This is part 5 in a 7 part series. Click here to go to Part 1.
I was walking the same path I had walked for the past three years. This time, though, there was a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat.
“Seriously, Glen, is there a genuine chance you could cry here?” I thought. “Why?”
I was confused, but I was also racked with anxiety. It was D-Day. T-Minus nothing.
It was my first day back at work.
I’d had a nagging feeling of uncertainty as the day approached, but I figured that was because of the amount of work I’d face on my arrival, combined with the work I felt was still to be done at home. All those jobs that Sarah and I had simply not managed to get to with a newborn and a toddler running around.
Our dining room more resembled a dumping ground than the intimate formal room it once was. I’d finally removed the full draws of clothes from beneath the table and pushed the chairs back in, but there were – still are – boxes on top and clothes strewn around it.
I should explain: Jono being born meant we needed the small nursery room for him, which meant moving Charlotte out and into the third bedroom, which used to be my beloved study and writing room, as well as our “miscellaneous room”.
We don’t have a large house – a three-by-one duplex. The only place those miscellaneous items could go was the dining room, until we had time to sort it out.
We ran out of time. It was one of the many tasks we ran out of time for. Before I knew it, it was Tuesday night and I was returning to work the next day.
Approaching the office door, I found myself riddled with anxiety. I reached for the handle with a million thoughts running through my head.
There was the work to come, the work undone, the feeling of guilt that I was at work while my hyper-dependent newborn was at home, and knowing I was leaving Sarah to do it all on her own.
For a fleeting moment, I wondered if I could just turn around. Would anyone know? I opened the door.
Party streamers were thrown, those little party elephant-nose trumpets were blown, my General Manager and the CEO walked in, both armed with trumpets and grinning.
Balloons were strewn around my desk and a big toy St Bernard left over from a sponsor’s event was in my chair, decked out in one of our corporate polos and hipster-style glasses like mine. I was told his contributions and work ethic made it feel like I had never left. Hopefully in jest.
A mock “Happy 40th Birthday” card had been made up by one of my team members, with a photo of me in my underpants on the cover and filled with handwritten well-wishes from all the staff my team had managed to dupe into thinking it was, firstly, my birthday and, secondly, that I was 40.
I was introduced to the new partnerships manager who started while I was on leave. We’d never met, but she’s seen a photo of me in my underpants.
For the record: I’m 32 and my birthday was months off.
All the paraphernalia around the room was themed “40”, including a birthday cake complete with 40 candles.
“Welcome back,” they all said and, as more people wandered in to wish me happy birthday, telling me I looked great for my age, it became easier just to play along.
I opened my draw to get a pen. Glitter. Everywhere. It’s the little one per cent-ers that make any prank complete.
Why did they choose some false birthday milestone to welcome me back? I have no idea, but the confusion somehow added to the festivities. And you know what happened? Within 5 minutes every ounce of the anxiety that had racked me had completely dissipated.
My team would have had no idea how I was feeling. We’re pretty open with each other and share a lot, but we hadn’t had a chance to chat. Yet they’d managed to wipe clean a slate they weren’t even aware needed wiping.
It’s often said that it takes a village to raise a child. But the same applies to any life – father, parent, married with no children, single. Whatever.
It takes a team to help us walk new paths, while never having to feel alone.
Part 6: A good night’s sleep