Today marked the end of this stage of my career, as I left public service. Yesterday, friends threw me a going-away luncheon where I told them, among other things, this (the best recollection I have of what I said):
It took a very special job offer from a very special employer to make me even consider leaving here. Over the last seventeen years, I’ve had amazing opportunities to work with brilliant and dedicated people, pursuing a noble mission to make our country and our world a better place. Red Hat is one of the only private companies I know that also falls into that category.
Friends not only from my current office, where I’ve been for about six years, but also from my previous one where I spent 1996-2001, came out to see me off, including a couple I haven’t seen in quite a number of years. It was not a huge affair, but heartwarming nonetheless; many of the friends I’ve made at work are scattered around the United States these days. At the luncheon, I was presented with a couple of lovely plaques, including one with a blown up photo of me in my younger, less careworn days with a bunch of my coworkers. This was from my old office, and they had marked my dates of service there as “1996-2008,” because they felt like I had always remained “one of the family.”
One former supervisor of mine, who has since vaulted into the executive ranks in our building (“Get to know me!”), told me that just as he had heard I was leaving, he’d been preparing to call me about a job with his office. He said although he felt my new employer was very lucky to get me, to call him if I ever wanted to come back.
Over the last week, I received some very nice emails and phone calls from friends, and as I went through my files to pull my few personal papers for safe-keeping, I came across a number of forgotten gems — some letters of commendation, some simple notes of thanks. It made me realize that I did have a very positive impact on a lot of people in the last seventeen years — something that’s hard for me to even write, because I generally don’t like dwelling on those kinds of things.
I spent most of the day today cleaning up my desk, delivering files to people, showing a coworker how to work with an internal mirror I had set up, and wiping my laptop to pass on to a coworker. At 3:00 I went over to our other building, and after a meeting there with one of the security officers, I turned in all my cards, badges, and credentials, and was escorted out of the building (in the kindest and friendliest way).
I don’t usually have moments of visual apparition, but as I drove home off the Marine base, I did experience a moment where I thought I saw peripherally, in my rear view mirror, the fence-wire gates shutting after me. Of course nothing so terribly grandiose or foreboding actually happened. I cranked up some old Prince, “Pop Life,” on my stereo. Then — probably for the last time for a very long while — I rounded the turn onto the county road, taking me away from my old life and toward the indistinct but seductive promise of a new one, and I saw the gates behind me were still open.