My name is Tinman, and I am an accountant.
Since there is no such organisation as Accountants Anonymous it’s unlikely I’ll ever have to sit in front of a sympathetic, gently nodding group of people and say those words, but if such a body is ever formed then I will probably be its first President, since I’ve been Anonymous about it my whole life.
I never wanted to be one, I don’t believe that I think like one and, although it’s not drug-dealing or gun-running, I am oddly ashamed to be one.
When I was seventeen, in the summer when I finished school and was awaiting the start of university, I got a summer job in an Accountancy Firm. The people were great, I’d have loved it anyway because it was my first job, and when my Leaving Cert results came out (I got a B in Accounts, though I’d never really bothered studying for it) I found myself doing Commerce instead of English and starting down the road to a life most ordinary.
The odd thing is that, after a couple of jobs, I ended up running my own accountancy business, and ran it very successfully for nineteen years, though when people asked me what I did I’d tell them I ran a book-keeping firm.
I can’t deny that I got a great buzz out of it sometimes, though mostly the buzz was from running the business itself, working out schedules that would enable me to get to each of my thirty-odd clients during the twenty-one or so working days of an average month. And as thirty clients became forty the schedule increasingly involved working Saturday, then expanded to working Sundays as well.
And in February 2001 it all fell apart.
It had begun a couple of months earlier, with a continuous ball of vague dread in the pit of my stomach, but on the day after Valentine’s Day I woke up shaking, and wasn’t able to face going in to work. I took some time off (though I had weekly wages to do for two factories, who would fax (sorry, younger readers, you’ll have to look that word up) their hours to me each week and I would fax back the payslips for each employee, and I did these during my break period by going into my office at night, so I wouldn’t have to face the phone ringing while I was there).
I should have given it up then, I was still young enough to train for something else, but I’d a very young family, the business and therefore the income was there, and so I shed some of my workload and kept going.
Then a client that I took on in 2002, originally just to do their payroll, gradually grew and grew, along with my involvement with them. They eventually asked would I join them full-time, so I closed my business and in January 2006 I came to work where I am now (just nine months later I had the first of the 17 blackouts that would eventually lead to me getting my pacemaker, so I was unable to drive during all of this time and my business would have fallen apart, so just because I’m doing something I don’t like doesn’t mean I haven’t been lucky sometimes while doing it).
I’ve been the accountant here ever since. When people ask what I do I tell them I work in the Accounts Department of a Software Company, trying to give the impression that I’m the person who sticks the stamps on the bills we send out.
On balance it’s been good. The work I did was important to the company, as our gradually increasing monthly profit meant that we could plan more expansion, seek new clients and create more jobs.
But now we’re very big, making a healthy profit every month, and whether that profit is up or down by a couple of thousand doesn’t really matter very much. Certainly not to me.
I don’t save the world. I don’t save a patient’s leg. I don’t even save penalties as a professional goalkeeper, though that may be because I’m only five foot five. A counsellor told me that our fifties is when many of look back at our working life, and wonder have we spent it doing anything meaningful. I look back at mine (and here I do mean just the working part, and not any of the rest of it, which has been pretty great), and am depressed at the sheer waste of time that it has been.
So the ball of dread is back. On the last few Sunday evenings I’ve felt physically ill at the thought that another five days of unimportant, meaningless work is in front of me.
Then yesterday I didn’t go in. Today either. 2001 is back.
My manager, my Division Head and I have been working at work (wait, this sentence isn’t over, otherwise it’s the ultimate in tautology) to create a new job for me, one that will let me do the parts of my job that do I think matter, such as the payroll, while someone new does, well, the accountancy. I am grateful to them for this, it shows that they value me, otherwise they would simply have let me leave, but this is obviously going to take a while, not least because they’ll have to persuade others that my invented-out-of-nowhere job will actually be of value to the company.
It’s the light at the end of the tunnel, but in the meantime I’ll just have to struggle along. I will go in tomorrow, because staying out any longer will ultimately make me feel worse, and I will win the battle, because I’ve won it before.
A friend I’ve told about it suggests that it might be a mid-life crisis. If it is I’ll certainly feel happier about the whole thing.
It would mean I’ll live to be a hundred-and-twelve.