It’s been three rather miserable weeks since I ran away, which I still don’t regret, by the way. I’ve made one very strong conclusion - that people suck and everyone would be better off doing what I’ve done. Befriending a fish. That’s right. I am now the proud friend, not the owner, of Belly. She’s a goldfish and has quite an attitude. You may have noticed that I referred to myself as her friend, not her owner. Because as we live in an individualistic world, pets should be free to be their own individuals too, not letting anyone be their masters. I even considered started one of those social media riots. I’ve been around the houses a little with the hashtag, wavering between ‘#justiceforpets’ and ‘#freethefurryfriends’. Although the latter doesn’t work in all circumstances because Belly isn’t furry. She’s a fish. A fat one too. I didn’t buy her this size, she grew significantly over the first few days of our friendship, probably from overeating, hence why I decided Belly was an appropriate name. It’s not offensive for her, she embraces her curves as she circles around the cheap Ikea bowl next to my bed.
Belly was a hot-tempered, spontaneous purchase - sorry, meeting - after the last conversation I had with Paul and Tim. It was the night after I quit and they seemed to think it was a bad idea.
“You’re an idiot. Why would you do that?” That was Paul’s instant reaction as he inhaled half his pint. His tummy is getting bigger than Belly’s. He’s always been straight talking but I must say I was rather taken aback by his strong response.
“Because they’re pressurising me. I don’t want to be responsible for people who are all crap at their jobs.” I’m not joking. They’re awful. To give one example, just the other month Pam printed fifteen thousand rounds of a magazine issued in 2003. But apparently my perfectly sound reasoning was not good enough for Paul and it gets worse.
“Where’s Tim, anyway?” I asked, ordering another Jack Daniels and Coke. I know that’s such a university drink but I like it. Get over it.
“He’s with Kelly.” Paul said, pausing and almost choking on his pint as if he’d said something he shouldn’t.
“Who’s Kelly?” I of course insisted for the answer. Turns out Kelly is some chick Tim has been seeing for eighteen months. Eighteen flipping months, and they didn’t bother telling me, because in Paul’s words “I’m too stuck in a student mentality” and that the whole agreement around not getting a life was a “joke years ago” and that I’ve got to “sort myself out and grow up at some point.”
What. a. Load. of. ****
I’ll be honest. It hurt to have my closest friend be so brash and idiotic towards me. However, in hindsight, I’m happy it happened because it led me to Belly. The day after I was still livid, wishing I had thrown my drink over Paul or at least done more constructive than just swearing at him, and I was walking off the hangover when I happened upon a pet store. I have never had a pet and something within me said: why the heck not? After about an hour of wandering around the store, chuntering inside about Tim’s betrayal and Paul’s bad mouth, I saw her. Just in a tank near the entrance. She seemed to look right at me. Obviously, she didn’t, she’s a fish but since then we’ve had a connection. I was quite excited when I left with her in a plastic bag. I couldn’t be bothered to walk back so jumped on the tube, Belly bobbing in the bag in my hand. They’ll be weirder things people have seen on the underground than a man in mismatching jumper and joggers, holding a goldfish.
So that’s where I am now and I couldn’t be better. Really, I couldn’t.
Things have taken an interesting turn since I last wrote.
To catch you up, I’ve taken the promotion. And Belly has died, but I actually think I’ve finally gotten a life. Work is hard, don’t get me wrong but there’s something I’ve learnt and I think it’s changed me. In a super scary way.
Here’s the story. So remember I said Belly was getting big? Well she got so big that she probably could have swallowed me whole. It was only when she was struggling to swim in a full circle in that crappy Ikea bowl that I wondered if something was actually wrong. Turns out, poor Belly had dropsy. For those that don’t know, “dropsy is one of several gram-negative bacteria commonly present in aquarium habitats. The underlying cause of fish becoming infected in the first place is a compromised immune system that leaves the fish susceptible to infection.” That’s from fritzaquatics.com. Google has been a good friend in Belly’s situation. I tried to do everything I could to save her but she died pretty quickly. There wasn’t much I could do. Well, I was convinced that seen as she died within a couple of weeks of us being friends, that the pet store did a poor job of looking after her. I was down there without hesitation giving an earful to the student behind the counter who just chewed gum with attitude and was obviously glancing at her phone in the front pocket of her green apron. That’s when I bumped into Tom, my old manager.
“What are you doing?” He asked as he pulled me aside.
I told him the whole sorry story and yet somehow I ended up having a pint with him in the pub across the street.
“Why don’t you come back, Jon? We need you.”
“I don’t want to do the work.”
“Work is part of life, you know. There’s nothing like it. You can find real fulfilment.”
I laughed at that point.
“Honestly. Just come back, put the graft in and I’ll prove it to you.”
With Belly gone and how miserable I’d felt, I kind of figured I may as well try and do something. It took me four whole days to convince myself I was going to do it. Mainly because I didn’t want to lose face. I’d walked out in this mega triumphant exit and I was not going to come back in like a pathetic groveller. Until I realised I’d be coming back in as the boss to most of the insolent people there. That gave me authority and like everyone in our sorry generation, they’d hate me anyway. So, that and the extra pounds on the payslip finally pushed me over the edge.
It only took me a week to completely lose my rag. I’m being polite there because my Gran would not like me to use the expletives that I used in reality.
My people were absolutely useless. I came in and changed the structure, gave them all weekly actions, showed them how we should operate as a team and in the first week, not one of them met a deadline I gave them. Not one. This was exactly what I’d been talking about. It was infuriating. That was the word I kept shouting at Tom in his office.
“It’s just infuriating. Infuriating!” I don’t know why I fixated on that word, it just got stuck on my tongue. I couldn’t articulate my anger in any other way.
Eventually Tom made me sit down, and he said something that hit me harder than a tennis ball off Roger Federer’s bat.
“Why are you so angry? How would firing them help them? They’ve all got families at home, they’ve done their best with the change. They need time to make the transition. Shouldn’t we give them a little grace? I’m sure there’s times you’ve not met the mark and people have excused you for it.”
Ah, well, ****.
I was still angry but for the whole of the next week, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And now, it’s completely changed everything. I’m happy to be a leader as I’ve been given the skills for it, and I think if I do it properly, I could make a difference in people’s lives. That’s a big problem with our generation. We’re all just like me; so wrapped in ourselves and what we want. I never thought to consider how the work I do could affect other people. Maybe if someone thought that in the pet store when cleaning the tanks, Belly would still be with me. I don’t know. I’m still a lazy idiot at times and don’t really know what I’m going to do, but I kind of have more of a purpose at the moment and I’m going to give it my best shot. I’ll never stop drinking Jack Daniels and Coke though.