Friday, 27 June 2014

grown up stuff: answering the phone

You may think this is a silly post, but if you do never fear. It simply means you have transcended into Adulthood already, leaving the rest of us trailing behind. For that I commend you. For the rest of us, I want to talk about a major source of anxiety, namely, answering the phone and making phone calls.

In our age of mobile technology, we are contactably 24/7. That's a terrifying thought. At any given moment, one can be Tweeted at, Poked, emailed, or, heaven forbid, called. I don't know where my fear of telephone calls comes from, but all I know is it's taken several years to address and get to the stage where I will comfortably answer the phone from an unknown number, or just call to make an enquiry or booking rather than email.  For a while during and after college I was doing jobs that required me to be on the phone constantly, either bombarding others with calls, or being on the receiving end of a never ending stream of the things. It was a very stressful period in my life, I was generally grumpy and angry most of the time, there was no work-life balance, and I'm incredibly glad it's a thing of the past. I'm sure it contributed to my Fear in some deep-rooted, fundamental way.

Every now and then my phone would ring when I was in Leo's company. It might be a number I know, or a number I suspect I recognise, or a random unknown. I would stare at it, heart rate rising, cortisol production going into utter overdrive, palms becoming clammy, and then turn the volume down so I could ignore it. Leo's incredulity at how a person could fear a phonecall turned into gentle goading, turned into a deafening realisation on my part. I formulated a theory.

The theory was this; my fear of just answering the damn phone was wrapped up in a pre-adult fear of  accepting the grown-up world, in all it's credit card minimum payment, interview rejection, people being inherently self-serving, bin charges, phone call answering nonsense. And that is a world you are going to have to embrace, my friend, embrace and hold close to your bosom, if you ever want to leave mid-day computer games and spaghetti hoops on toast and crying over Brand New lyrics safely in the folder marked 'been and gone'.

Because we're all very happy, and rightly so, to let adolescence flow into young adulthood, flow into the post college years, never really adjusting our patterns, our habits, our view of the world, the only thing changing being that now you can legally drink and are supposed to be 'contributing to society' in more ways than the measly tax paid from your waitressing job.

It's so easy to opt out. We live in an age of absolute plenty. Sher, it would be the easiest thing in the world to live with our parents forever, going out,  playing computer games (Sims, is it?), eating unreflexively and badly. But eventually it seems silly to not accept things more or less for how they are. And the simple fact is that, at the age of 25, if you refuse to use your phone for the very thing its name is derived from, you will eventually miss out on an opportunity that could be your big chance.

I slowly but surely goaded myself into beginning to make calls when it absolutely made no sense to substitute with an email. I would reward myself, a pastry after the call if you do it now, 10 minutes of internet time when you should be working if you don't send that email to the general email account. Answering the phone was probably harder, though. To get to the stage where I don't flinch when I see an unknown number has required untold amounts of stress-sweat and determination. I honest to God answered the phone to the tv license people the other day, and now I have to pay 2400kr. I'm not even miffed about it, it's just part of being a grown up. You use a service, eventually you have to pay for it. Bada bing.

In most ways, it's so simple. We are creatures of repeated habits and behaviours. Reward the good behaviour and discourage the bad, and eventually you will shine, my friend. It's just about perseverance and power of will. More than that, it represents something deeper that's at the heart of the psyche of my generation. We, who have had so much as a result of others, and don't want to risk losing that in case we don't make it to the same level off our own merits. So we stay in perma-adolescene where it is safer and we can use the family car whenever we're around.

Well, I say, be afraid no more, dear friend. Sure, we may not have the safety net of a properly regulated labour market, a crumbling welfare state and increased insecurity going forwards, but in 10-20 years time when we're expected to be in charge. And how can we do it if no one can reach us, because our phone is on silent?

In the immortal words of this kid from Donny Darko:

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