Well, last night I had a break-through. Er, maybe what I meant to say was break-down. I don’t remember the last time tears came to my eyes at work, because of work.
I’m working a new job and though I feel the pressure of proving myself as a newcomer, I also feel an additional pressure to prove myself as a foreigner in the company. The ratio is very low, I would imagine less than a handful in a company of 300. And one being on loan from corporate, who is laughed at behind his back.
I feel I have been more than accepted by most people, but sometimes things happen that make me question why am I doing it “the hard way.”
Yesterday, needing to enter the building, I asked two people if they had a badge to let me in. Between themselves, they had a good time repeating how I pronounced “badge” (a little too heavy on the g) but they let me in. It made me think that they had heard I was American, because how could you permit yourself to make fun of someone you’d never met, even if they worked at the same company?
It may seem paranoid, but I know that it’s happened, because I’ve had people say to me in the coffee room – “You’re the American, right?” without introducing themselves or saying much else. I recently received a phone call from someone asking for English help, who I did help, without ever knowing who it was. They did not identify themselves.
In some ways you can feel like a C-list celebrity, in other ways, a less-than-average citizen. I have to work harder to make sure what I write is not only understandable, but demands the same level of respect as what my colleagues write. The same with any other interaction in Italian.
Last night’s breakdown came after frustration of being put unwillingly and unncessarily in the spotlight in front of half the department. That, combined with the normal work frustrations of bureaucracy and wasting time, hit me while talking after with my manager and I felt that stinging sensation in my eyes. I got up, walked past my still-speaking manager and colleagues staring at my reddened eyes, and entered the bathroom.
I took deep breaths to calm myself, and above all, to keep my nose from getting red and being a dead giveaway to all who see me. I rationalized…I could leave the bathroom, say I’m going home as it was already past the normal time I leave, and just go. Deal with it tomorrow.
Or, I could think of my bathroom break as a chance to recompose myself and my thoughts into productive interaction, and go back to work.
Which is what I did.
So, why go through trying to remember the word for stapler and coming up with a blank, accidently using the male article when addressing a female, cringing every time the phone rings, pantomiming actions and words your vocabulary has yet to encompass?
The state of things is not a single moment or day, and not even an average of each day, but the position and outlook you have for yourself combined with your current situation.
Which means, even with the bumps, I am glad I am doing it the hard way.
And, sometimes it pays off. The print advertising dept (mags, newspapers, billboards, etc.) officially asked me to be a copywriter-translator in English after I corrected another translator’s (terrible) work.
One step closer.