The holiday weekend takes on a special meaning for me this year because yesterday was my last day at my full-time job. I woke up this morning with a bit more independence than I’ve had at previous 8 AMs. Well… I suppose I’ve always had the same amount of independence; meaning, I could have quit my job any time. But I didn’t, until sometime in mid-May, with the goal of becoming a full-time writer and editor. I gave a long notice at my job so we could all adjust to the strangeness, but the result was that even after I’d given my notice, it never seemed real that I was leaving. Still a month away, weeks away, and then days away. Even this morning, I half expected to be receiving work emails and phone calls– improbably, 100 minor things which were my responsibility 24 hours ago are no longer.
Leaving a job is complicated, and I don’t just mean having the awkward conversation(s). I spent this week trying to clean and organize my cubicle, so that it won’t disgust or offend the next person who has to sit there. I cleaned out my files, both paper and digital, first conservatively and then hitting “delete” or reaching for the recycle bin like it was (ha) my job. I had to write up all sorts of notes (which may become my first novel) on “how to do my job” for the person they hire. Writing up how I do my work routine caused me to doubt if I was any good at it– suddenly my methods seemed convoluted, or wasteful, and I found myself thinking that surely the next person will do it better and wonder how I ever got by. Early in the week I thought wrapping up my “loose ends” would take an afternoon, maybe, but yesterday the loose ends seemed un-tameable. I was at my desk until almost 9 PM, at which point a coworker who was for some other reason still in the office at 9 PM said to me, “Don’t you get how it works? You eat cake, and then you leave.”
Cake had been about 7 hours prior.
I took his advice, hit my final “deletes”, burned my personal files to a CD, and shut down the archaic computer that’s not mine anymore. I visited the office fridge and reclaimed my uneaten leftovers. I was halfway out the building door when I realized I hadn’t turned in my keys. I put down the random personal objects I was balancing (a space heater, a tub of fruit salad, a bag full of papers) and hopped back up the stairs, put the keys in an envelope, and left them on my desk. When the door shut behind me, I knew I couldn’t get back in.
After consuming my celebratory pizza and wine, I fell asleep instantly but woke up at 3:30 AM from a frantic dream about all the details I might have forgotten. Did I leave anything weird in my email? When she or he boots up the computer, will all my favorite websites be stored in the browser? (Eek- what are they?) Did I forget to give the new person some piece of crucial advice? The answer to all of these things is probably yes. But I woke up again at 8, and had nowhere to go but downstairs, and I did. There was coffee there, and it was good.
I have a copyediting project on my desk, a magazine assignment in my email, and some leads to pursue. I have time and space to think and care about all the things squished in the corners of my brain that have been trying to get to the center for a while now.