When God closes one door, He opens another.
The feels. Ah, the feels.
I couldn’t get through my last day at the university without running into someone who knew it was my last day and who was also fully in touch with their humanity, and was not afraid to show their emotions.
I have never been through so many awkward situations at the university – in 24 years. I’m over it.
I truly paid the price for coming in that Friday. And it started early, before 7:30, before I clocked in. Cindy came in, cheerful and positive as usual, and stopped to say hello to us, and Gary – who is truly depressed about retiring early; he wanted to stay until he was ready to leave – Gary told her it was our last day.
I died a little as soon as he said it. Cindy started crying, then Gary, and I was supposed to join them, but I didn’t, because I was expending all my energy trying to hide the fact that I was wishing, angrily, that I had called in sick on my last day. Or that I had not been sitting it in rec room when she arrived, or…
I should have stayed home. How many times over the years have I wished I had stayed home? How many times?
Well, then Cindy needed a hug, and Gary needed a minute to compose himself, and I was left feeling like a robot, not programmed to express human emotions – cold, detached, clinically analyzing my apathy. I rooted around in my psyche for something with which to meet the sudden solemnity and sorrow of the situation, and all I could come up with was, “I’ll miss you, too.” And a pat on the back.
I sure hope it helped her.
The coldly rational side of me said, “Just leave. What can they do? Fire you?”
The professional side of me has been running my show since day one, so I stuck it out all day. I hung out with Gary, the 40-year veteran, as he reminisced and cried and said his goodbyes. I had one more delivery – to the new health sciences building; I came this close to leaving after that – and spent fifteen minutes cleaning and polishing my keys with a microfiber rag while I tried to talk myself into leaving early, at the very least.
I also spent untold minutes promising various people that I would be at a retirement I had no intention if being anywhere near. Avoiding that party was the reason I took an extra week off, using precious vacation time I could have been paid for – just to avoid mawkish goodbye scenarios and the inevitable dreaded retirement speech I was going to be asked to make. I lied reflexively. I’m not sorry.
The worst moment, and the only time I came close to crying, was when John found me in the key room waiting to time out. He bad been looking for me. He was with two women from one of the custodial services we have a contract with, so he didn’t have much time (which may have been deliberate on his part). The best boss ever. A good friend. Had my back every day, every step, no matter what. I was the best man at his wedding, one of the best and most precious memories I have. We managed to leave together, which we are both happy about. We hugged, said what we needed to say, and parted before we started crying.
I am going to miss him.
The time clock wasn’t working. It hadn’t worked all week. So, I left right after that, forgetting to say goodbye to Jordan in the mailroom in the process.
My last day. I felt a lot of emotions I didn’t want to feel, and shrunk away from multiple situations I never wanted to be in. But, I didn’t feel the things I wanted to feel. There was no sense of finality. No closure. No joy. The wrong emotions. I wasn’t upset that it was my last day. I was bothered because it felt like any other Friday – like I would be back on Monday.
It felt like I wasn’t leaving at all.
P.S. As it turns out, I was back the next day. When emptying my pockets Friday afternoon when I got home, I discovered two keys that I had cleaned but hadn’t put back on the key ring. I didn’t have the energy to turn around and go back to the campus, so I got up at 5 AM on Saturday and caught an early bus. My swipe card had already been deactivated, so it took longer than I expected to get the keys in the key box. Then I was free – and that is how I felt as I walked away from the campus.
So, Saturday was my actual last day at work.