I hate goodbyes. It’s better to say “see you next time,” because that leaves all kinds of hope shimmering in the sunlight.
It’s hard to leave something, somewhere – wherever you’ve found yourself for the last while, working and building and arguing and creating. But to everything there is a season, says the Preacher. And this is one of those times.
So I packed up my things today, looked around one more time, gave some hugs. Walked out of my (former) office, bit back some tears, already missing the tall ceiling, not missing the steamy 80 degrees on the thermostat in the summer because our AC can’t keep up, missing the witty conversation I won’t be a part of tomorrow morning, not missing the mundane tasks of office life.
It’s hard to leave people. Really, that’s what always gets me. Places can be beautiful or fun or memorable or breathtaking or functional or inspiring and all that … but People. People are what make this world tick, yannow? And the four of us had some amazing moments.
Seriously. We were a comedy machine. Just turn the spigot a quarter turn — give us a funny word, an odd last name, an obscure movie reference, a quote from Monty Python, a raised eyebrow, a ridiculous request from some office across campus — and we were off to the Comedy Races.
There’s that time the guys quoted like whole sections of The Holy Grail, so much that we could theme our Student Appreciation Day around the crazy Brits. (See photo, above.)
There were the snatches of ideas for improv sketches that we knew we’d never actually do, but it was fun to imagine doing them…..
– “What if email spam filters became sentient, and actually explained why you were getting that email about penis enhancement but the expense reports from downstairs were always MIA?”
– “What is the waiting room like outside Hell? Are there snacks? A coffee machine? Decent chairs?”
– And does Heaven have an Orientation session where God or some angel answers all the questions they’ve collected for the past 10,000 years, so they don’t have to answer them individually? “For a presentation on the Noaic Flood, head to Room A at 3pm. For evil and war, a panel discussion will take place in Room B at 5pm. To locate the socks missing from your dryer, see the Steward on Aisle 10.”
– “What if we created a newsletter for campus but called it “Ill-Health Times?” (This was after the sudden rush of “good health” updates from HR on “Wellness Wednesdays.”)
– “Why isn’t there Yelp for drug dealers?” “Maybe there is but we don’t know anything about it.”
– “What about the Rituals Help Desk, where upset pagans call to complain that they’ve sacrificed the chicken and smeared the blood in a precise 8 foot circle, but no demon ever showed up?”
We kicked around endless ideas for mind games, cackling with glee when we were able to end a sentence perfectly as soon as the boss crossed the threshold and paused, wondering if we’d stopped talking on his account. (Honestly, Cliff, almost never. I promise.) And I had other great partners in crime: Tobe & I ran experiments to see how many “dapper” comments we could toss toward Cliff before he’d react visibly. She and her team had whole books of codewords they’d use in text or snapchat to refer to particular coworkers.
And sometimes I’d laugh so hard the whole hallway would hear me, because I do that occasionally, and it’s stupidly loud and probably annoying to half the planet. …But to the other half of the planet, since they all heard me too, I hope you smiled. Laughter is good for your spirit. You should have laugh-cries at least once a
month week. Does wonders for your outlook.
It’s hard to leave a job you’ve worked at for, say, 4 years. I finally know what I’m doing. Heaven knows it took a solid year for me to even begin to feel like I had a handle on things. Impostor Syndrome – it’s a thing. Leaving the classroom for a new field made me very insecure. I didn’t know business culture, didn’t know the marketing lingo, didn’t know the work I was supposed to be doing. I watched, observed, studied every word and gesture so I could claw my way out of the feeling that I didn’t belong there. ….Those were unsettling times.
That, and fighting off waves of fear that I’d made a mistake by leaving teaching, the one job I felt called to do, even if it seemed like I had good reasons. And regret – because it’s a visceral gut-punch not to be with your students who have come to campus for a tour. I know that leaving my classroom in 2012 was the right move because I was bored. But I had to come to know that in my bones, in my head, in my gut, in my hands, in my heart.
This was good. Change was good. I needed to grow. I needed to realize that I should have been actually planning for a career this whole time, but who knew? Nearly every married woman in my address book has dropped out of work or left their original ambitions to be a mother. Few have gone back after their kids grew up. How was I to know in my 20s that I would not also trade work for parenting? (And in the world where I grew up, there is no higher sacrifice than that a woman lay down her life’s work for her children.) (Leaves the rest of us in a pickle, doesn’t it?)
So I’ve learned some things.
One, I’m a good designer and creative director, but I still talk too much in every meeting. (Working on it!) I leap too quickly to solutions and skip some of the discovery steps to good design thinking and problem solving… but I’m working on that too. It was great to have such creative thinkers working alongside me. Creativity cannot exist in a vacuum. It thrives within collaboration.
It’s at Erskine that I learned how much I love creative directing, even more than designing. It’s like getting to hold the wheel of a powerful machine, one that can produce amazing wonders like museum exhibits:
Two, teamwork is hard to achieve but still vitally important. Working in a silo is bad. Also, team “culture” is everything. As the dude said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He’s right.
Three, if I can ever spend my days as the literary bartender/barista in the 21st century version of a Parisian intellectual salon, I will know that I’ve hit the career lottery. I want to talk to people about what they want to do, and then help them make their ideas better. That’s it, really.
Fourth, you need to go do the work that will bring you joy and deep satisfaction. But sometimes employment doesn’t fill that deep hole. Yet you can still find joy in the moment, in the people around you, in a sense of accomplishment. And when you cannot do that any longer, when you’ve explored to the very edges of the day’s work and there are no worlds left to conquer, it’s probably time to find a new challenge.
Fifth, seize every opportunity to get to know people, to find those kindred souls tucked in other parts of the organization, the people who understand that laughter is medicine and kindness is golden and friends are really hard to find once you’re an adult, and hold on to those people. Because they’re priceless. Go “do life” with them.
I’m going to miss many things about my work at this little college in Due West. It’s a special place that’s impossible to understand until you’ve walked a mile in its shoes. Wouldn’t trade the last four years for anything….
And that’s why I cried most of my drive home. S’Ok, though. Something new is coming.