Saying goodbye

12 June 2008

Tomorrow is my last day in the office. I’ve been at Brown for twelve years — twelve *and a half*, if you want to be precise about it. It is the third proper job since college, and by far the longest. I’ve had at least five different titles, and no fewer than eleven offices. On balance, I’ve liked each one. Even the cubicle with no windows in the center of a basement of a concrete bunker was all right, because I had some really smart, cool people in that bunker with me.

It will be sad to leave, I think. But it really hasn’t hit me. The notion that tomorrow is my last day is completely foreign. I will drive to the office, park, walk up the street about a half mile (or maybe take the shuttle), card my way in, and waltz into my lovely corner office — a space with three windows and my purple leafy curtains. The desk is still cluttered with papers, wires, and who knows what. There are still a couple of bags that I never unpacked from the last move a year and a half ago. Bookshelves are full, and my shrinkwrapped MacWrite 1.0 and MacPaint 1.0 are still on the top shelf.

I’ll sit down at my desk, and realize that there are still things that have to get done on at least one of my pressing projects (in fact, I just this moment, 9pm, got ANOTHER email from a professor who has ‘one last thing’). I’ll probably read email, check Twitter or news, and try not to get sucked in for more than five or ten minutes. If I can finish the work that I need to get done by noon, I can start packing. Three hours should be enough, I hope…because that’s when the party starts. We’re expecting about forty people in our conference room, and frankly, I hope it’s packed to the gills. There’ll be beer…in fact, all I asked for was beer and cupcakes. Even regular cake would be fine. But I think that’s a fitting sendoff. No pretentious hors d’oeuvres, no fancy speeches. Just some of the people who have made the last twelve years great for me (and some who’ve made it a challenge, but still) hanging out, having a beer on a Friday afternoon. I can’t think of anything better.

What is going to be weird, though, is Monday morning. I don’t have to rush to work. I have to…er…well, I have a meeting at the Benefits office at my new job (which doesn’t start until the 23rd) at 10. Then I have to…er…the house is pretty clean. So is the car. There’s really no gardening to do, and it’s going to rain anyway. Hmm.

Maybe I’ll schedule a massage.

I hoped that writing this would make it more real, but it doesn’t. I know I will always be welcome at Brown, and I know that many of the friendships I’ve made there will last forever. But I also know that of the forty people at that party, I’ll likely never speak to or set eyes on at least half of them ever again. It’s comforting to realize that for the rest, when we do touch base, it’s likely to feel as though no time has passed at all, and we pick up right where we left off.

And I’ll make new friends, tackle new projects, drive less, and maybe relax more. I’ll have to navigate the scary waters of bureaucracy that I haven’t had to swim in for more than a decade…but I think I can do it. I like to smile, and people like smiles.

Tomorrow I’ll smile. I don’t know if I’ll cry. Probably not. If I don’t, maybe it’ll be because I’m older now. It’s work. It’s less emotional. It’s not baby seals and starving children, it’s just a job. Or it’ll be because it’s just not real. Either way, though, I think there’ll be cupcakes.


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