Bittersweet Goodbyes

It was the normal commute. A 35-minute drive from the East end of the city to the West suburbs. The hoarfrost glistened in the early morning sun.

Everything, normal. My trusty Contigo mug keeping my latte hot for the drive, CBC radio 2 in the background, heated seat.

Park in the back lot. Up the stairs. I always hated the ugly carpet they’d put in a few years back. Enter the keypad, open the door, plug in my Surface, open Outlook…

Coffee time. Down the hall. Chat with my coworker. Totally normal. Into the kitchen–

What the f–!?

“Christine You’RE DEAD to us! We HOPE You Fail” scrawled in purple and green across the surface of a celebratory cake for my last day on Wednesday.

Luckily, I understood the meaning behind this perfect piece of passive aggressive literature and immediately burst into laughter. Made even louder by the thought that it was written by some poor bakery worker who probably didn’t get the joke.

Some of my other coworkers weren’t so lucky to be on ‘the inside’. One of the older gentleman who works down the hall popped into my office later that day. Simply the nicest man you’d ever meet; his wife always baked us cookies at Christmas, and he a very earnest worker with a kind heart. Our token baby boomer.

“Christine, I hear you’re leaving us!”

We exchange small pleasantries and chit-chat. Then, tentatively…

“So, Brian tells me you understand the significance of the cake…?”

I laugh, and assure him that yes, I am in the loop and it is, indeed, funny to me.

“Oh, good! I was wondering what you’d done to deserve such a send-off!” He smiles and chuckles with me now that he knows he isn’t simply laughing at my misfortune.

Goodbyes are never really that easy. Knowing that a change is coming, that you are driving to a place for the ‘last’ time, and your routine no longer in effect. A routine that you’ve kept for almost 5 years. I mean, really, it’s not ‘goodbye’ goodbye (I’m not dying or anything). It’s just… bye for now.

I spent the day with my head down, closing off any outstanding items. Trying to sort through the final few emails (7,644 to be exact… Totally do-able, right?!). Removing any of those personal touches I’d added to my desk, erasing the memory that I had sat there for the past few years.

The things are easy to say goodbye to. Goodbye desk, goodbye monitors. Goodbye shelves. Goodbye books. The people though…

Apart from a few challenging goodbyes, there were two phone calls that were a bit more painful – one to my manager, the other to a mentor/friend who had acted as my manager for a time. We had all worked so closely on some major projects, and reviewing old emails had reminded me of the great team we once were and the things we had accomplished. It’s hard to walk away from that. We tried for the most part to keep the calls light, but there was a bit of a lump in my throat as I told them how grateful I was to have worked with them and how much I had learned (whether or not I agreed with everything!). It’s hard to be honest with yourself when you know you are going to miss someone, when the best emotional bet is to just cut ties and never look back. Far less painful than admitting the impact and influence someone has on who you are.

I think you don’t realize the bonds you build with others when you share the same environment and community for so long; the same purpose. It’s bittersweet to move on because you inevitably sever some of those ties. “It’s been good to work with you… Maybe I’ll pop in to visit every once in a while…” Though you both know – you probably won’t.

That’s not to say you won’t try to keep in touch. It just won’t be as easy as what it was when it was as simple as walking down the hall or dialing an extension. You are in different communities now, worlds somewhat apart. You must find different ways to connect and continue the relationship. You are an ‘alumni’ and no longer as involved in the day-to-day.

In order to start a new chapter, we must close the previous one. So while this chapter has ended, it will continue to form an important part of my story. And I’m certain the characters will make other appearances, though it will not be within the walls of that same office building.

… Which is nice, because, frankly, I was so bored of commuting 35 minutes to work everyday…

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