There’s something funny about “first day”s. No matter where you are, what you’re doing, or even how old you are, first day’s always seem to go the same way.
I just started a new internship. Technically, I’ve just finished my second day on the job, but it took me about 24 hours to really process how funny my first day was. Maybe it’s just me, but leading up to my first day I was a knot of nerves. Crazy scenarios of being turned away before even making it in the front door and being shunned by fellow employees haunted my brain leading up to my 6am wake-up call Monday morning. Now, I know some people have the blind and bold confidence to just dive head-first into things without doubts or reservations. I am not one of them. Every single thing I did, I questioned. Did I park in the right place? Am I in the right building? Did I spell my name right? It’s exactly like when I was starting college, high school, middle school, even kindergarten – questioning if I was doing the right thing in the right place at the right time. It’s like the start of a bad murder novel. Poor girl was just in the wrong place at the wrong time… And with my over active imagination, anything was possible.
Luckily, I found my boss and, like any proper first day, was then introduced to just about every single person who worked in my building (okay, my building only has two floors but it’s still a lot!). My boss was overjoyed to show me off. As the only intern on the second floor, he proudly introduced me to all his colleagues as “our intern” to have them ogle at me as if I was some rare and exotic species. I felt like I was on display, not unlike how every young and new student feels on their first day of school: under a microscope, under observation by all your peers. But the worst of it was, there was no possible way for me to remember every person’s name. Yes, they all had name badges but these hung on lanyards that often fell to people’s hips and there was absolutely no subtle way for me to check out their hip to figure out their name. So like any awkward person who has been introduced to way too many people at once, I avoided using names as much as possible, nodding and smiling enthusiastically and desperately hoping I wouldn’t need to use their name again in the near future.
Next, I was introduced to my cubicle, the rectangular little box where I would be spending my days at the job. Four padded walls, a bare white desk, a solitary chair, and a computer desktop waiting to be set up by little old me. Apart from the computer, the space was not unlike the padded rooms you might find in a psychiatric clinic. Why was this cubical empty? Was this where someone went mad? Staring at their computer monitor for endless hours, feeling those tan padded walls closing in without the clock ticking anywhere nearer to the end of the day? Cross my fingers that won’t be me in a few weeks. So as I’m sitting there like the confused little intern I am, I start to smell something – food. Fresh cooked food.
Which thus leads me to lunch. I discover that the cafeteria for my building is located directly beneath my little forlorn cubicle. (Is that why its prior occupant went crazy? From the constant torment of delicious smelling food? Or maybe they died of obesity and from constantly eating the food they smelled. Either seems likely). But no first day would be complete without the struggle of where to sit for lunch. At least once in their life, every single person has this moment, where they have their food in hand and a mess of tables spread out before them, stuck in place because they just don’t know where to sit. No one is familiar. Is there a preconceived order to this cafeteria? As a lowly intern, can I sit here? So, continuing my marathon of awkward first day faux-pas, I chose an empty table and self-consciously dug into my lukewarm lunch. I was shortly joined by a few other confused interns and together we shared stories of our first day flubs.
The rest of my first day passed fairly uneventfully, with me being assigned a few menial tasks to keep me busy until my boss sent me home with the promise of more work the following day. I botched my way through some training documents, trying to contain my awkwardness, battled an hour of rush hour traffic home, and then collapsed into bed by 9pm. Having now survived another day of work though, I’m surprised how different day two was. Without any of the awkwardness and anxiety of the first day, today was smooth, easy, and best of all, not exhausting. What is it about first day’s that make them so strange and out-of-the-ordinary? They’re filled with expectations and questions and bundles of nerves and somehow, no matter how old I get or what I do, they always seem to go the same way. I guess that’s the funny thing about first days: despite being the start of something new, they always are the same.