouldn’t this make you feel better? Weirdly free? Perhaps freed up to find something you love, like Lizzie. This could well be the best thing that’s ever happened to you! Only you’re a pessimist.

Your routine kind of collapses after that.

8:00 AM: Whack the laptop on and say hi to your colleagues on Teams.

8:15 AM: Lizzie brings you coffee, you don’t eat the toast. You scroll through your phone for job openings while your emails load.

09:15 AM: Start the day with relaxing yoga and become enraged when you can’t meditate or angle your hips right.

11:AM: Take an 11am cardio break or don’t, whatever.

13:00 PM: Take a lunch break, get irritated at your colleagues for messaging you during said fucking lunch break.

13:30 PM: Bury your head in Netflix.

14:30 PM: Do that other cardio video on YouTube – you need to shake that nervous tremor in your hand somehow.

16:00 PM: Keep job searching. Colouring books are for children.

17:00 PM: Say goodbye to your co-workers, answer sarcastically when one of them asks if you’re doing much tonight – remember to add a smiley face, being passive-aggressive will not get you a reference now, will it?

Reminder: Your Fitbit guilt-trips you when you don’t get your 250 steps in every hour. You panic over your increased heartrate and in the end toss the whole thing in a drawer. You don’t need that kind of nagging negativity in your life.

Reminder: When Lizzie asks if you’re okay, say ‘Yes’ ‘Of course’, you absolutely can’t make this worse by freaking out every five seconds, come on!

In your notice period, your routine flipflops like your mood. Lizzie watches Disney + as you sit at the dining room table in your pyjamas, searching for jobs that are withdrawn because of the crisis – but not until you’ve wasted an afternoon completing your application while attempting to maintain emails and calls from work. You write a lot of Personal Specs. You get emotionally invested in every position you apply for. You fix the Calls programme on your laptop and you end up chatting to an old lady who tells you tearfully that she’s scared.

Same, to be honest.

The world outside is scary. You see a woman on the news protesting the lockdown because she wants a haircut. The people who stand too close in the supermarket make you want to scream. You want to ram your trolley into the woman stood touching all the fruit. Seeing how much this stresses you out, Lizzie tells you she can manage the shopping alone; you can just wait in the car. You watch her stand alone in the night-club style queue outside the supermarket; you watch how the man behind her has a strange grasp on what constitutes two metres and rush out of the safety of the car to join her.

She tells you that everything is will be fine.

You hurt your ankle going jogging. You tell Lizzie you love her and you’re so happy to be locked down in lockdown together. Then you start to cry, and she cries too.

You tell your boss you’re anxious about securing work after your contract ends. You say you’re afraid of having to work in a supermarket, your local one has no spit-screens. Your boss tells you that there’s nothing wrong with working at a supermarket. You apply and get rejected for lack of experience. Lizzie tells you that’s probably a good thing overall, and you agree but then cry yourself to sleep.

You drink too much and wonder if you’re hungover or just anxious. You ignore messages from your friends. You ignore kind messages from your colleagues. You stop sleeping. You eat and eat even though you aren’t hungry. You chain-watch episodes of The Simpsons until Lizzie realises that it’s a coping mechanism and asks you to talk to her.

Every job rejection stings. You convince yourself that everyone on your social media would love to see that you’re failing. Acting normal on the phones and over emails makes you feel like you’re going insane, like you’ve fallen into a parallel universe where everything is fine. You gain weight and then lose it again.

You attend a virtual meeting where senior management talk about well-being for forty minutes. Could we be doing more to support staff during covid19? How important it is to be mindful of colleague’s mental health. You count how many times someone says mindful in the wrong context and wonder if Lizzie would judge you for opening a beer the second your webcam is off. At the end of the meeting, your boss informs senior management that you are leaving your current post next week, everyone wishes you luck and you resist the increasing urge to burst into tears until the meeting has ended.  

You leave your laptop on and ignore your emails to curl up on your bed in the foetal position. Lizzie comes and holds you while you cry it out.

She tells you that this will pass. Nothing about this situation is normal, so it’s fine to be overwhelmed. And you’re a glass is half empty person, you’re ‘The End Is Nigh’, a pessimist, but you believe her because you’re desperate to stop feeling like you’re waiting for impact.

You stop chain-watching The Simpsons, you stop checking your LinkedIn. You go to sleep at night. You reassure the anxious old lady customer on the phone that things are scary at the moment, but you’ve absolutely got her on her home insurance. You tell Lizzie that you love her and there is absolutely nobody you’d rather be in lockdown with. You text your friends and don’t worry if they don’t get back to you right away, they’ve got their own shit going on. You chat to your colleagues and don’t get upset when one of them asks you where you’re off to work next and you don’t have an answer. You sincerely thank Satan’s Scrotum for all of his help over the last two years.

As you sign out of your work account for the last time, you tell yourself that everything will be fine. You ignore your cynical inner voice asking you for specifics.

You close your laptop and tell yourself, hey, let’s face it: you never liked that job anyway.

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