19 August 2012

saying goodbye

this week has been a tough one for a few reasons; partly because it's the week before the week before pay day. partly because boy friend and i both got a case of man flu and had to take alternate sick days. mostly because it was liz's last week at work, and every day being at work and seeing her smiling face was a reminder of how little time we had left with her. by friday i was telling her not to talk to me any more, it was all too much!
i started my job about 18 months ago; scared, nervous and unsure about how i would get on - this little aussie girl in the middle of london's west end. starting a job full of brilliant, smart, musically-minded people who had nothing but the best intentions for their members and licencees... i was such a fraud! or, so i thought. my first week went by in a blur; a lot of information to take in. i was terrified to actually get into work, because i hate not knowing what i'm doing, and this job seemed like a role i couldn't just blag until i got it right. to be honest, as i got the job through a recruitment agent (you might have read about my terrible meeting here), i wasn't really sure what my new job even was. i remember answering the recruitment lady's question "what's a non-negotiable in the workplace" with "music", then getting a phone interview the following week with my soon-to-be-boss alistair, then starting work the following day. it was all really quick, and although i came with over 10 years customer service experience and 5 years management behind me, i still wasn't very clear on what the job entailed, or what i had said to get it. at that point though, i was at the end of 4 months unemployment and was beginning to watch my 'life savings' dwindle to not very much. i was glad to have been given the chance, and rearing to get back into it. the 6:30am starts were not much fun though, but soon became part of the routine.

when i did finally figure out what my job was, and met the rest of my team, i felt a lot more confident. the team i was in were a combination of noobs like me, and as the project we were working on, the longest serving had only been there 6 months on us. we were an overflow of another team that was already established, and full of experienced people who we were to look to for help when we needed it. unfortunately, our floor was overflowing with people, so there was not enough room for me to sit with that team. myself and a few others sat up the opposite end of the building, with the 'large accounts' team. i sat next to andrea, a spanish girl whose house i would end up babysitting while she went home for the summer, woody, a fellow aussie who would end up being a great mate until he leaves london next month to go home, and across from me sat liz cheung. liz would end up being the most amazing person you could ever have in your life, and if you don't know her then you should be jealous.
although liz was in another team, she was a huge help to me over not only those first few weeks in that transition period. she had been there over 8 years at that point, and was a font of knowledge for everyone on that floor. i'm sure she really hated having to answer my hundred 'quick questions' everyday, but that never deterred me. i think sometimes she used to pretend to be on the phone to avoid answering those questions, and i have it on  good authority that james (on liz's right) and rahi (on her left) never used to wear earphones at work before i sat at that desk. i also learned later on, that that end of the office used to be the 'quiet end' before i started. it's nice to make an impact on so many people's lives, ha. being so 'loud' (i maintain it's my natural level) has worked in my favour a few times, and in the case of invading liz's eardrums 5 days a week, i couldn't be more glad.

as new people continually started on that team, it wasn't long before i was an 'experienced' member of the department (literally a month in i was training new starters), as more and more temps started pouring into the building, i was relying less and less on liz for help. this didn't stop us chatting daily over our computers, or during lunch, or in the kitchen... one day i got back from lunch to find a package wrapped on my desk. i ripped it open to find a 6 pack of diet coke from liz and rahi, as a 'moving in present' (i had just moved into andrea's house for the summer). i think i had only mentioned this in passing to her once, but she remembered. to this day liz and i still share an addiction to diet coke, and text each other weekly to alert the other to the best supermarket deals for that week. i later learned as well that liz was in part to thank for me becoming a permanent member of staff. she had written an email about me to my manager and his boss, telling them how amazing i was at my job, and how well i dealt with both new starters and customers on the phone. i don't know now if i should thank her or smack her! jokes. i loved that job.
liz has been a huge part of not only my work life, but this has spilled into real life too. as my first christmas in the uk last year, she would not hear of me not having a home cooked meal with all the trimmings, so boyfriend and i, as well as a few special others, were welcomed into the o'cheung's house for a delicious christmas dinner. for my birthday last year, boyfriend and liz secretly planned a surprise for me in the form of delicious home made cupcakes in lieu of presents (boyfriend took me shopping that night to cover that). when i told her i wanted to apply for the role i'm in now, she gave me a whole info pack on things that she suspected i would be asked as part of the interview process, she offered to mock interview me, she told me what i should and shouldn't say, and most importantly, really believe in me and gave me the confidence i needed to get the job. recently, she's done the same for boyfriend. sadly, it was her job that he applied for, so his new role will be a bitter sweet one when he starts in a weeks time. he's a great dude, but good luck filling those shoes, buddy!
liz has been at ppl for almost 10 years, so it was no surprise that she would move on one day. one day not now! work is going to be so strange without her. she has literally taken on the mother role at work, and comes stocked with a full first aid kit and medicine cabinet in her bag of tricks. i have never heard her say no to anyone in need of her hot water bottle at work. what are we going to do now!? but seriously, she has a genuine interest in every single person she meets, and because of that (and the impossibly high turnover of staff at work) she has accumulated a lot of friends in those 10 years. as part of her going away present (and amongst loads of awesome gifts) i made her a lifesized (pint-sized - she is only tinchy) collage of all the people who love and adore her. during her leaving speech, she did incredibly well to hold herself together and only really got a bit teary as she was trying to thank kieran for giving the speech, and to say thank you to everyone who had come to listen and say goodbye (i think everyone downed tools early that day, because i don't remember seeing a single person still working during that speech). i had said to myself that i would give her the collage while everyone was there only if  she had already started crying. as there were minimal tears, i waited until afterwards because literally as soon as i gave it to her, she burst into tears. i joked with her and told her it was for her new desk, but she could barely see what i was talking about as had her face buried in the box of tissues tully had prepared for her during the day... sweet satisfaction! i knew i could make her cry.
to my darling liz, you will never know how much you mean to me. you made me feel welcome in a new world, and gave me the tools to feel safe and at home. you gave me friendship with no questions asked, and a 6 pack of diet coke to quench my thirst. your beautiful face has lightened my life in so many ways, i will miss seeing it every day but instead will look forward to only seeing it at the weekend.. you are a huge part of my life, and someone i could never forget - no matter how far away you go (thank god for the 124. pub quiz + dim sum soon?). congratulations mama, i cannot think of someone who deserves this change as much as you do. you will be making new friends in no time, but we who already are lucky enough to be in that group know we will never be replaced - just as you won't ever.