“Always laugh when you can. It’s cheap medecine.”
– LORD BYRON
Oh dear God, why do I keep ending up in situations where I’m either scared to death or close to explode from excitement? These were my exact thoughts when I was standing in front of the ZDF this morning as my eyes travelled up the enormous (but very beautiful) façade.
I hate first days.
There are only two ways they turn out as and that’s either so much better than you imagined they would be, or much, much worse than your darkest nightmares. So far, it’s usually been the first, but that only intensifies the fear that next time, it will all go wrong.
“Take a deep breath as you walk through the doors,” was all Taylor Swift had to say to my situation and while that’s rich of a voice coming from my headphones, she’s won several Grammys, so maybe she knows what she’s talking about.
Getting here was easier than you thought, you’ve found the right house, and you’re punctual, even far too early. What could possibly go wrong?, my inner voice tried to smooth my flattering nerves. Everything, my brain helpfully replied, but I chose to ignore it.
So I listened to Taylor’s advice, I took a deep breath, stepped up to the door, and walked right through it.
In retrospect, I really don’t know why first days are such a big deal – apart from the excitement, of course. In comparison to regular days, they’re luxury. There’s no reputation to ruin, no pressure to live up to certain expectations (at least none that you know about) and you’re allowed to ask all the dumb questions and make mistakes without being side-eyed.
In all honesty, the worst first day is probably that of secondary school. Children, especially at that age, are incredible judgmental, more so than at any other point of their lives. You choose your friends by looks and other shallow attributes, team up with those who seem similar to yourself on first sight without knowing yet that first impressions are hardly a representation of someone’s character. From thereon, there’s only one way: either you accommodate each other, or you don’t and make some new friends. You just move on.
Looking back on my first day at university, first days are the blank cheque for getting lost, for ending up in the weirdest places, or for forgetting people’s names seconds after you start talking to them. In fact, first days are exactly the kind of days we keep wishing for. The promise of a new start, getting to know new people, maybe even some future friends, starting over new, and surprising ourselves. In university, you don’t pick your friends by looks or first impressions, but by gender. Women to the right, men to the left and for the next six semesters, there’s a slow process of both groups drifting together.
First days at internships are probably easier than first days at work because you know that this is only going to be a temporary occupation, and if things go really wrong, then you won’t have to face the consequences for the rest of your employment. While I can’t talk about what I’m doing, I can definitely say that my first day held some very pleasant surprises and it went so, so much better than I had feared.
So, what is the perfect recipe to a great first day?
I reckon that nobody has an answer to that since everybody feels differently about new starts and first days. While some people think of it as nothing special, others (including me) are quite anxious about unfamiliar territory. In the end, you just have to try to stay relaxed and keep thinking positively.
Since the ZDF is located right next to St. James’s Park and only a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, I took advantage of my early arrival and went for a walk among the blooming trees and daffodils, which relaxed me immensely before throwing myself into work. If your nerves are fluttering on your first day, make sure to be at your destination in time, maybe do the same I did and go for a short walk, and tell yourself that you’ve got a right to be there – it’s easier to forget about that than one thinks, and then whatever lies ahead won’t seem as intimidating as you first thought.
Oh yes, and do listen to Taylor Swift and take a deep breath, but maybe do so while smiling. It’ll give you more confidence and it’ll brighten your spirits. After that – well, who knows? Nobody can take the first step for you and once you start walking, you’ll find that it’s harder to stop than to just keep going.