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As I sat at my desk on my last day as a working professional, I knew it was my beginning day and my end day. Luckily, it was not a very strenuous day. But it had been very emotional knowing I would not be working with my wonderful staff anymore. On that unusual day, a young couple who had met at the school in fourth grade, arrived to take pre-wedding pictures. The school was, yet is wasn’t the same for them. For this young couple it was both the beginning and the end.
The clock ticked loudly announcing the passage of time. My desk was empty, except for my keys. I dreaded putting them in the safe. Once I put them inside, it would be final. It is a little gut wrenching to think that placing the keys in the safe is your final act of your working life. I was sent off with a bang. The staff put on a heartfelt and emotional retirement party that was more spectacular than I could have imagined. But the party was not the end. I still had two weeks to work and finish up and prepare for the new year. (I wanted the new principal to not struggle with minutia when he/she arrived.)
I worked in education for 25 years. For some, that may not seem like much, but I was almost 40 when I started. I had three other careers prior to education. However, this has been the most rewarding career that I could ever have imagined.
As I sat at the desk I could hear the loud hum of the air conditioner, but there were no other sounds coming from the office. There were no sounds of kids screaming with laughter and joy, no sounds from the teachers enjoying their camaraderie and their concern for their students, no sounds from the parents planning their PTA activities and voicing their questions and issues.
I skimmed my hand across the top of my very large desk. A principal’s desk is both power and protection. The heavy wooden chairs that surely had been there since the school opened in 1959, no longer held the little culprits whose infractions were usually easily remedied. As I stare at them, I notice for the first time that they have vertical slats on the back. Many of the students entered my office and looked at me through those slats. Now I realize that from their perspective, entering my office was rather prison-like. Behind the chairs, the apples and the dolphin mascot trinkets still adorned the shelves. It seemed sacrilegious to remove them from the school and take them home.
All I kept thinking was, how do I say good-bye to this school and to the position I held for 15 years. In a few short weeks, another capable individual would be sitting in this chair and dealing with all the issues, trials and tribulations and joy of running a school. How would I go from being frantically busy every second of the day to not having a real job or responsibility.
This is the beginning and the end.
A few minutes later I started taking things out to my car. At this point, it was very real that I was leaving. Once I finished packing up my car, I realized that I’d unlocked the door to the school for the last time. My computer shut down and it went to black.
What if I had left something essential to my life? Would I get it back? I was not talking about a thing–I am leaving whatever POWER I thought I might have earned behind and I knew I would never get it back.
WISH ME LUCK. HERE I GO.
The door clanked shut, the lever was dropped and the tumblers clicked into the place. I hadn’t realized that closing that safe would be so sad. I had just locked up my career. Tears streamed down my cheeks. The custodian who was cleaning the office asked if I was ok.
“I will be,” I whispered. “I will be.”