Sadly the title of this post is misleading–I’m not about to tell a story of a dude whipping out his ballsack at an inconvenient time. If you’re into that, send me a private message and I can give you some resources.
This morning I accidentally let some unfiltered feelings into the workplace, and realized how important it is to not let this happen again. Not only for the sake of my coworkers and continued employment, but selfishly–this place, mundane and uninspiring as it may be, is one of my most potent daily sedatives.
Each morning I walk in frazzled with wet hair and a violent moshpit of concerns elbowing my temples from within, but as soon as I step through the office door, all that chaos is dulled to a low hum. As I sip shitty free coffee and check my morning emails, my hair dries and my worries shrink away. I’m the first one to arrive each day, so this calm facade of focused composure is who my coworkers know as Helen.
And today, I almost revealed my true identity.
This week at work, we’re in what my boss referred to as “Crisis Control Mode”, which I thought I was prepared for since that is every second of my life. However, the relentless workload coincided with a heightened anxiety regarding my life’s direction (or lack thereof), an inconvenient resurfacing of high school-level friend drama, and recurring dreams about the dead family dog from my childhood coming back to life and promptly trying to kill me.
So we have this giant tub of mixed nuts from Costco in our office, and they’re salty and bomb as fuck. Therefore, the tub was almost empty this morning. It was early and only two of my coworkers and I had arrived. I’d forgotten breakfast, so I dumped the last few nuts into my hand while unsympathetically apologizing to the my coworkers for finishing the tub.
On my way across the office, my foot caught on the laptop charger that some fucking idiot decided to plug in across the room, and I tripped slightly. Not enough to come tumbling down, but enough to drop what would have been breakfast all over the floor.
My thoughts shifted without my consent from the professional anticipation of nuts in my mouth to my emotional volcano of repressed sorrows and I heard the words “FUCK THIS ENTIRE FUCKING WEEK” escape my mouth before I could reign them in. Luckily, my two witnesses were the two women I know best at work, and they just laughed as I gathered pecans, cashews and almonds from all corners of the office. The nuts had accumulated carpet fuzz, so I deemed them inedible and forcefully threw them in the trash before storming out of the office to catch my breath.
What the hell had just happened?
I’d crossed boundaries, polluting my Nirvana of Numbness with my real-life angst. I need that robot Helen to stabilize the real one, and I’d just put her legitimacy in jeopardy. After a minute or two I returned to the office and sent an apology message to both my coworkers over Skype chat (this is how we communicate since we have international branches).
“Sorry for that outburst guys,” the message read, “It was out of line and unprofessional. I was angry about personal stuff, it really had nothing to do with nuts. Also sorry for finishing the nuts.”
I heard the woman next to me giggle and I looked over. “You sent that to the wrong group,” she said, pointing at her screen.
Rather than sending to the private chat with the three of us, I’d sent the message to our international customer service management team. Now people around the globe knew all about the nuts.
I lightheartedly apologized for the mixup and told the group they were lucky not to have witnessed it, and they fortunately found it entertaining and even sent a few laughing emojis.
However, I learned an important lesson today. Maintaining a professional demeanor may be an exhaustive exertion of superficiality and overused vocabulary, but if we were all completely ourselves at work, not only would everything fall apart, but we’d have no respite from the inner turmoil of our outside lives.
I may think I’m more fucked up than others, and maybe I am, but either way, everyone has worries and personal situations they leave behind when they come to work. Yes, the office is a hellhole. But it’s a hellhole where my dark spiral of anxiety is subdued by a bright white screen, and where I have direction and control.
Most of all, the real Helen is kind of obnoxious, so work is a great excuse to ignore her for nine hours each day.