The First Time I…Went to the Watercooler

Monday was a rough day at the office. Nothing particularly crazy happened, it was just a very draining start to a week. So it was a relief to get a phone call from a co-worker at 10 til 5, to go out for happy hour after work. Which is a water cooler, but tastier, and makes me sleepy.

Anyway, I guess everyone had had a day like mine. There were five of us at happy hour, and gradually talk turned to work. As is customary with gatherings of people who work together, this is a slippery slope. Before long, the frustrations, concerns and issues about our department and institution sprung forth. Being fairly new, I’ve hung out with this group before, but something about still being in work clothes made it all the more easy to talk about. Evidently, the degree to which we were speaking freely was noticed, and a few apologized for their negativity.

But the way I see it, this was okay for a few reasons. In a different time of my life, I might have been scared about what I heard. Not now. I think that rather than using that as signs of cracks in the facade of an institution that I really enjoy, I see it as a sign that no place is perfect. On the whole, this is far better than my last professional experience. By leaps, bounds, and a cross-country road trip in a really nice car. Is it ideal? Probably not. But is it a great place for me to be right now? Yeah, it is.

It also shows a dramatic shift in the degree to which I can be close with coworkers. Yes, my first happy hour did feature some frustration about work. But it also featured a lot of laughing, a lot of fun (as our gatherings always are), and plans for the future. I have friends in my coworkers. Again, this is a rapid shift from my last professional job. We can share frustrations with each other as well as have fun. I like having friends at work, glad to know I can have that as an adult 🙂

And lastly, I think it’s a sign of my own growing maturity and confidence in my own professional identity. When I first started finding out things I didn’t like about my last job, I took them to heart, and it affected my work. But I’ve taken a hard line at being positive this year. That extends to how I behave in my surroundings. Nowhere is perfect. No person is perfect. But I can choose to do what I want with the information I have. It doesn’t have to affect me deeply enough to change how I do my work. The bottom line is, I trusted my instincts in coming to this job in a way that I didn’t before. I didn’t feel right about my first position, but took it anyway. And before I even left FSU, I knew it was right. That instinct counts for something. And I’m going to let that carry me through.

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