Pulling into the lot for the last time – into the same parking spot I’d been utilizing for nearly six years – seemed fine. Collecting the last of my books from the office shelf was simple enough. Peeling the recognitions from the wall, gathering my credit union pen collection, and unhooking my headphones were all just tasks to complete. Removing the little “Michael’s Free” or “Michael’s Busy” door hanger sign from the knob didn’t bother me either. Popping the magnetic nametags from the side of the computer tower, running my thumb over each different title, couldn’t have been easier. It wasn’t until I noticed the eyes of my soon-to-be-former colleagues, began reading the trickle of ‘thank you’ emails, and spotted the handful of fare-thee-well texts, that I began to feel…well, bad.
Suddenly an inner voice began to peep at me – quietly at first, then with an annoying shrill:
You are in the middle of too many projects!
You’re a disappointment to your team!
You’re leaving everyone in a lurch!
You’re hurting people!
Sheesh! I had to quit quitting for a minute to calm the raucous dance of pessimism in my head. After a few breaths, I reminded myself that it’s OK to feel guilty about leaving and that it’s OK my coworkers are probably saddened, maybe even upset. But there’s a piece of every journey, big and small, which requires change, and change can be unknown, and the unknown can be scary.
I like to believe that I played an integral role at my previous company, at least to some acclaim, and was perhaps even respected. So, it makes sense that folks might be disappointed. I mean, after all, people have feelings. But I should remember that just because they’re maybe a teeny bit disappointed, it doesn’t mean they think I am a disappointment. I must also remind myself that being respected as a person and as a co-worker isn’t something that disappears with my departure.
Not to mention, I’m no superhero (it’s true). There’s a definite likelihood that I’m overestimating my value here. The business I’ve left has managed to operate soundly and successfully for 55 years without me, so it’s probably OK I go whilst in the middle of a few pending projects. I surely wish I could cross my arms, nod my head, and ‘poof’ a job would be completed and completed well. But I must face the fact that I’m probably not the golden key to that successful 55 years. I’ll give the team most of the credit, I just worked there.
Of course, I am not suggesting I played zero role in that success. There is the worry that there will be struggles, even failures in my absence. Again, people are people, and teams are reliant on the individuals that make up that team. But I contend that success often cannot come without struggle. So, who is to say it’s a bad thing? The important factor to note here is that there are opportunities. Without me, the team can see the role from a new angle, possibly even catch some things that may not have been working or embrace others that are. Anything can be made positive if we try.
With those thoughts in mind, my duties completed and last teammate hugged, I wrapped up my tenure. And as I left the building, and that parking spot, and headed into the greying coastal day, I felt some relief, some sadness, but mostly acceptance. Acceptance for what I cannot yet be and for what I’ve developed to become. I’ve loved my job, and to leave it felt like pulling away from a life preserver in a monolithic swell of stormy sea. But I see, just off in the distance, a new light, where I might be rescued again.