I value my personal space. Quite highly, actually. Considering that I am an introvert that’s probably not a surprise. Quiet and peace is where I can collect myself and even thrive. I hate crowds, but I can manage them when necessary.
At the same time I have chosen to work in a job that brings me in contact with people constantly. It’s been a very deliberate choice. As a freelance writer I work from home and don’t get out of the house unless I need food. That’s been true for most of the last nine months that I’ve lived in Hamburg.
I get my social contacts from visiting friends and family or when I’m the one doing the visiting, then usually leaving the city altogether. But working as a freelancer in a new city, where I basically don’t know anyone, makes it difficult to meet new people and make new friends. Hence I decided to get a mini-job, which has the benefit of earning me a little extra cash but also gets me out of the house.
And does it ever. Instead of going for an office job, I got a job in the hospitality industry. That is so very much against my nature, but I’ve been enjoying it immensely. Home is my comfort zone. Going to work means leaving my comfort zone, but truly, I’ve never actually been afraid to leave my comfort zone. I just do it and consider it an opportunity.
Not only does my mini-job bring me in contact with a great number of co-workers, but also the guests we’re looking after. And whilst my contact to the guests is fleeting and ephemeral, I do enjoy it more often than not. Few people thus far have chosen to be difficult and whenever it happened, I handled it.
I have been getting to know a few of my co-workers as well. Most of them are lovely people, some of whom I wouldn’t even mind having as friends. In other words, I’m achieving what I set out to do when I got this job.
Fundamentally I still don’t like crowds, of course. And there tends to be one at every event I work. Most of the time my personal space does not get encroached on too much. Only when I am around my co-workers is there actually any opportunity for anyone to get closer than I might be comfortable with.
On two occasions this week people have gotten closer to me than I really would have liked them. Once a colleague noticed that my black jacket was very dusty and he helpfully brushed all over my back to remove the dust. Whilst that was a nice gesture, I did not welcome his touch and ended up holding the jacket away from my back so he would not touch me more than absolutely necessary.
I appreciated the help and thanked him, but I felt uncomfortable regardless.
A day later I needed to produce an ID badge to security guards, but it had gotten tangled up in my scarf and I had trouble freeing it. Another co-worker helpfully turned around and grabbed for it, almost ending up with her hand in my cleavage. In her case I fumbled quite forcefully to solve the problem myself, because her hand really had no business being where it was.
Some people don’t seem to have a concept of personal space at all.
Now, I’m not a recluse and I actually like hugs from my friends and family. I find that I miss that when I’ve been by myself for some time. And I do allow a fair number of people in my personal space. Usually not straight away, but eventually. It’s the rare exception when someone is allowed to be close to me practically all the time (which means whenever I am with them). Those few people are special to me and not only are they allowed in my personal space, I invade theirs as well, usually without even thinking about it.
The reason I’ve been thinking about this and paying closer attention is the fact that I have this new job and meet so many people after having been alone for a considerable amount of time. Living alone and working from home I seem to have become a little more sensitive where my personal space is concerned. So I notice more when it is being invaded or when someone is inside of it and it doesn’t feel like an invasion at all.