On Monday, it didn’t feel like my last week of work. Even on Tuesday and Wednesday, as I began the process of cleaning off my desk and sorting through my files, it still didn’t feel like the end was near, though I could count its arrival in hours. I had multiple after-work drinks and celebratory lunches and farewell coffee dates. I was wished well dozens of times. But all week long every day just felt like all the days that had come before it.
But on Friday I woke up giddy. A dear friend of mine asked if I felt like I was about to jump out of an airplane: excited, but nervous that the parachute wouldn’t open. No, I told her, I don’t feel like that I all. I was just ecstatic. There was no fear, no worry, no nerves.
Friday morning and heading off to my last day of work
I’d been dreaming of that final day at work for a long time. I’d imagine myself removing the Summer 2012 note I’d placed on my monitor for motivation three years ago. I imagined putting my travel Buddha, who stood on my desk as a reminder of where I was headed, in my backpack. I imagined saying the final goodbyes to my co-workers and taking the elevator down to the lobby and bursting through the doors into the sunshine. I’d imagine, over and over again, what it would feel like to walk out of those doors for the last time.
And when the moment came it felt amazing. But it also felt completely surreal. There were no fireworks, no marching band, no cannons exploding in the sky. It was just me, slipping out that door for the final time. As T.S. Eliot said, the end, when it came, was not a bang but a whimper.
Celebrating my last day of work with friends. The end was a whimper but I am clearly beyond happy (and, yes, perhaps slightly intoxicated)
As I sat down to write this post I kept coming back to the fact that, though I’ve just willfully become unemployed, the joy I am feeling is not that my job has ended (though I am beyond happy that I don’t have to spend my days in a cubicle anymore) but that the next chapter of my life has officially begun.
I am no longer Kim Dinan, Sustainability Coordinator. I am no longer a public employee. I am no longer required to spend my days sitting at a computer inside the gray walls of a cubicle.
I am no longer a person planning to quit my job and follow my dream. Now, I am a person who has quit my job to follow my dream. My last day at work gave me that. Work ended and this brand new chapter of my life began. Like putting on the best pair of jeans, I feel like I am stepping into what was made exactly for me.
So leaving my job wasn’t about leaving my job. It has never been about leaving my job. It has always been about walking towards what could be. Kim Dinan, Writer. Traveler. The possibility of it all. The great wide open future.
The biggest lesson that my career taught me is that you can care about something deeply, even get paid to do it, and it still may not make you happy if it is not the thing you were born to do. On Friday I walked away from a career as a Sustainability Coordinator in Portland, Oregon, arguably the greenest city in the United States. I had the kind of job that people dream of having, and I cared about it passionately. I believed in the work. In that sense alone I was already luckier than most. But being a Sustainability Coordinator is not my dream. My dream is to write, to travel. My dream is my life now.
For the past eight years I have been selling my time for money. Now, I am taking that money and buying time. I’m buying time and adventure and freedom and experiences that I’d never be able to have behind a desk. I’m buying time to write and somehow turn that into my career. I’m buying time to see the world.
For me, there’s just no looking back.
For those of you wondering, Brian has one more week of work left. On 5/21/12 we leave Portland and drive back to Ohio for a long visit with family and to get our dogs settled into their new life with Brian’s parents. In mid-June we set out on a road trip to visit friends and then our U.S. National Parks road trip officially begins.
We have just taken a gigantic leap of faith. May our wings grow before our eyes and yours.