I was rummaging in my desk drawer at work today and came across this pink highlighter. I’d forgotten it was in there. Seeing it again made me smile from ear to ear. I will admit that a burst of pure happiness is not the normal reaction to office supplies, so here’s some background.
Wind the clock back to the first few months of 2008. I was living in Southampton, and was involved in social work with offenders. Deeply worthwhile and very satisfying work, but by this point I had been doing it for three years and, well, I lack an “off” switch.
In my experience, proper social workers, the good social workers, those people who make a career of helping other people, they have that “off” switch. They don’t, as a rule, take it all home with them. They can find a way to keep (most) of that nastiness out of their minds. I don’t have that. I never knew I lacked that skill, because in most situations you don’t need it. But day after day, year after year, of helping other people through some fairly dark days and… Well, it can get too much.
It certainly got to much for me. By May, I was a weeping puddle in the doctors office and found myself signed off work with severe depression and work-related stress. Thank god for the NHS doctor for realising what was going on, even when I was oblivious. She didn’t listen to my self-destructive excuses and insisted I got the help I needed.
When I got back to work, everyone was utterly lovely to me. They knew I had been off sick for a month, but not why, though I expect they had an inkling. They didn’t ask, just accepted, and let me come back to being me slowly in my own time. Bless them.
One day, SurferVegan (one of the EDLOs, remember them? Oh, I miss working with pretty men…) came over and put the above highlighter on my desk. He looked a little embarrassed. In answer to my slightly bemused “huh?”, after all, I hadn’t asked for a highlighter, he said “So you have some brightness in your life. Just till you get your own back, Mercedes”. Then he quickly slunk back to his desk before I could either hug him or burst into tears.
I’m not putting it into words very well, but this boy gave me something so small and it meant so much. He was telling me I was going to be OK. He was giving me the promise that I would find my sparkle again. And he was showing me that until I did, my friends were there to sparkle for me.
So I’ve kept that highlighter. Most of the time it is buried in the bottom of a drawer. Then I will randomly come across it and I smile.
Because you know what? He was right. I found my sparkle. I became bright again. And if I ever loose my grip again? Well, there are people around to carry the spark for me till I feel ready to pick it back up.
(And why did he call me Mercedes? It’s just what he did. I am CLK, and classy, after all).