So long, and thanks for all the fish

So I have now wrapped up all but one of the tasks I need to do for my old employer. My desk is nearly clean — the drawers hollow and coveted office supplies reallocated back to the central office supply location. My code is checked in. My documents backed up.

I’m done. I’ll come in tomorrow to do a little more knowledge transfer, and that will be the end of my 7.5 year tenure here.

This job has been such a long position for me that it’s very hard to imagine not being responsible for those things I’ve always been responsible for. It’s difficult to conceive of just walking away from the tasks and people and locations that have been mine for nearly my entire adult life. I find it hard to fathom not driving this drive, walking up the stairs, lurking for the mail, or changing the water on the water cooler. How will the plants I have nurtured for 3/4ths of a decade survive when I am no longer here to water them? It has become not my problem. I was always very careful, in my professional life, never to claim that things were “not my problem”. It goes against my own personal training to, with great intention, turn my back on the consequences of my departure (past the reasonable point, of course).

But there you have it. Tomorrow, I will turn in my keys. I, the only one who didn’t lose her mail key. I, the one with the server room key and the original card that opens the back door, when all newer cards do not. I will hand over this fob, this object that has inhabited my pocket every week day for longer than my eldest son has existed. I will pass it out of my hands, and know it no more.

I’m an extrovert in a nearly silent office with lots of quiet, heads-down programmers. Hours can pass in our office without a word being spoken. So in order to not go crazy, I have long wandered the halls of the historic old mill that houses our office. I visit restrooms floors away. I check on the mail hours before I know it will come. I answer phone calls while pacing uneven wooden floors. I’ve gotten to know well the other wanderers. My farewells to them have been almost as wrenching as those to my colleagues. The building manager had tears in his eyes and a tight grip when I told him I was leaving. People who have made up the casual cast of characters of my life are being set aside, to be met no more. Those I know the least, the shadowy figures, will never even be told that I am leaving. That an extra in the film of their lives is walking off the set.

Nails in the floor
Nails in the floor

Through bare branches I watch the Merrimack hurrying past, on its way to the sea. Construction has not yet closed down the old iron bridge, although it will soon. The floor under my feet is studded in the interstices between the boards with hundred-year-old cobbler’s nails, relics of the days when greater labors were done here. This place has known me through four pregnancies, two long springs and summers of pumping in a cold server room, heart break, headache, and cheerful Tuesday mornings. I have known it through flood, hot summer, changing walls and brittle winter chills. I know how the puddles in the parking lot ripple, even when there is no wind. I remember walking an empty cavern of a warehouse, calling the doctor for my first ever pregnancy visit. That cavern is gone, filled with refinished offices. I consulted with the owner on the colors of the walls, and discussed the filling up of the old building.

Here have I wandered, but no more. Here my feet know well the routes, my eyes note quickly the smallest changes. I greet strangers with the confidence that I can help them find their way. I watch the ebb and flow of the seasons across the mighty river.

No more.

My view of the bridgework and river
My view of the bridgework and river

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

4 thoughts on “So long, and thanks for all the fish”

  1. I know it must be a sentimental experience; it was for me, too, when I left an office after a few years. But soon you’ll have a new set of experiences. (Sorry–cliches, I know.)

    In the meantime, hope you get a few days off between the old and the new.


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