When I started working at an IT firm in May, I began learning about a whole new breed of office environment. Most office environments are the same, stereotypically: gossip, backstabbing, half-hearted employee get-togethers, deflated perks, childish ownership disputes over office property, office supply fetishes, and low frequency sexual tension. Within each category of office based on what it produces, there are more gradations. But this was my first time in an office environment for the long haul, and I guess I expected things to be slightly different, since it was (and you see here my naivete) an IT firm. I found out that this is not the case, of course. There are still those on the top who ask those on the bottom to do meaningless tasks not because they themselves are too busy or that the act itself is meaningful to them. They do it solely because they like having someone to boss around. They pat your back when you do well but never realize that that alone is not enough to motivate you. Put your money where your mouth is. You're only acting like this because you own the company. Blah blah blah.

I was talking to Ken, who is a programmer (while his company calls him a software developer, a longer and seemingly prestigious title he can't stand), about some of the things they have me do at work: test the sites we design for errors, write error docs, none of which I had ever done before. I also talked to Mike about my new job and the frustrations of having to build proposals for your boss, trying to tell him that what he wants won't work, then watch him throw a tantrum if he doesn't trust your judgement. It wasn't long before both of them uttered the familiar line, "Welcome to my world."

The statement implies many things. On one hand the speaker is confirming your greenness to a situation, which to the hearer may imply haughtiness. On the other hand, the speaker is also inviting you into his world view, albeit with sometimes shrugging resignation (as in, "sucks, don't it?") that you have not escaped the trap in which the speaker has found himself. It's a statement that runs both ways.

An alternate form of this is, "welcome to the real world." This implies sort of the same feeling. It assumes that before this point you were not in the real world, that you were lulled into believing that you were above the trappings of the real world. In comparision this statement is almost always more negative and somewhat condescending, as though the speaker were a better, more mature person qualified to make such a statement.

In either case, it's a hard commment to swallow, if you care at all what the speaker has said to you before, i.e., (s)he is a good friend of yours and you plan to talk to them again in the future. Most people blow it off. I try to, but I do feel that it is yet another way we jockey for position, for we often can only triangulate ourselves using other people as beacons. We try not to set up dividers, but we just can't help doing it. We can't help it because we need to signify ourselves apart from our environment.

So I am in your world now, and you're right, I may not really like all of it, but hey, it's one more world under my belt, one less galaxy to discover.