In a month I’ll have been working for the same company for five years (I finally qualify for an entry level position at most jobs who want to underpay recent graduates).
In that time I’ve come to love some colleagues and dislike others. Most of the ones I loved left because their lives changed, work wasn’t working for them anymore, or personality clashes became too large to work through. I regret not journalling more often to remember those moments as they happened, the narrative ambiance in everyday discussions about hopes, dreams, children, bitcoin, Trump’s election, Zuma’s abdication and so on. I’d have chapters dedicated to the women I shared a department with.
The old firebrand (let’s call her Marina) who stood up to Apartheid police water cannons to fight for freedom, who earned her masters in ancient Greek literature, and who spend decades as a proofreader before teaching me how to do it. She changed my life, and she passed away four years after I met her. Her life story deserves a shelf on a book rack. We shared a space for a year before she moved on and moved away. I remember small and increasingly foggy anecdotes of my time with her – the way she would scold the people who paid her, and how they would defer to her authority. Her incredible pride in her craft leading to a conversation “I know you told me to not do the whole edit, but I didn’t listen to you.” Everyone loved her and feared her. She was a monument wherever she stood.
The second, (let’s call her Kelly), who started as a wonderful colleague. She came in to be my senior and taught me a lot about the job. When I was at my worst space, near dead from depression and being overworked, she got me an emergency appointment with a saint of a psychiatrist who helped me see some light again. I remember her struggling with office politics, telling herself in a chant, “I love my job, I love my job” with closed eyes. She became difficult to work with. I could feel the anger coming off of her by the end. She left in 2017, and the woman who caused her to leave, left three months later. I wish Kelly and I could have left things on better terms, but things were too bitter by then. I sent her a message when Marina passed away, and didn’t reply to her reply.
The third year I shared the office with another woman (let’s call her Ally). She was the first person my own age I spent any real time with since I began my career. That in itself changed my life. I had a friend again. We spent long nights working together, keeping each other in high spirits at midnight. I’d take her snacks when she worked late on her own. She helped me reset my social clock. This time I left, to another department by the end of that year. She’s moving to the other side of the country now, and things won’t be the same without her.
I spent a year with each of these women, and I don’t have enough memories to remember them by. I still owe my survival that first year to Marina, I still owe my psychiatric health to Kelly, and I still owe so much to Ally. They made life bearable through the difficult and desperate years.
At the end of my year of sharing a space with Ally (last year), I met my ex-girlfriend, who brought more colour to my life than I thought was possible. I still smile with the memory of tickling her and her saying “heyheyheyhey” rapidly while wrestling me back into a cuddle. We were so in love back then. I caught myself the other day beginning to feel angry at some of the things she did, but there was no malice in her (one of her friends told me as much when we began dating). She’s a wonderful person and she’s out there now making a name for herself now. I’m so proud of her, and so happy that I could give her the stability she needed to follow her dreams, when she would have put them off or moved back to her parents otherwise. I don’t believe in the universe making things happen for a reason (she does), but the timing on our relationship, for the spaces we were both in, was pretty perfect, and the relationship was good for us both. I could have done more work on myself and been more present, and she could have been more supportive and invested in my interests, but we were good together. Just really wholesome.
So now I’m seeing someone new, and I want to capture moments more accurately, while things are still new. I’ll want to remember these things in years’ time. She found me on the same online dating site my ex did. That time I had given up and was about to delete my profile when I clicked ‘like’ on her, matched and began a nine-month relationship. Ally met her and sent me a WhatsApp voice note saying “KEEP HER”.
This time round I was looking for something serious again. I had one date from Tinder. She was shy, so I had a few drinks more than I would have to be more chatty and put her at ease (trying to get more tipsy is a bad look on a first date). We made out and played some online games together, but it fizzled out. Then I met the woman I’m seeing now.
She had an interesting profile, though she seemed straight edge. We clicked and had a Skype date, and then a coffee date. She was extremely shy and nervous, and I could tell that she kept trying to hem in her internal dialogue to try and not come across as weird or as anything that might scare me away. I carried those conversations because I felt that there was something worth exploring in her.
Fast forward two dates and she sat in on a six-hour Dungeons and Dragons campaign (which, holy crap I couldn’t believe she didn’t just want to leave), and she sat up with me until 2am to keep me company before my early morning flight to go on holiday. We connected that night. She opened up her vulnerable spaces and told me the real story of her family, which she hadn’t wanted to share before. We worked through the panic attack she nearly had because she was afraid of telling me that she was worried I wasn’t over my ex. She was scared of telling me her insecurities because she was scared of me belittling or invalidating her feelings, and she was scared of chasing me away. I want to help her build her confidence and self esteem, and I want to help her reset her understanding of her own emotions – that it’s okay to be angry, upset, sad, and so on, and that she won’t scare me off because of it.
She’s an intelligent, beautiful and soft person whom I can see myself investing in. I want to help her see beauty again, and I want to be able to look back in four years and remember that this is the way I feel tonight.
I want to love her.