My first last day

4 Jan finally came. The office car park had been counting down the past week with me as it reminded me how many more days of season parking I had every time I drove in.

My last day in the first company I worked for since I graduated dawned and stayed beautiful and sunny. 14 years, 8 weeks and 7 days. That’s 5365 days of my life, spent in one company: through a convocation, my wedding and 4 pregnancies.

Everyone went about their business as usual. There were of course colleagues who came by to wish me well. Nonetheless, life pretty much goes on. As the saying goes, none of us are indispensable and the giant corporate machinery will keep chugging along fine when we are gone, no matter how wonderful a job you have been doing.

When you have been in 1 place for as long as I have, you accumulate. Objects, habits, memories and people. There were 1500 names and their contact details to transfer from my blackberry to my personal phone. For the first time in my life, I had to make a decision on what kind of a mobile phone to buy (they were not standard issues to employees when I first joined this company. Remember beepers/pagers?). I found almost $200 in cash in my drawers, in between files and papers. And there were so many notebooks and knick knacks to pack and bring home. And all the memories…how and where do I begin to store them, lest they get forgotten and drowned out by the beat of life passing by?

The objects I probably can do without and would probably end up throwing away (except for the money I found). Some of the old habits will be broken, like it or not and new ones formed (hello hot desks and economy travel for business). The people I would hope to keep in touch with, though reality is such that as time passes, the distance increases. Social media does help (Facebook and LinkedIn) but it can never replace the actual interactions that take place in the corridors and over the phone. So while we make these promises to keep in touch, how many will I end up breaking only to regret later?

Like it or not, ready or not, the evening started pushing against late afternoon. The packing activity became a frenzy. How am I going to pack away almost 15 years of my corporate life in the next 1-2 hours? To be honest, after a certain point in time in this company, I probably unconsciously expected myself to stay for life and so, never took the discipline to purge on a regular basis. Another habit to break going forward…

At 6 pm, I was finally done with my boxes and had them all packed and loaded into J’s waiting car. I surrendered my employee pass and corporate credit card (my neck and wallet felt a little lighter) and walked out of the office doors into the humid evening air. J was waiting patiently with a bouquet of roses and lilies to celebrate my first last day.

Did the world seem different and was I now looking at the world through new eyes having uprooted myself from the only corporate world I have known till now? Strangely, no but probably I will one day.

The first order of business after exiting the office was going to buy a mobile phone for myself. Something I’ve never done in my life before (talk about being prehistoric! Guess this happens when you are spoilt in the company with everything taken care of for you)! As I settled down for dinner after, with the excitement of my first mobile phone purchase subsiding, I felt, in addition to tiredness, untethered, like part of my identity was now lost or gone, sort of like being in a corporate limbo.

Interesting how much of my self identity is derived from the organization that I work for…as it probably is for many people. I’m sure this isn’t something that happens by the individuals’ intentions, rather more by organizations’ designs as they strive to get their employees to be “more engaged”, “more in sync with the company’s vision, mission, values and beliefs” so that they are more productive and effective at work. So when you finally unplug from the eco-system, you feel a little hollow and floating.

Well, at least it also means this is the first evening in a long time that I am not bringing any work home from the office to do and I don’t have the dread of e-mails piling up to answer either over the weekend or on Monday mornings. A brief re-spite until I rejoin the corporate world again in 3 days’ time in a new company waiting to plug me in to their eco-system and brainwash me to their culture and ways of working.

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