Our path emerges for a while, then closes…

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.

– Ernest Dowson, from “Vitae Summa Brevis” (1896).

Around mid-January I received an unexpected phone call. It was from a representative of the organization that oversees the administration of a place I used to work at. They were going to be embarking on a transitional period in their staffing and wanted to know if I would assist them during that time. I have to confess I had some misgivings. Not just because there were some serious issues surrounding their change in staffing but also because this was a position I had resigned from with no intention of ever returning. In the summer of 2012 I gave my notice. I got all my files and paper work in order (with the exception of a government grant application that I would finish pro bono for them a couple of weeks later) and spent the last 2 weeks of my employment training my replacement. I hadn’t resigned because I hated the job. I quite enjoyed the work. Granted it was a very demanding position (there was a 6 page job description) but I had a good handle on that. I had some really good times there, met some great people, and found great satisfaction in moving the organization into a new period of growth but it certainly wasn’t all sunshine and roses. There were some pretty significant issues that negatively impacted my life both on and off site.  In the end I left because of a number of factors (people and situations) that eventually created what I felt was an untenable working environment.

I’m not a grudge holder AND I had invested almost 5 years of my life in the place so I cautiously agreed to lend a hand. What I said I would do was update all their security information, write a couple of employment grants, and assist with an event they were holding in early February. I thought I had made the limited nature of my commitment very clear but when I arrived on site I was handed keys to the buildings and a one paragraph job description for an interim manager’s position. I was also told I was welcome to apply for my old job if I liked. Yikes!! I reiterated my acceptable level of commitment and in the end I was on site for around 90 hours over a 3 week period. And you know what? It was just a really, really, really weird experience.

It was sort of what I think it would feel like to suddenly find yourself hanging out with your “ex”. It’s not like I’ve done that kind of thing but I can imagine the strangeness of something like it. You genuinely loved that person but had to leave them because it turned out they were pretty loopy and the relationship just wasn’t healthy.  The qualities you fell in love with are still there but you can’t deny the loopy stuff that let you know it was time to go.

I found myself sitting at my old desk doing some of the things it used to be my job to do. But it hadn’t been my job in a long time and it wasn’t going to be my job in the future. It felt familiar yet foreign. One thing I did on my brief return was read my personnel file. Now don’t get your knickers in a knot because I wasn’t snooping. It wasn’t locked away or anything like that. It was in the drawer of my old desk where anyone could see it. If any of you had the wherewithal to not read your personnel file if you came across it… well hats off to you. Just so you know there weren’t any surprises in there any way. It was an opportunity though to take a trip down memory lane. It was a short trip. I hadn’t worked there in over a year and a half. I’d only been on site for a couple of days before I found the file. While I could see there were some changes since I’d left, under the surface it was still a lot of the “same old same old”. It was just an odd little twist that the “same old same old” was what had me sitting at my old desk reading about myself in the third person.  If nothing else (well I did get paid- I’m not that much of a patsy) my three weeks on site, hanging out with my ex so to speak, let me know I had made the right decision in the summer of 2012.

I finished up the night of the February event. During my exit interview I was pretty candid about a great number of things I would never have addressed as an employee. It’s definitely easier to speak out when you don’t feel like your job is on the line. I really hope what I had to say helps the organization. Maybe they’ll take some of it under consideration but if they don’t, well that’s life isn’t it? Tomorrow becomes today, and then it is yesterday, and we move on. It’s all just water under the bridge.

Music for this post is Dave Mason’s “We Just Disagree

Chair from an abandoned squat camp on a Lake Erie shoreline cliff
Chair from an abandoned squat camp on a Lake Erie shoreline cliff
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