The sound of the letter box rattling caught my attention and I ran to see if the letter I was waiting for was there. I caught my breath... there it was.... "Private and Confidential, Miss S A Gray....... Croydon..... The week before I'd been for an interview, in London, actually in The City, for a top merchant Bank. S. G. Warburg.... I was 17, I wanted to earn some money, I wanted to get out from where I was living and experience the big wide World. For me that meant London. All shiny and new, big and terrifying. This interview was my first experience of commuting on the train, spending time in the energy of the City. I had applied for a job of Junior Typist... remember, I'd learned how to type... I didn't think I'd get it. I was interviewed my Mr Ian Marshall, Company Secretary for the whole bank and as it turned out soon to be my Boss. He had red hair... (this should have been a sign).
I'd spent the week after my interview in a state of anxiety, they wouldn't like me, I'd made a mess of the interview, I couldn't do it, it was too far away, I could never be worth that money, what if I DID get the job? How would I manage to fit in with all the people up there? I expect you recognise some of the mind chatter.
My Dad, bless him, wanting to keep me safe, told me all of the pitfalls, you'll have to get up so early, you'll have to work long hours, you'll be exhausted, the train fare will be huge, you won't make any real friends, they're all foreigners up there (bless him again - he was born in the 1930s - it was OK to say things like that then).
So my expectation was one of failure... then the letter arrived.
Dear Miss Gray (my maiden name).
I am writing to offer you the job of Junior Secretary in the Company Secretary's Office within the organization of S G Warburg. Your start date is 9th September 1985. I should be grateful if you would confirm your acceptance of this position as soon as possible.
My heart started beating faster and faster, I'd done it, I'd got the job.... OMG WHAT was I going to do now? I was going to have to step up and go and be a junior typist in a great big merchant bank in the great big City of London, this was going to be my life, then my heart dropped... but I can't do it. Who am I to think I can... I'll decline... I'll explain I'm ill.... that I've been offered another job. They'll understand, there must be plenty of people to fill that job.
Gosh my mind chatter was loud, so loud it drowned out any pleasure I had from achieving this goal. The first interview I'd been invited to had been successful, I was going to be employed.
I cried. Not because I was happy but because I was afraid. Afraid I couldn't do it.
My inner critic, my self saboteur were vey strong back then. I was afraid of everything, of me, of anyone who wasn't me, of success and of failure. No one really understood me, especially not me. I got ill, tonsilitis.. this was a recurring theme.
But then after these inner battles, I accepted the job. Went to my first day, all dressed up (back then women were not allowed to wear trousers at work) in a black pencil skirt, pink cashmere jumper and high heels. Yep... I navigated the train, the tube and a 30 minute walk to the office in high heels and a pencil skirt.
I arrived, all hot and flustered, feet killing me, starving and thirsty. I was shown my desk, and left there. No one came to show me what to do. There was a pile of handwritten scribble by the side of my typewriter (no computers for another year), so I picked the first one up and started typing. The rhythm of the striking the keys and the need to concentrate on the spidery writing calmed me down. My inner voice was saying, stay here, don't make a sound, no one will notice you, you won't have to make friends, just stay here. To say I felt small, out of place and completely terrified is not enough, I had a knot in my stomach and my throat was tight, but I got up and timidly knocked on the door marked 'Mr I G Marshall'. "Enter" he shouted. I went in, he looked up "Ah, good you're here, let's get you started".
I'm writing this for the first time, looking back over 30 years ago with new understanding of how full of fear I was. Fear of being seen, of making waves to be noticed, fear of not being liked and not fitting in and wanting to stay so so small. I was so full of anxiety I'm not sure how I managed. Yet, even back then, there was something within me that pushed me on. Survival? Maybe... but I think it was more divine guidance and a tentative connection to my potential.
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