Being a young adult in the working world

In my fourth year of university, an acquaintance asked me which “grade” I was in.

When visiting a family member in the hospital recently, the nurse told me, “adults only.”

When I worked at a camp, eight-year-olds guessed that I was sixteen.

Not only am I a fresh 23 years old, I look like a teenager.

Despite my appearance, I am a young professional, navigating my way through my first post-undergrad office job.

It’s a job for which I feel well equipped. Every day, I bring my organized, competent, friendly self to serve those around me.

I’m an administrative assistant – not necessarily the title that gains you a lot of street cred, or office cred, for that matter, but it’s one in which I find a sense of purpose and productivity.

Over the past several weeks of my professional life, I’ve noticed something.

The majority of the office population is significantly older than me, which is fine until someone makes a joke.

I like to think of myself as someone with a robust sense of humour; I often laugh generously at myself. But it’s also my sense of humour that has tripped me up at work over the past few weeks.

“I don’t know where my head’s at this morning. I completely forgot to send that document to you,” groans a colleague, more than twice my age.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s Friday!” I smile, willing my colleague to give herself some grace.
Instantly, her jovial face turns somber as she replies, “There is still lots of work to be done, you know!”
Suddenly, I’m backtracking, trying to convince my co-worker that I know there is important work to be done, and I am going to work diligently, even if it is Friday.

I fully recognize that I am new to the working world, and that I have plenty to learn, but I also believe I work at my best when I am free to be my authentic self. For me, this means seeing humour in and amongst important, serious work. While this may seem like the call to be myself unapologetically, I must recognize my own flaws here.

If someone with significantly less experience and knowledge wanted to be treated like an equal, wouldn’t that shock you? Naturally my colleagues would take offence to my “taking light” of their life’s work, and naturally, I’m offended when I feel patronized by them.

So here I find myself; carrying a weighted tension between paying my dues and being myself. It’s one that I feel privileged to hold, despite its challenges.

Here’s to working to find the balance, even if it is Friday!

Currently working as an administrative assistant, camp coordinator, and PSW, Katie pieces several part time commitments into one full life. She is passionate about giving kids the tools they need for healthy conflict resolution, which she is currently enacting through her involvement in Peace Camp at the MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement.

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