"How do you know what to do all day?" A member of my staff once asked me. "Does [our supervisor] write you a list?"
"No," I thought for a moment. "I just...know I guess."
When I was younger I wondered the same thing about my parents, watching them work all day without hesitation. Who told them what to do next?
In my young mind there was a team of minions that lived in my mom's typewriter (that doesn't make me old, does it?) that gave constant direction. And probably candy. I looked for signs of them when I sat down at the same magical machine and proceeded to punch random keys with hopes of producing something sensational. Or at least spelling "cat".
It was apparent I had no idea what occurred in a work place. Even simple, non-work related tasks were lost on me. Mama's work became a place to brush up on my manners. For example, it's okay to eat a few jelly beans when a coworker offers them. It is not acceptable, however, to sit on the floor in the middle of the office and hoover the entire bowl like your brain runs solely on sugar.
Once, while hanging out with Mama at work, she used the word "facetious" just as a coworker walked in. He was surprised that my mother used this word with a child and asked me if I knew what it meant. My mother used the word "facetious" since the moment I fell out of her uterus but for some reason I felt like I wasn't supposed to know what it meant. I lied and shook my head. I guess making my mom look crazy and myself look stupid seemed like the right thing to do at work.
Fortunately, I think I my workplace behavior has improved slightly. Slightly. Starting a new job/internship/program is never easy. I've never started a job just knowing what to do. It takes a couple of weeks of staring blankly at a computer screen and reorganizing the same four pieces of paper for twenty minutes. Hoping to find some direction written on the foreheads of co-workers I might steal awkward glances in their direction and when caught mutter something about looking at the clock that's on the opposite wall. There's a chance I'll spend a week eating alone in a storage closet before I find the kitchen. I might even read my own job description as a result of one part boredom and one part desperately searching for some instructions regarding what it is I'm supposed to do all day.
As I stumble my way through unfamiliar procedures and uncomfortable social interactions I begin to learn the job without realizing I'm doing it. Soon enough I'll be so busy I'll forget I was, at one point, the girl who thought adorning herself with items from the Lost and Found box was an appropriate way to fill time.