Standing in a line that snaked through the room and back, I stood unsure of what to do with my arms. Folding them self-consciously across my trunk, I looked around. People around me seemed happy in their little circles. Half sentences from all around me were clashing around in my brain. I was listening to it all, taking nothing in.
It’s about a week since I started my new job and this was at a potluck today. In the time it took for me to get to the tables with half empty food trays, I was ready to slip away unnoticed. Wearing a false smile, putting on a brave face, I helped myself to tiny portions of the already scarce vegetarian food and looked around for a familiar face. Finding none, I next scanned the room for spots in the crowded hall where I could put the plate down and pick at my food while I wallowed in self-pity. Finding an empty chair at a crowded table, I gathered courage to walk up and ask if they minded me joining them. Of course not the answer came, just that the chair was already taken. Muttering a no problem, I walked away to find a spot behind a huge pillar.
Hidden from the mass of humanity around, I reflected on what it is that I was expecting. The place was new, the people new. The only way I could make friends was to stop a random stranger and introduce myself. Yet, here I was cowering behind a pillar bulldozing through my food so I could make a quick getaway.
Less than an hour later, I sat at my desk wondering if I would ever grow up and feel comfortable in an alien place. As the years pass, I seem to long for the familiarity of routine and the known faces. Change is uncomfortable. Change makes me inspect the parts of my psyche I had pushed into deep recesses. Changing workplaces means not just a change in the work I do. It entails building a new professional network from scratch. It means trying to keep the eight odd hours at work clinical with little personal interaction. It also means standing in a room full of people feeling completely lonely.