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Last Days

Ten days ago, work was getting to be a drag. I was working (a little) in an isolated cell, I was sick, and I was feeling a bit blue.

Then something funny happened. Simon got sick, further restricting how much time I had to wrap things up, and I got busy. The clock was ticking down, I had a list to transfer, and it was time to pass the baton to my colleagues. So I wrote my active authors and key back-list authors the Sunday before last. Then I wrote my co-workers a farewell note. And this week, with just a couple of days left, I wrote prospective authors and those authors deeper on the  back-list.

As a result, my last seven days have been an extended Sally Field moment. They like me, by George, they really like me. My phone, my poor phone that has rung so pitifully little in the last six months, has been ringing off the hook. My inbox, a sad trickle of its former self, has been overflowing with tidings. I’ve had authors call to make sure I was OK, authors call to find out the real story behind my rather vague letter, authors indignant on my behalf, authors happy for me, and authors offering references and networking referrals.

I’ve had authors write polite letters to my successor and then inflamed, emotional letters to me at my personal email address. Some authors I thought were arrogant jerks have been gracious, kind, and offered help. Some authors have been intrigued by my attitude, admitted their own career uncertainty, have asked for updates on my search. Some have charmingly assumed I am off to the competition and are trying to bolt with me. I’ve also been flooded with well wishes and genuine acts of friendship from many of my coworkers.

I have, in short, connected with more people on a more honest level during my exit than I have in the last eighteen months on the job. Not coincidentally, I have been happier at work than I have for many months. Sometimes it takes third party intervention to realize how stuck you really were and help get you unstuck.

Part of this reminds me very much of my experience leaving my first career, academia. The palpable relief is certainly familiar. But another part is very new. When I left my graduate program, I was not totally honest about it. I ran off to California talking of dissertation research, never did a thing, placed a furtive phone call to end it a year on, and then went into a self-imposed exile.  Twelve years on, I have taken control, said all my goodbyes, and leave with no shame.

It may be too late to go down some paths. My hair might be graying, and my recall might be slowing. But rarely have I felt the advantage of age as profoundly as I have this week. It’s good to be a grown-up.

3 Responses to “Last Days”

  1. blg says:

    The way you have prepared to leave and communicated your plans has been gracious and elegant. I am going to miss you at our twice a year F2F meetings and look forward to seeing you here on your blog, on IM and on Facebook.

  2. Amanda says:

    Mazel Tov, Jessica!
    I found turning 40 to be joyfully freeing, rather than sad, and I hope you are enjoying it as well.

  3. tlalbaugh says:

    My experience(s) exactly, Jessica! A bit sad, but ultimately satisfying too. You will be missed, no doubt, but congratulations on moving into whatever next stage you decide on/find yourself in.

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