A dear friend of mine has asked me to cover his job as he is unavailable to do it for a week. This isn't the first time I've covered for someone. It won't be the last. This one was new because it was a higher profile job that needs covering.
It's really difficult to write about this maintaining the vagaries of what I do for a living. However, by now, you may have gathered I have a performance based career. It is a sociable career. A career that requires the meeting of many people who all live hugely varied lives. This in itself is not the problem.
Imagine it's the first day of school. You're meeting a large amount of new people and falling into whatever groove you can muster. If everyone is new, it's a little easier. If you are the only new person, you are at the mercy of the friendliness of the established people. This job requires me to cover my friend whilst they are away. Obviously everyone else knows each other already. I'm the only new kid.
It's a lot more that this though. My learned behaviours have afforded me the ability to hide in plain sight. I spent the entire day petrified. Despite the immense generosity and friendship my mate shared with me and indeed another friend I have on the job, I still had to meet over 16 new people in one go as an imposter coming in and taking over from an established great guy. The pressure is/was on.
So what is it that scares me so much you ask? Well here is the thought process.
1. I'm new.
2. They're not.
3. I must prove myself by being polite and genuine.
4. I don't really know how to do that.
5. I can recover by saying I'm an Aspie.
6. No I can't, that's oversharing really quickly.
7. I feel vulnerable.
8. My friend will walk me through this.
9. I shouldn't have to depend on my friend, I'm a grown man with three children.
10. Despair and annoyance at my insecurities.
11. Laughter as this thought process is ridiculous.
12. Despair again as I start to imagine what the new people must think of me.
13. Be quiet head, you know nothing.
14. Look at the floor.
15. Look at the ceiling.
16. Say something. Intelligent preferably.
17. Smile because you know that means friendly.
18. Get stuck smiling.
19. Hide and pretend to check my phone.
20. Walk with unabashed confidence and remember your basic manners and politeness. Say thank you. Shake hands. Don't live in your head, you've established it knows nothing. Listen, smile and talk in small amounts. Not too small amounts.
21. Run to the car park and go home. Phew. I survived. No one died. I still have no clue what these new people think of me.
22. Doubt. They hate me.
23. Fear. They don't want me on the job.
24. Embarrassment. I was never going to know how they felt anyway.
25. Call Catherine and drive home.
Perhaps we all feel like this when we meet new people. At least to some extent. Every day is like a first day at school as an adult because you're expected to socialise with those you come in contact with. The postie, the shop assistant, the cashier, the call centre person, whoever. We talk, meet and 'be' around other people we don't know all the time.
So it's not rare. It's pretty much daily. So why is it so hard when it comes to your own profession or your workplace? I don't know. It's been the same forever for me. When I start a new job (which is frequent in my profession), I always panic that I'm not enough. And I obviously am, otherwise I'd never had convinced such a strong person like Catherine to bind her time and existence to mine. But the seeds of doubt are there. They live within and cannot be crushed in the mortar and pestle of surety.
Is there a resolution to today's plight? Never. I work with a lot of emotive and expressive people who regularly scare the hell out of me on every job I've ever done. I am one of those same people. Equally as emotive, and possibly more scary. Perhaps I should have chosen a different career. A hermit perhaps. Or a trainee NASA Mars mission specialist. Or a Antarctic Winter Maintenance Engineer.
It's probably time to start trusting myself that little bit more. I need to start believing that I am enough. I'm not a complete numpty or an utter dullard to the majority of people I've met. And even if I was, isn't that still valid? Isn't my human essence subjective? Do I need everyone to like me? Do I deserve that level of popularity? The answer to the last one is absolutely not. But the others are more up for debate.
To end, I'll suggest to you that perhaps, when it comes down to it, my personal need to understand if I'm annoying someone else, if I'm coming across poorly or if I'm upsetting another individual exists because I can't tell straight away. I have to investigate. It's that 'disability' that frustrates me so much.
For those Aspies out there wondering how I cope. Simple. I get through the day and work it all out with someone who I know for sure likes me if I need to. It happens so regularly now that I even sometimes shut my face for a few days and see where the dust settles. Invariably, the new people I meet end up being just fine with me. And if they're not, invariably, they don't tell me and I can't tell anyway. Ignorance is bliss. Even if it is frustrating.