I'm on the cusp of a new thing, and I should be excited, but the questions they swirl. Will I puke my first day on the job, like I've done so many other first days? Will my coworkers like me, or will they kick over my desk and rub Tabasco sauce in my eyes, the way it happens in my dreams? My default disposition is to assume that people don't like me, that they wish I would shut up, and it takes some doing to convince me otherwise.
But sometimes I'm more optimistic. Sometimes I wonder if the boss will recognize me for what I am, and maybe I'll be vice president of something by the end of the week. As a child I used to fantasize about being a soldier, killing Saddam Hussein, and saving the world; now I fantasize about rapid promotion and stable economic growth. I imagine turning a mountain of paperwork into a molehill within 48 to 72 hours and watching my supervisor weep for joy in spite of herself.
When I start a new job I like to play it cool the first few months and disclose little or no personality characteristics. I have a lot in my arsenal, I can do quiet and withdrawn, but I can do gregarious as well, so I like to get the feel for what will be most effective. There is nothing worse than pushing a coworker out of their chair and watching their stone-faced reaction. That joke kills in so many office settings, and yet it can backfire. I have a tendency to miscalculate when it comes to people, their likes and dislikes, what they think is funny or offensive and so on. Actually, while we're on the subject—racial humor just doesn't get the mileage that it used to get on the playground. I always test that maxim and end up wishing that I wouldn't have. I will forever contend that racial humor can be done right, but it requires a very difficult series of moves that must be perfected before stepping onto the floor. I know that, for me personally, if someone makes fun of white people, but doesn't do it right, I'm ready to turn into a tornado made of teeth and fingernails.
Anyway, whenever I start a new job the training and learning curve cause me to doubt every good thing in my life and drive me to spend more than a few hours in the fetal position in an appropriate bathroom (which may or may not be the one at my new work, like I said, appropriate). At the end of day one I am ready to crawl back to the place that makes sense and just get away from the things that scare me. The fact that I already know this is the drill does not help me remember that perhaps I am exaggerating. I hope I don't quit after one day of overwhelming lostness and ruin my embryonic family (Jessica, Jason and Gretel underneath a cardboard lean-to in the driving Seattle rain is a spine-chilling image), but I cannot guarantee the chain of events that will be set in motion tomorrow, I can only pray for the ability to endure.