Before I left my old job, there was a lot of cleaning. Cleaning out my desk and all my file folders, but also sort of cleaning my brain. I actually took a few pictures of my empty office right before I left. Not that I’d ever forget what it looked like or anything. I wasn’t sure why I was taking the pictures. I know my son was very bummed about me leaving the big tower with the Key on top, as he always recognized it whenever we were near downtown and would shriek and point, shouting, “That’s where you work, Mom!” He didn’t come with me to work very often, but the few times he was there made an impression, particularly when we did the multi-floor trick or treat every Halloween. He was very distressed about not being able to go back this fall for TOT and I explained we would have to go out into our neighborhood somewhere, though it’s a pretty far walk for a little kid just to get all the way out of our apartment complex (where there is no TOT) to the road, and then down the road to a neighborhood where people should be TOTing. I’d drive him, but then I’d feel like people would think we came in from some other neighborhood or something, and give us the side eye. We’ll figure it out, I told him.
As I was doing things my last day, I tried to form thoughts around it being the “last time” I would do certain things; the last time I logged in to my locked work floor using my employee ID. The last time I sent an email from my work account, before I closed the laptop, turned it off, and took it down to the IS department for stripping and refurbishing for the next victim. They bought me a cake and were very nice about me leaving, really. All I had left the last day was a very sturdy plant that the last person who left had given me when he left – my former boss – who went on to find a job he really, really loves in another city. Despite me not having any windows and being really terrible about taking care of plants, the thing managed to live something like 3 years in my office, and was doing pretty well, so I carried it out in one arm, my tote bag over my other arm, and went out the door for the last time as an employee, down the long, long elevator ride, and out into the light.
I had only taken a few steps when I saw it – this teeny, tiny goldtone key just like the one on top of the tower. People who work for Key Bank (I did not work there, they just own the naming rights to the building) sometimes have to wear these little key pins on their lapel, and it was someone’s pin that had broken, the post and the key both being on the ground. I stepped over it and then stopped and went back and retrieved it, not knowing what I’d do with it.
That night, I presented it to my son and asked what we should do with it. After some very serious discussion, I got some thread and put it through the hole and then taped the thread to the ceiling in his room, so he could look at it whenever he wanted.
Now that the cobwebs are clearing, I went for a long-overdue MRI that my doctor suggested I get, just to make sure there wasn’t anything Really Bad in there that could be contributing to my variety of head-related maladies the last couple of years (sinus infections, ear infections, hearing loss). After a lot of thumping and listening to very bad radio for 35 minutes, I learned later in the day that my brain is, in fact, not full of anything bad. Except those two Katy Perry songs, which I had never heard before as I know who she is but not her music, and wow, why is she so popular.
Literally, the bad stuff is leaving my brain. Now that I’ve been away from the stress of my previous job for almost a full two weeks, I’m getting some real perspective. There’s a lot to do at my new job, and a steep learning curve. But nobody is … shitty, you know? I didn’t get a meeting request someone thought they sent me for yesterday, so when it was time he just called me over and I plunged in. He swore he sent it but he didn’t, he later learned. No big deal, call went fine, and he later apologized for insisting he had sent it and for being so scattered, giving me pieces of information about the call only 10 minutes beforehand but not actually telling me when the call was, ha ha. At my old job, whether it had been my fault or not, I would have had a talking to when I showed up at the call about how I needed to be better organized and manage my appointments better, and create a new process document around how I would plan to better organize my calendar appointments going forward. And then I’d still not get an apology and still have to do the process document even if it was discovered later that I had never received the meeting request.
I knew I was overloaded and things were unfair, of course, but now that I’m out, the perspective is so much different. I almost feel like I was in an emotionally abusive relationship that was really hard to leave, and that I thought I’d never be able to escape. I’ve escaped a few of those, and it’s a very similar feeling. I feel BUSY at my new job, but not upset about it. I’m not crying driving in to work, or spending all day Sunday morose, drinking and eating too much and angry and stressed out because I have to go to work the next day. I haven’t been forced to work through lunch every day, or stay late with no notice and cancel my plans with friends. Nobody has gone to someone else behind my back and complained that I had a frown on my face when I talked to them, resulting in me having to have a talk with my supervisor about forcing myself to smile in meetings (a real thing).
New pathways are forging in my brain as it is a steep learning curve at the new job, but also a fascinating one (if anyone wants me to tell them how a flagpole is constructed and installed, I can do that now – I bet you don’t even know what Karman vortex street is, do you?). I feel so much more productive in comfortable, casual clothes and nobody has called me when I arrived 15 minutes late, under the guise of making sure I am ok and then later telling me to make sure to note on my time sheet when I actually arrived.
There are new rooms in this clean brain, and I’m filling them up, transferring old files and deleting ones I don’t need anymore. Move forward.