One of the first things I do is to go get post-its and pens. I choose colours (pens) and sizes (post-its) carefully. I feel like a kid out shopping for first day of school with her mother. “You can choose two pens, three pencils and one eraser. And no fancy colours. You don’t use those in school.” I am there at 8:10am. Outside I am greeted by a guy I have never really worked directly with, but who knows that this is my first day back. He makes me smile and I feel even more jittery about my first day back. I am alone the first hour. I wander around not really knowing where I am supposed to sit. Since I left last spring the office has grown and I have already been told that my old desk is no longer mine. But the first hour passes, people are generally friendly and welcome me back when I run into them, and slowly my own office fills with faces I recognise and some I don’t. And then I am shown to my desk. I kind of knew I would be sitting there and the last couple of days I have been thinking about how to make it mine. I want my desk to be mine. That’s why I braved the Saturday rush and went to Ikea. Because I want plants, candles and vases to make this office mine. The one thing I want even more? A photo of my daughter.
The photo is the first thing I unpack from my bag. The instant coffee is the next thing (the office coffee is HORRIBLE – yes, capitalizing that was necessary – and since I don’t drink much coffee during the day, I would rather have instant so I bring it). And then I sit there. I print a stack of new policies that have been made since I was last here. The idea is to ease into things – my boss and I agree on that – and spend a good part of my first couple of days catching up on what has been happening since I left.
I book my first meeting before lunch. I feel weird when looking at a calendar with only a weekly office meeting planned. I can’t remember my calendar looking like that ever before, but it must have back in that first week of October 2007 when I took my first baby steps in this job. It must have.
During the day stacks appear on my desk. At first I organise like a maniac, convinced that I am sitting at someone else’s desk and that I mustn’t make a mess, I need to be able to pack my things and leave within minutes. Then I slowly realise that it is my desk. The colleague who used to sit here is long gone and now the space is mine. I arrange for shelves to be put up behind my desk and I start making a list of the things I would like. It may sound silly, but I want my desk, my office, to be mine. I don’t want a mix of things other people have chosen for me. I want my own things. Just as I want my daughter’s photo to have a prominent place so that I can glance at her every time I feel like it (and so that people can see her and tell me how sweet she looks).
The weirdest thing about being back is how everyone at the office are busy picking up where they left Friday. I am trying to pick up where I left last April. But slowly I get used to it and then my first day back is over.
I am back at work. Back.