Don’t panic!

I grew up in a household where Dad’s Army was a firm TV favourite with all the family.  My brother even has the complete box set & has been known to make his wife watch several episodes per evening for an entire week – including insisting that he was ‘watching’ an episode on the in the living room while he was lying in the bath upstairs.  But I digress… I love Dad’s Army and never fail to chuckle at Jones’ declaration ‘Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring, don’t panic!’ while clearly in a major panic himself.  Over the last week or so, I’ve been regularly exhorting myself to not panic too, trying to conjure up a mental image of old Jonesy whenever I can feel a tizz developing. 

The source of my panics?  Partly it’s about a general sense of ‘What do I want to do with the rest of my life now that I’m on the cusp of achieving my greatest single aim?’ ie the PhD.  More immediately, it is also about getting some temp work.  I really, really could do with some short-term employment in order to earn a bit of money while I wait for my viva (the oral examination – sometimes called a ‘defence’ – of my thesis).  I began the hunt for temp work about two weeks ago and was initially heartened by the apparent number of admin positions available.  During the course of last week, though, my optimism waned somewhat.  I realised that lots of the jobs were simply re-postings of older positions (leading me to doubt whether these jobs were real or an invented way of attracting people to sign up with particular agencies).  I also realised that in some instances, a huge number of people (50+) were going for the one job, even if it was just a week of filing.  Finally, it dawned on me that despite the fact I have a raft of admin/accounts experience, I was being sidelined because of being supposedly ‘over-qualified’ for jobs.  This made me quite cross, especially as I purposely not applied for any ‘temp to perm’ positions – I didn’t think it was fair to apply for something that I would have no intention of staying on for.  So I only applied for the proper ‘temp’ jobs – a week or a month here and there – which, one might think, it wouldn’t matter what your long-term goals or prospects are: all that matters is that you can go in asap and do the job.

My despondence began to grow.  I was panicking that I would never get any temp work; and if I didn’t get temp work then I would soon start to run out of money; and if I ran out of money, then coming to a longer-term decision about jobs etc would become more pressing.  So my spiral of thought developed, heading downwards… Until Friday morning.  In a tizz, I was frantically checking the jobsites every five minutes for any updates, hoping to find the perfect temping post before heading off to my weekend spiritual course.  I was frankly getting desperate, and my mood was not conducive to a weekend of reflection and relaxation and self-exploration.  And then I thought ‘Bugger this’.  Jonesy’s ‘Don’t panic’ mantra came back to me and I knew that I had to stop panicking.  I knew that I had to just relax, be patient and accept that so long as I kept applying for whatever came along, I would get something in the end.  I couldn’t ‘magic’ myself a job and an acceptance phone call purely from sheer mental exertion on my part.  You can’t control the world; sometimes things just have to come to you.

So I relaxed.  I let the tension in my shoulders go.  I accepted that I would go away for the weekend and resume my search on Monday.  I gave myself a stern reminder that I could manage until the new year if necessary without earning.  Suddenly the panic seemed less real, less scary, less overwhelming, and I felt that I could face the course (which was absolutely amazing – hopefully a post about it will appear soon, once I’ve digested it all) in the right frame of mind.

Of course, what happens then?  Just before I was all set to leave on Friday afternoon, I get a phone call from an agency.  It was about a post that I’d forgotten I’d applied for, temping actually for the agency themselves.  They really liked my CV, the woman said – could I go in on Monday for a chat about the role?  Why, yes I could, I said.  So this morning, off I trotted to a wet and windswept office complex on the outskirts of a neighbouring town and I had a brief but positive discussion with the woman who’s job I’d be covering.  She made all the right noises but was honest that they had several other people to see.  Twelve hours later, I still haven’t heard either way.  And this doesn’t really bother me: if I get it, then that’d be great; if not, well, now I feel confident that something else just as good will come along soon.  Whichever way their decision goes, I’m not going to panic.

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