Stranger Days #32: The Last Day of Work

Estimated Reading Time: 4.5 minutes

Welcome to stranger days--my blog series exploring daily life, challenges in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just sharing insights or thoughts about how to make it through these days.  

When leaving a job, of your own volition, there is a weird dance that happens. I aim to give them ample time to prepare for the absence because I care about the folks that I work with but I'm also making a definitive decision to leave the day-to-day work life I've established with folks for years. In many ways, it's the classic "It's not you; it's me." (And sometimes, it is the reverse).    But leaving a job in the middle of a pandemic and encroaching economic turmoil is its own stranger dance.

So what is all this reflecting about?  Well, today is my last day at Brandeis University. I am leaving for a new position at another institution and while I'll have much to say about that in a future post, I wanted to focus this one on my leaving Brandeis.  

I started there three years ago as Instructional Designer and leave now, as Associate Director of Learning Design. It's practically three years to the day when I accepted the position and I've very much appreciated the time I've spent there, making new colleagues and friends while also learning and growing in ways I knew I would and unexpected ways. I've found positive and challenging representations of leadership to help me think about how I should work with others. I've found colleagues who I could laugh with while also trying to get through more challenging aspects of the work. I've found people who have helped to push my thinking further than I could certainly do on my own.  All of which is to say that I learned and learned a lot and am so very grateful for such opportunities.   

Working at Brandeis, I've also appreciated the social-justice mission rooted in the university's foundation and the many different people I met over my time there that embraced this in different ways.  In some ways, I found it a grounding experience to know that folks that I worked with all had a piece of that mission in their mind in the work that they did.  
A screenshot of a zoom room with 8 squares, in each square is a different person. Some folks have special backgrounds with decorations.
A Zooming Good-Bye Party

But there's no great etiquette for leaving in the best of circumstances, nevermind amidst a pandemic, so in some ways, it did not feel right or ideal.  Unfortunately, I was already in interviews well before the pandemic hit and I think as its impact became real, my profile--given my background--might have elevated me (though, who knows for sure).  By the time an offer came, we were a few weeks in and it felt strange to quit a position in the midst of everything.  Some of it stems, of course, from working in some of the front-line of higher education that is navigating and supporting the transition to emergency remote learning during this time.  

The other reason, the big reason, is that it feels frightfully risky to change jobs in the midst of the pandemic and economic disaster we're spiraling downward in.  It just is. Not sure I can square that circle but just acknowledge it.  That's something to sit with and ponder in future posts, mayhaps.

The other challenge in leaving during a pandemic is that I don't get to leave in a way that I would really want to. My goodbyes have largely been via Zoom or email. In some ways, these are wonderful to listen to and read the kind words that people offer. It truly is.  But despite my extensive engagement online, I do feel a bit of a loss in not getting to say goodbye in person.  In particular, for folks that know me, know that I am a hugger. And while I obviously wouldn't go hugging everyone I am leaving, there are many folks whom I've become friends with that would welcome a parting hug. It's a small thing and reality, those that I might give a hug to, are still likely to be in my life after today--it's still something that I miss in this situation.  

A zoom room with 10 different people squared off into tiles.

Still, there were opportunities for them and me to say goodbye and I appreciated having the opportunity to share with them how much they have met to me over the past two years.  The line that I found myself saying again and again is that while I am leaving a job, I'm saddest about leaving the people; they are what makes my work so rewarding and enjoying. And hopefully, those people will still continue to be in my life, but just in different capacities.  

Ultimately, I am sad to leave the people and while I will miss some of the work that I do (the new job is a partial pivot), I feel like it is time (despite "the times we live in") to take this next step--scary as it may feel.  

Take care. Be careful. Be care-filled.  Welcome to stranger days.

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