1. My Lunch:
The fridge is mostly filled with containers of delicious-looking leftovers: salads with fresh chopped veggies on top, spaghetti and homemade meatballs, fancy sandwiches with quality meats and cheeses stuffed high on ciabatta bread. If my coworkers aren’t bringing in a sophisticated, grown-up meal, they’re going out to buy their lunch. My sad plastic bag from the A&P sits tied up in the back of the fridge. I find a spot in the cafeteria every single day, alone, and pull out all of my goods: a PB&J on whole wheat bread, an apple or clementine, a Ziploc bag of Goldfish, fruit snacks, a couple Hershey kisses. It looks like my mom still packs my lunch (she doesn’t, I swear). And I still religiously follow the rule I was always told as a child, and instructed the kids in my daycare to follow as well: Eat all of your sandwich, then all of your fruit, then snack.
2. I arrive at 9am sharp and leave at 5pm sharp:
Do grown-ups make their own work hours? Because they seem to come and go as they please. The day we were expecting a bad snowstorm, I mentioned to a coworker that I hoped we got out a little early to beat the impending blizzard. “Yeah, I’m definitely leaving at like, noon,” she responded breezily. My eyes widened. I must have looked like a ten-year-old after hearing the F word. She could just leave? Without permission? I think I’m going to get in trouble if I shut down my computer at 4:58. Meanwhile, I sometimes hear people let out a long sigh, shut off their computers, and just leave for the day without a word.
3. How I dress:
I’m still grasping the term “Business-casual”. Sometimes I want to kick myself after coming in and realizing I put too much emphasis on “casual”. I walk by women in patent-leather heels and pencil-skirts and silk blouses, self-conscious in my own boots and Target cardigan. My nails are one vibrant hue after another. My hair remains in all its lion’s-mane glory every day. I get runs in my tights almost every other time I wear them. Meanwhile all the women click-clack around in towering heels and sleek work pants. And don’t get me wrong, I love wearing heels. Just not for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. “You’re young,” my Mom reassures me as I opt, yet again, for my skinny black pants over unflattering slacks. And when I show up to work every day, my hair unkempt and my leather boots scuffed, I’m sure everyone’s thinking the same thing.
4. I don’t know what kind of sense of humor I can have:
I hear people joke with each other. I hear people curse. I hear people talk about drinking and partying. But as the youngest employee, I have no idea how much leeway I have when it comes to my own sense of humor. I’m nervous to ever offend anyone, cross the line, or come off inappropriate and unprofessional. And since I am clearly the youngest, I also don’t want to come off as immature due to what I find funny. But it can be hard to keep it in. One day, a girl a few years older than me in a cubicle nearby started to sneeze. Everyone around her politely said “Bless you!” over and over again as she sneezed into the double-digits. By the time she reached about 12 sneezes, all I wanted to yell was, “Oh my god… ENOUGH ALREADY!!!” My first roommate at college would randomly get into these sneezing fits too, and I would calmly say “Bless you” until it turned into me shouting “Shut the fuck up!” I always thought it was hilarious to yell this at her after each one as she sneezed and laughed uncontrollably. But I held my tongue. Maybe she would think I was serious? Maybe no one would laugh? Having a sense of humor as the youngest person in the office can be a scary thing.
5. I’m terrified of the boss:
He’s the head-honcho, the one who built the business himself and is now living in the glorious, wildly successful aftermath while everyone earns even more money for him. Due to his money and renowned success, he’s very intimidating… at least to me. I’ve never been around someone with so much wealth, so much power. There’s just an aura about him, like I’m sure there would be with Donald Trump. When he walks by, everyone stands a little straighter, looks a little busier. But it seems like I’m the only one utterly scared of him. I usually chirp a friendly “Hello!” to everyone I pass by, but when I pass him, my mouth gapes a bit and I let out an insecure, squeaky “Hi!” It must be clear I’m the young one in the office — I’m scared of my own boss just because he has more success than I can even begin to fathom for myself.