Memories of a time gone by and a land far away


It’s funny how the mind can work.

In the winter of 2007 (Northern Hemisphere winter) I was seconded to our New York affiliate and worked there for four months. I won’t say that I hated it but I counted down every day until I could come home and the last few days I could barely sleep because I wanted the time to disappear so I could come back. It was a really bad case of homesickness. There were parts that I enjoyed and parts that I hated (other than being so far away from home). But that will be the same for all experiences – some part will be good and some will be bad. I hated PwC but there were both good and bad parts to the experience.

Today is actually the three year anniversary since I started to work in New York and I have found every year since then my mind has gone back to my experience. I had built up my trip to New York to such an extent that maybe it would never have been able to live up to what I expected. I had made getting to New York on secondment my goal when I had started my audit articles three years before and when things got really rough I had to remind myself that I was going through it for New York. In the middle of my second year, I actually wanted to cut my losses and leave the firm and move on to another firm to finish my articles, but it was the promise of New York at the end which kept me motivated and pushing even when everything felt like it was going to destroy me. Maybe I heaped too much expectation into the experience.

Five months before I left for New York I started to go out with my future wife and was forced to leave her at the airport, bawling her eyes out and scared that she would never see me again. That made it incredibly tough already and the whole flight over I was trying to wonder if she had managed to stop crying because I was going to come back.

But when I got to New York there were a whole bunch of other factors which contributed to the poor experience:

  • Everyone who went paid a flat fee for an apartment and regardless of what the apartment actually cost the company would pay for the difference. I went with a fellow secondee to his apartment and found that he had a nice apartment with a large living room/kitchen, bathroom and bedroom (in fact all of the other secondees had apartments which were similar). When I stepped into my broom closet I was completely let down. My whole apartment would have fitted into half of the other’s living rooms. I felt ripped off and when I complained I was told ‘it’s prime real estate get used to it’. So I did the African thing and went on a real go slow. Screw me over and I won’t put in the same amount of effort as I would have if you respected me.
  • Because of the size of the apartment I had to sleep on a sofa for four months. When I went on an away audit to Florida and got to sleep in a proper bed I loved it and told the audit manager that I would stay behind and finish the whole audit by myself, the other four people could go back to New York. The audit manager laughed and said that it was only because I wanted to sleep in a bed.
  • It was the middle of winter and the one day was the coldest it had been for nine years and the heat in my apartment didn’t work. I reported this fact to the relevant people but it was never repaired. I had to sleep under every sheet that I could find in the apartment and I still shivered the whole night, every night.
  • While ice skating in Central Park, I fell and landed on the wall with my shoulder and was certain that I had dislocated it. Everybody told me that there was no way that I had dislocated, that I’d know if I dislocated my arm. And not wanting to be seen as an idiot I ignored it. The truth of the matter is that I suffered I form of a dislocation, where my arm was dislocated from the shoulder and then the muscles pulled it back into the socket. So I suppose one could say that it was a form of a dislocation. The injury is called a Bankart fracture (I doubt that’s the correct spelling) where the shoulder is dislocated and is put back into the socket but the cartilage around the shoulder has been damaged. If I moved my arm in a certain manner it would dislocate before ‘popping’ back into the socket. I ignored the pain for eighteen months until halfway through 2008 before I went to a specialist and found out all of this. The truly horrific fact is that a whole chunk of cartilage from in front of my shoulder socket had ripped off. And even now I’m always reminded of the incident when I play too much squash or try to overreach. I doubt if I’ll actually be able to play tennis. If I had been a professional sportsman it would have been game over, time to find something other than sports to do.
  • My girlfriend (now wife) was also kicked out of her house by her family while I was over there and I tried to help from New York by finding some place for her to sleep and to finish paying for her varsity fees.

So to be honest, I had so many other things going on that others who didn’t have to worry about the same things as me. They only had to go to work and make sure they hit the deadlines.

And why am I reminiscing about the past? I suppose it’s because someone I consider to be the grasshopper to my mentor has gone over to New York on the same secondment.

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