My first grown up job came about eight months after I graduated from college. Looking back now, I realize that I was even younger than I felt, and I’m sure that my colleagues–all middle-aged, all male, probably saw me as a child. I worked as an editorial assistant for a website that focused on cars, something I knew absolutely nothing about. It was a learning experience for me on a variety of levels; I learned about car trims, office politics, and the importance of speaking up for myself. A couple of my co-workers were especially kind to me, inviting me to eat lunch with them at Costco and taking me around in the press cars that car companies sent along. When I left my job for an ill-fated stint in London, I was shocked at just how sad I felt. I hadn’t expected to become fond of the people I worked with, let alone to bond with them and share inside jokes about Arrested Development.
One of the things that has struck me most about getting older is just how little I was prepared for how important work would become in my life. Not in the sense that I spend all my waking hours there or that my job is so demanding, but so much of your day-to-day life is devoted to getting ready for, going to, being at, or coming home from work. The people you work with, whether you like it or not, frequently become pretty prominent fixtures in your life. And because you don’t really have a choice in who you work with, they become a family of sorts.
The people you work with are people you were just thrown together with. I mean, you don’t know them, it wasn’t your choice. And yet you spend more time with them than you do your friends or your family. But probably all you have in common is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day.
-Tim Canterbury, The Office (UK)
Friday marks the last day of my current job. It’s the longest I’ve ever been in any job (two years), and despite the fact that the circumstances that led to my departure were less than desirable, I find myself feeling a little nostalgic, and, hell, even a little bit sad. At a meeting on Wednesday, one of my former bosses handed me a card. I held off on reading it until I was on the bus ride home, because deep down inside I’m an incredible sap and I could feel tears welling up in my eyes throughout the meeting. It turns out my instincts were correct. The card and and notes inside made me full on cry, so much that the teenage girls sitting directly across from me were visibly embarrassed for me.
Two shows that are near and dear to my heart (30 Rock and The Office) came to an end this year. When I started watching the shows, I was a recent college graduate, put off by the idea that you would befriend people you worked withBoth shows have been there throughout the often painful professional development that has dominated my mid-to-late twenties, and I often saw myself and my co-workers mirrored in the characters on-screen. I cried at the end of both shows, aware that something was ending, both on television and in my own life.
So, no, leaving my job right now was not on any plan I’d laid out for the next year of my life, and the past few weeks have been a serious test of my resolve to not become an alcoholic, but leaving has helped me put things in perspective–I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who challenged me and helped me learn in ways that went beyond how to edit HTML in SharePoint. My patience was tested on an hourly basis and there were days where I was sure that years were being shaved off my life with each email I received. But I gained a lot, too, things I probably won’t be aware of until my next job (that I start on MONDAY–what is wrong with me?), or even until the one after that. It’s a sad trick of life that we frequently don’t appreciate all the good we are surrounded with until it’s too late and the goodness is already gone.
As Andy Bernard says in The Office finale:
Thanks for the memories.