Friday was my last day at work. A HUGE milestone for me. I've spent the past seven years of my life at that place. SEVEN long years of routine (9am to 6pm every day, except holidays, vacation and sick days). Seven years, three movies (and one in production), some good friends and tons of experience. I started out pretty much as a kid there, nearly fresh out of college. After a nightmare experience as a PA at Nick Digital, I was OVERJOYED to land a PA position at Blue Sky. But, then again, I would've done anything to get my foot in the door. I was hungry and that was my dream - to create computer animated films. Now seven years later, I feel that I've fulfilled that dream.
And I'm a different person. As driven as I was back then, I certainly feel more focused and wise today. Becoming a parent certainly accelerated that growth. Even though I'm not sure where I'm headed, I am more clear about what this life is about for me. I'm also calmer. The fiery spirit I had around political, racial, economic and environmental issues has been replaced with a more sensible (and authentic) desire to affect change in whatever way I can. I went through Doing and almost burning out, to just Being and now I'm at Doing through Being. And if that doesn't make any sense, check out Landmark Education. But, in essence, it just means that I am more sure about who I am and that what I do comes out of that... instead of defining who I am BY what I do. I just feel more like a grown-up.
I never thought that I might feel sadness about leaving work. In fact, I was thrilled when we were laid off in 2001 after Ice Age. I still refer to that time period as the best six months of my life. I was able to focus on all my outside projects. I traveled; I curated a provocative art show; I trained capoeira. But as my life became more about what happened at work than what happened outside of work, my attachments to the job and co-workers grew. And after I had my daughter (and accepted that I could not be a stay-at-home mom), the workplace became a bit of a respite in a way, a place where I could interact with grown-ups and be free of the immense responsibility of parenting. Something scary happened; I began looking forward to the routine of it. Before, I thought that true friendship was inherently inauthentic through the forced social setting of the office and I was also filled with insecurity and mistrust around being one of the few black people in a majority white company, but then I started really getting to know some people. I made some good friends. I'd always been afraid in a way to put my all into my job (because a company certainly doesn't give its all to the employee and I felt that my personal life was far more important), but then I started focusing more on improving my skills and even the environment at work. My job became a significant part of my life... and I wasn't horrified by that. And although that's one of the reasons I knew it was time to go, I will truly miss The Office and the familiar faces in it.
A large group of those familiar faces threw me a surprise party on Friday. Who knew... who knew that so many people cared. I guess I grew on them the same way they grew on me. And, even though it doesn't feel like it yet, I guess what I'm doing is really big and inspirational to some people. My co-workers pooled together their money to give me the best going away presents ever. So specific, so thoughtful. Books on New Orleans architecture and design; gift certificates to Home Depot and Target; a Tickle-Me-Elmo doll for my daughter; an IPOD!! I could not believe it. I had a clue that something was going to happen, but I had no idea it would be this big and involve so many people. I was stunned, speechless. I'd actually semi-prepared a speech to give to my department (because I thought it would just be a small thing among us), but I completely forgot every word of it when I walked into the conference room and saw 100+ faces staring at me. I stammered a few words... I'm not sure exactly what I said (I think KP has it all on video though!). I was overwhelmed, but I hope they all know how much that meant to me. I was really moved.
And then, after work, there was a gathering at a local bar. Another co-worker (our daughters are best friends) offered to babysit my daughter while I drank myself into oblivion. Just kidding. I only had two drinks (thanks Alena and KP!), stayed for about an hour and a half, hugged everybody, chatted, then hugged everybody again. What a nice way to say goodbye.
These days, goodbye isn't as final as it used to be, since there are SO many ways to keep in touch. But there is something special about being in the physical presence of another person, even if it's just to smile or say "Hi" as we pass each other in the hall. I will miss my co-workers. Thanks for seven years.