On Monday, March 28, 2005 I started my first “real job” out of college at age 22 at Wenatchee Parks & Recreation. I had been married less than a year, had a Bachelor’s Degree with no dust on it, and had just moved across the country to start a life. And tomorrow…2,851 work days, 2 babies, and 11 birthdays later, will be my last day on the job.
When Sunny was tiny, she had so many adorable little articles of clothing that once outgrown, went into a box in the closet for baby #2. When Coral came along we were able to see a 2nd tiny baby girl in the same outfits, so the clothes went from cute…to sentimental. When Coral outgrew the same articles of clothing, there were difficult decisions to be made. We knew we didn’t have a 3rd baby in our plans, so there was no practical need to hang on to the clothes again. But I had now seen 2 of precious babies wear these things. How could I part with them? Sometimes holding up the tiny, adorable, sentimental onesies made me wonder, “Do I want another baby?”
And the answer to that question was NO.
But saying goodbye to something that reminds you of a joyful time can be so difficult. I reached a point when Coral was about 3 years old and it was time to purge many of our family’s baby items, that I had to learn to separate my nostalgia from a desire to repeat the past. I realized that it was easy for me to confuse sentimentality over my girls’ infancies with a desire for another baby, but that those 2 things are not at all the same.
The past few weeks have been a similarly complicated emotional scene for me to navigate. Lots of people have asked how I feel about wrapping up my time with Parks & Recreation. And the answer changes every day. I feel all at once
grateful for 11 years of meaningful work
excited for the opportunity to do something new
sad to no longer see so many co-workers every day that have become dear friends
relieved to get out of the cycle of perpetual problems in my specific role, as any job would have
confused about who I will be as a person when I’m not operating within this leadership role that is all I’ve known for all these years
scared about the unknown
eager to spend more time with my kids
terrified to spend more time with my kids
This week I’ve been cleaning out my desk, taking down pictures, and organizing files – some of which haven’t been opened in years. As I’ve sorted through photos of people I’ve worked with and programs I’ve coordinated, read through old program surveys and annual reports, and received so many thoughtful goodbye emails and phone calls, the bittersweet pang of nostalgia has been frequent. Some days its enough to make me doubt whether the decision to leave was a good one.
But I firmly believe that it doesn’t diminish the past to choose a different future. There has to be a designation between nostalgia and just hanging on to the way things are. I can hold up the sentimental parts of my years with Parks & Recreation, and I can cherish those memories. But that’s not the same thing as a desire to do it all again.
The past 11 years have been wonderful. (Of course there have been some bad days, some periods of burnout, some challenges…but I’m not generally one to move those types of things into my long-term memory.) I have grown so much during my 2,851 work days (minus 2 maternity leaves & quite a few vacations). I am forever grateful for the people and circumstances that allowed my personal and professional growth in this decade. And even though I am choosing to try something new, it doesn’t make any of the lessons and memories of those 2,851 days any less meaningful to me. In fact, maybe it makes them more meaningful.
G. K. Chesterson said, “The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the real meaning of growth, which means leaving things inside us.”
There are many many many many many experiences from this wonderful employment that I hope to keep inside of me forever.