About a month ago, I got my dream job.
I didn't tell you anything because I wanted to see if it worked out before I told anyone. And in hindsight, that was a great idea.
I had one interview, then was offered to do shift work to cover for a junior editor that was away on holiday - if they liked me, this might turn into a permanent position! The company had been a dream of mine for as long as I have been writing and I have been sending them applications nonstop since I came here. And, at the end of last month, my chance finally came.
I put on my best shirt (a H&M shirt, but still) and a pair of heels. I pull my normally messy hair into a smart ponytail. I review all of my info on the company. It still feels like a job interview, even if now - unbelievable but true - I actually have the job.
On that first Monday, I have breakfast at a Starbucks near the office (what a vegan eats in Starbucks? Fruit salad, a bag of mixed nuts and a soy latte) and psych myself up for the huge occasion. Finally. My big London job. My chance. It's here.
I walk into the big offices, am handed my badge, shown around, introduced to people. I feel like I belong, or am made to belong. "This is Sascha, the new junior editor". Wow.
I get taken into a meeting room where the daily workflow is explained to me. I learn what my tasks are going to be and who to hand them in to when I'm done.
Then, I get my first brief and get started on my first project.
I feel elated and lucky. Looking around the big, buzzing offices, I think back on all the job interviews I've had (almost 20 since I moved here in September), all the freelancing I've done, all the preparation, the studying, the experiences. It was all to get here. And now I'm finally here. Okay, I don't have a company email and have to use my own, but they said it's going to be set up soon, so that's all right. Everything is all right.
At lunch time, one of my teammates gets up and leaves for lunch with two girls from another team. My other teammates go into the kitchen, chatting, without asking me if I want to come. My boss, packing up a salad to be eaten at her desk, says "don't forget to go to lunch, Sascha!" and smiles.
They're probably busy, I figure. Maybe tomorrow we'll have lunch together and they'll talk me through everything.
I work on the project longer than I've worked on anything in recent memory. I really polish it and go over it a million times before handing it in at the end of the day. I go home feeling tired but accomplished.
The next day, I come in before anyone else on my team. I start doing research for my next project while I'm waiting for my boss and teammates to come in. When my boss shows up, I ask her if they have an email set up for me yet, and she mumbles something about asking the tech team.
I carry on doing my work, quietly, until my boss comes over and asks me to re-do a part of the project that I've handed in. I take in her criticism: I'm here to learn, so it's all right. I re-do the work and e-mail it to her.
Right before lunch, I hear my boss and my senior colleague giggling about something. I turn around to see them holding the folder with my project. I overhear my boss saying: "can you re-do this? We have to send it in for approval today and I just can't deal with it right now." My teammate replies, "sure, I'm already on it."
It's like a slap in the face. No, not really. It's like an under-the-table toe stomp from one of their £500 stiletto heels.
They hate my work and instead of talking to me about it, they sit in a corner, whispering and giggling like fifteen-year-olds. She "can't deal with" telling me what needs to be changed. So someone else is "already on it" and I'm left in the dark.
At lunch, I sit alone in the kitchen, alongside happily chattering cliques of people from other teams, Whatsapping with my best friend. I tell him that this place might not be as perfect as I thought. All that glitters is far from gold.
Over the following days, I go out of my way to be extra nice to my team - I guess it's some kind of backwards reaction, a desire to be the bigger person and show in every way that I'm above them. I compliment them on their shoes, ask them lots of questions and stop mentioning the email address, which I still don't have. I hand in my work on time, update the other teams regularly and always disappear to lunch before getting to the embarrassing moment where they all get up and go and have to face the awkwardness of leaving me there.
My work comes back to me completely changed - not a word I've written is ever kept intact - with a request to hand it over to design. Over the course of the days, more and more short and easy tasks are handed to me, while all the long, challenging, interesting ones go to my colleagues. Meetings are held without me being asked to participate. And my email never gets set up.
On the first day of my last week, I overhear my senior teammate - the same one - blurt out, "oh my God, SO BAD" and when I turn around, sure, she's looking at a copy I've handed in the same day.
All of a sudden, I miss my freelance life. I miss sitting in Costa or Timberyard and writing. I miss having David to chat to while he's working on his guitars. I miss watching The Big Bang Theory while I work. But most of all, I miss not being surrounded by people that act like high school mean girls.
I'm not demanding that everyone like my work - I know I'm a good writer, otherwise I would never have been able to make a living off it, but even so, my style might not be everyone's style. But at least have the decency and the balls to go up to me and actually talk to me about it. Or, at the very worst, go into a meeting room by yourselves and giggle away. This childish and highly unprofessional behaviour amazes me, especially at a company of this caliber.
On my last day, I'm told that they will "let me know" about the permanent position. I feel relieved. I thank my teammates for the "help" they've given me and hand my badge back into reception. It's like a dream job-shaped weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
I head back home, where I eat a lovely dinner with David. We laugh about my teammates and I do impressions of their walks and accents. We watch a movie with a bag of crisps and a bottle of wine. I sit up in bed until late, reading a book. Everything is perfect, in my own way. And the day after, I wake up and feel like myself again.
Three days later, I receive the company's standard "thank you for applying, but we're not taking your application further" email. The one I have a million copies of. The one I could use to wallpaper my bedroom with, that's how many I've got.
I decide never to apply for a job with this company anymore. I don't even include it on any of my online CVs. Sometimes, dreams are better left as such. And I'm trying to complain less about my freelance life. Sure, it may be lonely (but much less lonely now that we have quite a lot of friends in London) and I wholeheartedly loathe anything to do with tax returns, filling out forms and accounting, but this lifestyle comes with perks: I can sleep as long as I want, I can do yoga at noon and did I mention I watch The Big Bang Theory while I work? If it's a sunny day, I can go for a walk. If it's pouring down, I don't have to walk to the tube but can stay in my PJs and work in bed all day. I can write from sun-drenched parks, cute cafés and my own balcony. And all the bad-mouthing (if any) happens out of my earshot.
Oh, on a brighter note: Coffee and Heels has the honour of being nominated for The Indie Chicks' Badass Blogger Awards! Vote here!
Picture from Pinterest