March 11, 2011 by 8junebugs
In 1999, I left a pretty sweet admin gig at United Parcel Service in California to move back to Vermont, spend time with my family, then finish my degree on the East Coast. When I left, they gave me some very lovely gifts: The fanciest pen I’d owned (not so fancy, but my experience was limited), a UPS sweatshirt I’d never seen before, and a generous gift card to Nordstrom…which I had to go use immediately at Stoneridge Mall, because VERMONT.
I wore those chunky black Nordstrom loafers forever and was full of woe when they died. The pen lasted the longest, but I lost track of it. I was completely blown away by their gestures, though. They called me into the conference room and I swear to God I thought I was in trouble but instead there was cake!
Last night, I took out a box of notecards to write a little something for each member of the department I’m leaving. I’m feeling a little sentimental — we’ve been through a lot together — and also grateful and extremely touched. We had a great send-off lunch this week, which would have been sufficient. But then they surprised me (really!) with a gorgeous reusable shopping bag full of items to help me achieve two items on my Life List: “Bake a souffle” and “Write and publish a book.”
(Apparently, I neglected to tell my Life List that I’m not supposed to eat eggs and dairy. Whoopsie.)
They also gave me a new journal, which is on another list: New things for the New life. I’m at the last pages of the current journal and have been on the watch for a new one. They beat me to it!
So I’d planned to write each of them a little note and it seemed like a good night to do it. To my surprise, my fancy UPS pen was stashed with my wine country notecards — it was rattling around in the bottom of the box.
I wrote the notes with a newer fancy pen, one engraved with my name, a Christmas gift from my boss. I smiled, thinking about continuity and about how many awesome people I’ve worked with over the years, even before I hit my career. (In my decluttering, I also found going-away cards that included a blessing from the cook at Dairy Belle.)
There’s a lot that goes into leaving any job, especially when you leave for any reason other than another job. No job is perfect, no staff is perfect — it’s totally normal and bittersweet to know that some people will definitely miss you and some people were hoping you’d bail years ago and OMGJUSTLEAVE. We’re all just people behind our professional facades. But I’m leaving on good terms, on my terms, and as gracefully as I could want. It doesn’t sound like much, but the longer I’m in the business world, the more grateful I am for the network of wicked smart and fiendishly funny people who probably wouldn’t be in my life if I’d ever pitched a fit and/or been escorted out.
I can say without even a parenthetical reservation that working here has changed me and made many things possible, not the least of which are grad school and a career path that didn’t exist when I was choosing a major in the 1990s. They’ve supported my professional development all along, sending me to trainings and conferences and Johns Hopkins University.
As for personal development, I didn’t walk all those DC miles by myself. I walked with (and later for) colleagues I actually like very much outside the usual professional courtesy and respect. I’ve had the chance to make my small contributions bigger with the help of an organization that believes they do well so they can do good.
Without an employer like the one I’ve had for the last six years, I may not have had the confidence and the resources to happily uproot a perfectly nice life and go build a new one with the man I love in the place where we’re happiest (but not, as yet, employed). They compensated me well and made sure that nothing — not illness, not divorce, not family deaths — rose to the level of Life-Altering Financial Catastrophe. These days, that’s extremely rare, and I am extremely grateful.