Today I started my first day in an office doing volunteer work. I met with the supervisor I would be working with on Monday so she could show me around and introduce me to what I would be helping her with.
I was quite worked up about going in today. I went to bed at like 1:30 AM, woke up tired and with a budding headache at 9:20 AM. Immediately I had thoughts of backing out and not going because not only was I feeling emotionally stressed as I always do because of anxiety, but now my head was hurting too. Perhaps a stress headache? The pounding in my head also got worse throughout the morning, even after I scarfed down a measly breakfast (a banana and peach). Did I mention that I can hardly eat anything when I feel anxious? My stomach had a combination of flip flop somersaults and butterflies.
I made myself go. The entire way I was fighting this other part of me that likes to give me excuses about why I should pull out now and how it’d be better if I just didn’t go. What drove me to go despite how frightened I felt is what I want to get out of this volunteer experience. It’s not a paid opportunity, so of course I’m going out of my own volition and desire to learn new skills. That’s no easy thing to set my mind on, especially since I know how flaky and indecisive I can get. How many times have I planned to involve myself in something, an event, a job, an interview, or hangout, only to bail out because I spent the whole night beforehand freaked out and then making the choice in the morning to not go because I feel tired and haggard? Too many to count.
Denise, my supervisor, is super helpful. She was actually at a doctor’s appointment when I came in, so someone else had to get me started on the filing work I would be doing. The office itself in its entirety scares me, though. It’s quite large with everyone in their own cubicle and desk. Plus the fact I don’t even know half of these people. I got introduced to a couple of people on Denise’s team, but I only remembered one person’s name because she interacted with me more by helping me get started with filing. And I managed to ask for her name again once I forgot it since I wanted to make the effort to remember her. Her name is Tessa. Thirdly, I was nervous about being in the same space as the guy who referred me to this job in the first place. He works for a volunteer organization affiliated with the company Denise works for, and they happen to share the same office. I did see him in his cubicle today, but felt too shy about going up and saying hi. Ugh, why me??
Because the majority of my work required me to use the file cabinets, I did not spend any time at the desk Denise assigned for me. I basically just left my stuff under the desk, and I only went back from time to time to grab more stacked files that was left there for me to file into the cabinets. The cabinets themselves are next to the receptionist desk. After I finished filing, I had to begin pulling out file folders and sorting each thing in it into a specific order, which I would then have to scan and send to Denise, before shredding all of it. This phase was necessary to get the files digitized so the paper copy of the documents could be gotten rid of. This work once again allowed me to be away from my desk because I was essentially standing over the file cabinets doing my work. I was actually relieved over this because I felt uneasy about sitting so close to the team’s cubicles. I’ve volunteered for an office before, and it is the most awkward thing to be assigned to sit at a cubicle next to people I don’t know, even if my supervisor introduces us to one another, because then I have no idea what to say to the person. It’s also hard for me to sit in a cubicle and not get anxious because everyone around me is so chatty and casual with each other but I’m the new girl and it’s intimidating to try to jump into the conversation. And even when an interesting topic comes up that I feel I have knowledge on, I’m basically too self conscious to speak up and wonder if people would give a damn about my opinion.
Denise said goodbye to me when she left work for the day. I was finishing up too. My headache had evolved into a throbbing migraine by this time. At one point during the day, Tessa had come by to ask how I was doing. I guess she also did this since I happened to be standing right next to the office’s outgoing mail box, and she had something to drop off. I was both startled and taken by surprise that she was talking to me. It might have been both my anxiety and the headache, but I just said I was doing good, and then looked back down to resume working. A very bad habit when I feel a surge of anxiety is that I’ll try to end the conversation as swiftly as I can because I feel anxious and don’t know how to deal with it besides taking an action to get rid of it as soon as I can.
The biggest blunder I think I made today was not saying goodbye to the team when I grabbed my bag and left for the day. They were engrossed in a group conversation and didn’t even see me come by to collect my things. I’m probably making a big deal out of nothing, but one of my fixations with social anxiety is that I have anxiety when I have to be the one to approach someone and engage them in conversation. I do not like doing this, especially if I perceive the person is busy talking to someone else or doesn’t see that I am nearby. I kinda had a mini freak when I finished filing all the folders and had to go to Denise at her desk and tell her. But I was able to do it because she’s my supervisor and I felt my duty to inform her outweighed my anxiety. But with the team members, I barely said anything to them aside from “hi” and “nice to meet you” during introductions. So part of me felt, like, Does it even matter if I let them know that I’m leaving? Would they even care? Would they find it odd that someone they don’t know is talking to them? What if they think I’m weird because of this?
This is why I didn’t say anything to the team members when I left, and now I’m sort of dreading coming in on Friday and if I’ll need to say good morning to them. It’s easier to greet someone, in my opinion, if the person has already spotted me as I walk in. If they don’t and I have to be the one to speak up, this is where I kind of lose my nerve and would rather just slink past without saying anything and hope the person doesn’t think I’m rude for not saying anything. Ugh. 😦
If you’re reading this, please give me your opinions or suggestions.