The phrase ‘baptism of fire’ feels relevant to my life right now. Not least because I’m getting baptised tomorrow, which will involve standing in a paddling pool in front of a lot of people and essentially being dunked. But clearly that’s not the point: it’s symbolic and a public declaration of my faith in front of my friends and family (as well as some strangers who just get to see me looking like a drowned rat for free).
But also, I feel like the last month has been a baptism of fire work-wise. Since starting my new job, I’ve been thrown into a world about which I don’t know a great deal. It’s a world of classical music, press releases, press days, proofing, journalism courses, subbing and a whole load of editorial jargon that has now become part of my everyday vocabulary. To start with I was like a rabbit caught in the headlights: my heart would race every time a new email came in or the phone rang, out of fear that I wouldn’t understand what was being asked of me. I would feel completely overwhelmed with the length of my ever-growing to-do list, wondering how on earth I was ever meant to remember all this new information.
One month in and I still have those moments, particularly when I have to call up a record label and pronounce the name of a composer I’ve never heard of. (The girl next to me studied Music at Durham and doesn’t mind my stupid questions, so that’s a real lifesaver). I also still hate phone calls on principle, regardless of whether or not I have to learn to say a new word. (I did an internship one summer during uni and managed to go the full 6 weeks without once answering the phone, which I personally saw as a huge achievement.) Before a call, I run through everything I’m going to say, my heart beating fast, my palms sweating, terrified I’m going to say something ridiculous and I’ll be revealed as some sort of impostor. So yes, phone calls make me anxious, but now I make and receive them on a daily basis and yes, they are getting easier. Everything else is also getting easier: the responsibility, the important meetings, the decision-making, the time-management, the task-juggling and all the things that make up a ‘proper job’.
These days, I do actually get to the end of a to-do list, I have days where I feel on top of everything, and I can pick up the phone with a jaunty ‘hello, Harriet speaking’. And thankfully, I’m absolutely loving it. I’m not saying that to be smug: I realise that it’s a great privilege to enjoy your job. I am very much aware of that. And I’m also aware that there’s probably an element of the ‘honeymoon period’, but hopefully that’s only a minor factor. If someone had told me this time last year that I’d be going to press openings of exhibitions, flying off to Germany to interview people, and producing a real-life magazine, I’d have laughed in their face. Sure, there are much more glamorous things I could be doing, but to me it’s all exciting and new and it gives me an amazing sense of independence, which I’d managed to lose somewhere along the way.
Alongside all this, I’m also starting to realise that my career/degree/achievements don’t define me. There’s so much more to me than the things I do. (See above reference to my upcoming baptism). Yes, it’s so exciting to see my name in print, but I don’t want to put all of my self-worth on that. It’s just too precarious. This is a work in progress and some days I agree with this more than others, but that’s okay. I don’t have to be perfect.