Several weeks ago, a co-worker shared with us that she had resigned from her position. Unlike others in our office, I was not entirely surprised because I was listed a reference for her and I knew that it was a possibility. She’s moving on to a really great opportunity that is closer to her home and it makes sense in all sorts of ways, except in a way that makes me sigh. My small office is very tight-knit as a whole, but agreeing to be her reference made me realize that I would feel her absence more acutely than anyone else’s.
She mentioned at one time or another that her fantasy snack food would be “a whole bar of French fries, with all sorts of fixings to choose from”, so everyone helped to put together one last hurrah over the lunch hour. One of us went out to get ten side orders of fries while the rest of us assembled the condiment bar: ketchup, mayonnaise, honey mustard,
Well, she loved it.
While reading through the thoughtful goodbye messages people had sent in, she drizzled cheese, swirled chili, and spattered vinegar over her stack of fries. I was pleased that she was enjoying the festivities, but it was bittersweet for me. I might otherwise have had a normal day, but a thought cloud hovered over me: She’s not coming in tomorrow. But I didn’t act differently, except to slip her a congratulations-and-good-luck card. I felt awkward, as though I inadvertently stumbled into a funeral. It’s an exciting opportunity for a new job and advancement, I reminded myself. It makes sense! It’s not personal, it’s business.
And yet, it is personal, at least a little bit. She was at this company when I started, so this workplace without her is colder, less forgiving, more severe. We partnered to cultivate new products and bring them to fruition; thought I manage them on my own now, I could always look to her if I need to bounce around new ideas. During a time when I seriously questioned what I was doing with my life, decided to take a leap, and then met disappointment, she was there with an understanding ear, practical advice, and radiant optimism. I will miss all of these things in her.
When we hugged goodbye after happy hour, I promised to come visit her so she could show me around her city. My stomach ached, deep in the pit. The French fries for lunch didn’t help at all.