The Cayman Island adventure starts with my last day at work in Boston. It’s nine months to the day since I started and it’s surreal walking through the fourth floor to my desk. I pass row after row of cubicles, cramped desks, hearing the clacking of keys, muted conversations about trial balances and client proposals. I glance at the coworkers I never met, read their faces and their name placards one last time. Today is my final day at the Boston office. I’m on the brink of big changes in my life and except for Gloria who sits next to me (who kindly pronounced that I was dead to her because we were leaving for tropical climes), no one I pass even knows what’s about to happen.
Life goes on even without you in it.
You’d think that maybe the office would stop and take note of the moment with you, but the accounting machine moves on without you. There are deadlines to meet.
What I’m more surprised with is how indifferent I am too.
I think back to the last time I went through this process. Two years ago I interned in this same office, and at the time I was a little torn up about leaving to go back to school. Work in the Big 4 firm had felt like home for a while. People I had met were friendly and I was genuinely going to miss them. This time however, things were different. I never really connected with anyone new, and for the most part I felt ignored and completely, and totally replaceable.
As I go through the motions of returning my laptop, meeting with my office mentor, and turning in my badge, I keep expecting strong emotions to hit me. Maybe as I’m walking out the door I’ll feel something, I think. When the moment comes and I step outside, I’m still unfeeling. Not knowing what else to do, I pull out my phone and take a selfie in front of the building to commemorate the occasion. I’m forcing a memory, creating a synthetic emotion as I’m trying hard to get the blue and white KPMG letters in the frame without getting a double chin as well.
Maybe that’s the thing about life—we have all these expectations for these grand moments, like we’re supposed to feel something deep and profound, a sort of magical transformation and awe. But so many times the moment comes and goes and half the time you’re left thinking, “That was it? Did I miss something?”
Shortly after Natalie and I got married, I was meeting with the wedding photographer to pick up our photos and he asked me if I felt different. When I sheepishly replied, “No not really,” he smiled. He said he kept thinking that he was going to be a changed man after his wedding, that his fiancée would suddenly become WIFE (in bold print no less) and he would feel different.
“Nothing changed,” he said. “I was still me. On paper my girlfriend had become my wife, but she was still the same woman I fell in love with. We were the same as we were before.”
Don’t get me wrong: there are definitely moments in life that live up to the hype, but sometimes the big moment comes and goes and there isn’t even an emotional ping on your radar. Instead it’s the everyday awesome that sinks in, like a rainy day on the ocean that feels more emotionally significant than your last day at work.