"Welcome to the team."

May 28th, 2014, 10pm

It hit 9PM on my Windows 7 Start bar when my colleague swiveled around and said, “Hey, you’re here late. Welcome to the Seasonal Events team, you’ll start getting used to this.”

To make things clear, I’ve been on the team for four whole months now, and tonight was the first time I felt like I had toed the line between clueless-new-gaijin and an actual team member. It’s not that I haven’t been productive — on the contrary, my freshness had allowed me to bring a new and rather revolutionary project to fruition. Yet somehow, with my leaving-as-soon-as-I’m-done attitude — which usually meant before 7PM — I hadn’t really been part of the team. Which, I now realize, obviously entails suffering with the team.

There is an eerie comfort to being at work late at night (though I think my teammates would disagree that 9PM is late.) The bothersome inquiries that constantly pop up on Windows Messenger throughout the day finally quiet down. The clamor of ringing phones, talking people, clacking keyboards dies down by half, and I can almost begin to hear myself think. My eyes and brain are exhausted, but I am suddenly more productive. No more urgent e-mails or messages to reply to. I am allowed to focus again.

There is some kind of invisible camaraderie amongst us all as we hunch in front of our blue-lit laptops, clicking away. Some of us have earphones in — a luxury only for the over-timers not usually allowed in the day. Some people are talking on phones, but most of us are focused, working. Candy and chocolate gets passed around.

And then it hits me. It is almost 9:40PM and I am still here, sitting under fluorescent lighting in an uncomfortable swivel chair, squinting at a low-resolution laptop screen. I lightly press down at the acupoint in my shoulder, and man, does it hurt! My shoulders ache. In fact, my head aches. What am I still doing here??

“You’ll get used to this.” “I don’t want to get used to this.” “Hey, I’m just telling you what’s going to happen anyway.”

Inevitability. Everyone just thinks this is an inevitable part of work. Sure, there is nothing wrong with pulling a late night once in awhile before a deadline… but everyday??

Stockholm’s Syndrome is getting to me. It is 10PM and I’m getting the hell out of here. I’ve done all the work I aimed to do today. Time to go home. Time to revert back into my bumbling foreigner self.

I don’t know if I ever want to fit in.

Shu, Luis, Mona, Sanna and 6 others said thanks.

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Yiling Ding

Think too much. Write too little.

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