Well, that’s it. This is day 1 of my 183 days. Day 1 of the rest of my life, as my mother said when I spoke to her on Skype earlier. A lovely card from her arrived in the post today to wish me good luck and to say she was proud of me, and proud of the way I was writing about my experiences and feelings so openly in this blog. She also included two small pictures, printed from slides (yes, I am old enough that my parents used to have slides made from their photos, and then had people over to watch them projected on the wall), of me aged one. It was my first ever holiday, in Crete, and I am wearing a big pair of underpants on my head. My mum wrote that she still sees that little girl in me. I’m getting a bit emotional as I’m writing that – probably also because the last few days of trying to finish the last jobs I had to do at work and going out and drinking too much and not getting enough sleep and everyone saying nice things to me and having to say goodbye and tidying my desk and finally walking out the door for the last time, are catching up with me. What a week!
My mum’s card came on top of lots of other cards and messages this week. At the end of Thursday, my last working day, I’d sent a goodbye email to over 200 colleagues – and last night and today I kept getting replies full of good wishes and encouragement, some of them from people I hadn’t even really worked with that closely. It’s funny how you sometimes forget that your work colleagues are actually real people, that behind the suits and ‘Regards’ at the end of emails and talk of synergy and driving efficiencies and optimising returns, they have real lives full of interesting experiences; that they wear baggy t-shirts at home and say ‘fuck’ and cook dinner for the kids. Now that I am officially an ex-colleague, suddenly people are putting kisses at the end of their emails and telling me quite personal things about their lives, and generally just being incredibly genuine and lovely in their well-wishing.
My mum also said today that what I am doing probably resonates with people and that most people recognise something of what motivated me to make the decision to leave work and take some time out. It’s true that so many friends and colleagues have commended me for my bravery and said things like ‘I wish I could do something like that’. Not a single person has challenged my decision or looked at me funny when I told them. Either they’re all just being polite, or what I am doing isn’t actually as crazy as I thought it might be.
It has been genuinely overwhelming to get such a barrage of kindness and encouragement, as well as some stunning flowers and gifts – very carefully chosen by one particularly lovely colleague who went out of her way to find things I would like even though she was in the middle of a very stressful time at work. As I walked home that day, carrying the abundantly decadent bouquet and wearing my new designer scarf and necklace, I did feel incredibly lucky to be able to leave on such a high. Yes, my job has been infuriating at times, hellishly boring at others, but I could certainly think of worse places to have spent the last 10 years of my working life.
So the little girl with the underpants on her head has somehow made it to 33 and a half, and is about to start the rest of her life. I’ve decided to make a special exception this week and actually use the photos as the image for this post – partly because it’s late and I don’t have time to draw anything as I have to go out and have yet more drinks with friends, and partly because they make me smile.