With standing room only, the audience gathers for the swan song of a creative coworker. For nearly ten years she inspired hundreds of us, but with just a week before her corporate departure, she, and many people in the room, shed a tear as the crowd rises to its collective feet in a celebratory flash mob for our departing friend. Inevitably, the gathered disperse and a few stragglers remain to wish her well. As I exit, I walk behind another company short timer whose final moments of employment will dwindle away in a handful of hours. I contemplate how she feels watching someone else being celebrated while she exits in solitude, already forgotten. That could be me, I thought, and life is often that imbalanced, but I expect it, but I doubt she did. She clearly experiences emptiness in the midst of a dance fest for someone else, and I feel empathy for her, as well as relief for me, that I am prepared for a departure similar to hers.
Six days later, at the official corporate farewell party, a dozen people orchestrate a farewell pep rally. Punch and cake, hand-written notes of personal recollections, artwork, decorations, and a gauntlet of cheering, adoring friends and fellow employees adorn the space where she often inspired the creativity of others. This time, the creativity of the gathered crowd exudes all the best she brings out in us – what a celebration of her career! And yet I again acknowledge to myself that when I depart this company for my new career, there will be no fanfare, no pep rally, no hand-drawn art, and no gauntlet of cheering adoring fans. I am more prepared than any boy scout.
The unofficial party – the fun one that we all hope we get invited to attend – follows after her last day on the job. We celebrate into the night recognizing how fortunate all of us are to know her and how bummed we will be on Monday morning when she isn’t in our midst. We delight in knowing that the most perfect job on the planet happened to land squarely in her lap. Who doesn’t wish for career karma like hers? After an already not-so-healthy dose of wine and cocktails, the after party continues the celebration. I want to not let my friend go just yet; I want to savor the last bit of time with her and her closest friends, so I offer to be the designated driver to the final pub stop of the night so I may share in the final departure of a truly great lady.
For all the accolades, speeches, spectaculars and celebrations on her behalf, I often catch her in a private moment of melancholic intoxication, reflecting not on the hundreds of farewells, but on an individual who said nothing as she left. I know my departure will be unacknowledged, and reflecting on the dejected departures of those going before me, I discover deep within myself an enormous sense of relief that my expectations are grounded while my spirit overflows with a fulfilling anticipation for an experience I just barely comprehend. And I smile on the inside. I cannot wait to leave.