First day nerves are an inevitability, I tell myself as I stand ironing my shirt, fresh out the packet, on the morning of my first day on the Catalyst Team. The shoes are new too, stiff biting leather, and I struggle to button the corduroys; unworn, I think, since graduation (a consequence of lockdown, I fear). I feel uncomfortable, not just because of the ill-fit, but because I’m more used to wearing oilers and aprons than shirts and jackets. I feel slightly fraudulent, as though my new co-workers will sense that a working-class Cornish boy isn’t cut out for this kind of job. I recall conversation with my family, trying to explain what “content creation” is, to little effect. I tell myself “you can do this” as I put my mask on to board the train for my first commute. The eerie aesthetic of lockdown didn’t help my sense of unease.
As I drifted in twenty minutes early (commuting is already getting old) I found myself in an empty foyer. Empty, save for the figure who appeared at the back door. My nervousness peaked, I felt like a masked intruder in a place where I didn’t belong. The stranger thawed me with a wave. He said his name was Laurence and led me up the stairs to the Catalyst Team office. I was instantly greeted by Simon and the other few members of the team that had started before me. I recognised the faces from the Zoom pub quiz we had all taken part in, in lieu of the usual team social. I was instantly struck by how young, bright and optimistic the office environment was. I couldn’t wait to get to know all the people I’d be working with for the coming year, even if I didn’t quite remember all their names. I uncovered my mouth and remembered how to talk. A cup of coffee with convivial banter and I felt myself again.
After a quick induction in which Simon familiarised me with an array of computer platforms I went straight to work. Armed with a laptop and a reusable coffee mug, bolstered by a rediscovered self-confidence, I planted myself at my new desk and began writing blog posts. Later that day I had my first Zoom meeting with Joseph from PR and Comms who grabbed me by the screen and gave me a dizzying virtual tour of SINCs presence over a multitude of platforms, with details of events, strategies, all colour-coded and seemingly endless. It was daunting, but you can’t take a first step without a mountain to climb.
The day flew by and slowly things began to click into place. I got to know the programmes first; emails and calendars are so important to manage your time. At lunch I got to know my co-workers a bit better. Some from countries and places I’d never been, and some from close to home. I start to realise that no one was meant to be here; that these people, like me, had all chosen to be here. At some point they were all as uncomfortable as I was. At the induction Simon said that the magic happens outside of your comfort zone and I believe he’s right. As I sit and write now, the first day drawing to a close, I look at the faces of these people I’ve just met, and I can’t wait to get to know them.
The work on my screen may not be finished, but at least it’s organised into achievable goals. My nervousness from this morning has evaporated. My new clothes even seem to feel more comfortable.