All my life I've been searching for something...wait, no, wrong line.
Actually no. No it's not. Because all my life I have been searching for something: at work.
My first permanent job was as a 1st line tech support bod for a company called iDesk in Wembley. I was the only girl. I got Wing tucked - well you would. But I didn't wear make up, I didn't wear skirts or dresses or heels. Occasionally I'd leave work to meet my then boyfriend and if we were going clubbing I'd get changed at work and slap some make up on. Cue confused looks from all the lads - delayed recognition, as if the swan wasn't supposed to exist under the tomboy. You'd think red lipstick was a mask to hide behind or something...
I have spent a large part of my working life in the same situation. One of the lads. One of the boys. I am not naive enough to think they discussed things in front of me they'd have discussed when I wasn't there but I ended up flat sharing with a lot of them at some point or other and if there was ever any awkwardness I never picked up on it. And of course; boys. They'd have told me straight if there was an issue.
After a while I just presumed I couldn't do friendships with women. That there was something intrinsically broken within me. And of course that came across in my interactions with them and became a sef fulfilling prophecy. Not helpful, I now understand. Though I didn't then. The double edge sword of self awareness.
And so it was that with some trepidation that I went for an interview for a 99% female workplace. I checked - I asked a very trusted female friend what the culture was like and she told me to shut up, quit worrying and get off my ass.
So I did.
It was the single best thing I have ever or will ever do in my life.
Women. They run the world. No, really they do. Or these women do - their own worlds. They are mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters. They manage children (4 in some cases!), their husbands, their families, their homes, their worlds. And then they come to work and fight the good fight for women with mental health problems next to me. And I next to them. A more diverse group of personalities, accents and backgrounds you simply couldn't imagine. A more varied idea of what fun actually equals to you couldn't either. Sexuality, disability, religion...all these things are spectrums and we have people on all stage of all of them.
And we all just get along.
And I'm making friends. Friends I would introduce to my existing friends in a heartbeat. Friends I tell the truth to. Friends I drop the mask in front of. Friends who ask, who help. Who I ask and help back. Who I feel such joy and creativity from. Such awareness - of worlds and personalities and differences and how to never make anyone feel like crap. Yet it's okay to feel like crap sometimes too. We all do and we're all just totally completely up front and honest about it. So the working environment becomes somewhere safe. A sanctuary. A place where you grow, flourish, can be brace, can be bold - but with the stabilisers on.
I want to say thank you. Thank you to all of you. You've changed my world. My perception of the world. You've opened my eyes and dropped my shoulders. You've helped me see where I fit, where I can contribute and where I belong.
You freaking rock.