Hello from the last week of work. It is…quiet. My head—which has been whirring and spinning since I said the words “I need to be done” to my boss six or seven weeks ago, which has been busy even in my sleep with nonsense dreams about how I will say goodbye to all this—is suddenly very still and a little numb.
I had intended to quit working when Henry was born. And then, to my utter shock, I discovered that I needed that job. I needed to have a familiar place to go and something I was good at and people around me for one or two days a week. Jenny once told me that she wished she didn’t have to keep working part time, but that going to work two days made her a better mom the rest of the week. I can so relate to that. Having looked forward to it for so long, I was absolutely unprepared for the identity crisis, for the loneliness that would accompany motherhood for me, and I needed that security blanket during the transition.
There have been so many good things about continuing my job part-time over the past three-and-three-quarters years. My boss is amazing, my coworkers are dear to me, my job is interesting and familiar, and most weeks—especially ones where, say, I was attempting yet again to potty train Henry—I felt a sigh of relief to get to be a professional adult for one day.
But it hasn’t been perfect, and over the past year—and in spite of my best efforts—it has become increasingly clear that my kids, my family, and I are paying a high price for that one day. For one thing, what worked with one kid is just not working with two. And, frankly, nearly four years and two kids in, I no longer need the security blanket of work. And so shortly before Christmas I finally took a big gulp and, with ridiculous tears in my eyes, said out loud that I needed to go.
The extrication process over the past few weeks has been painful. I spent Wednesday, my last day in the office, tossing nine years of files into the trash and trying to convey over a decade’s worth of institutional knowledge in the space of a conversation. Each time I had to tell someone I’ve worked with for years that I was leaving, I felt sadness and disbelief wash over me again. I’ve worked on the Hill since I was 22. And now, as I look out over the blank slate of my future, I feel a little bit…blank.
But if leaving felt almost unbearably sad this week, it felt sad in the best way. People I worked closely with said such kind and encouraging things, both about working with me and about my decision to leave. I felt the weight of my role in the office fully for the first time in a while, and it was good to go out on a high note. Friendships that might have always just been work friendships are now transitioning into to real-life ones instead. Mike and the office took me to a really nice lunch yesterday and gave me a lovely, heart-felt send-off.
I will miss this job and who I have been in it. I still have some grieving to work through. But there are good things ahead. Fewer stress headaches, for one, and desperately-needed space in our lives. And I have long known that this job, with its noise and familiarity, has made it hard for me to hear the callings of my next season. So I have finally silenced it. And while it is eerily, almost painfully quiet right now, now that I am on the other side of this week, I am beginning to imagine (though I can’t feel it quite yet) an immense sigh of relief somewhere in my future.