Saturday, December 17, 2011

Last day

Today was my last day on a project that I have been involved in, one way and another, since I started working for the organization that pays my wages more than 12 years ago. The first couple of years, I wondered to myself why it didn’t exist. The next couple of years, I asked like-minded people in the organization that I had gotten to know why we couldn’t bring it into existence. Since I am fortunate enough to work for an organization where you can identify a gap and then figure out how to fill it, some of us started working on a plan. And when enough of us agreed to pitch in and see if we could make it happen, I volunteered to be the administrator while we tried to get it off the ground, fitting it in around the full-time job I was already doing.

About a year later, we had established its presence, and enough people thought it was worthwhile that a paid Associate Editor’s position was created to administer it. I handed off the administrative side of it with some relief, but continued to do some work on the project. I had just gone freelance, and the few hours a week it entailed fit in nicely with my other commitments.

Two years later, the Associate Editor went on maternity leave. Since she was based in the UK, that meant six months off work. As probably the next-most-experienced person in the organization about the project, I was asked if I might have the time and interest to take on that part of her job for that period. We estimated it to be two days a week of work, and I accepted. It was a tighter squeeze than before among my commitments, but still manageable, and the steady income would come in very handy.

I started in June of 2006. After six months, that first Associate Editor came back from maternity leave, worked a year or more, and then took another maternity leave from which she didn’t return. Three other Associate Editors have succeeded her. Meanwhile, at home, we organized a move from England to Australia (with an unplanned eight-month layover in the US) and one from Australia to the American Midwest. The project itself has grown from working with a fraction of our organization’s authors and editors to handling well over 60% of our published output. Miss B has gone from being not quite two to halfway through first grade. DP is on his third job and has published two books.

All the while, I have continued with a two-day-a-week commitment on what may be the longest maternity cover in the history of employment.

It became apparent over the course of this year that the job had conclusively outgrown the time I had for it, and that it and I were going in markedly different directions. So today, after months of plotting and planning on my part and weeks of drafting resource documents, cleaning up files, and tying up loose ends on conference calls, I handed off the whole project lock, stock, and barrel.

It doesn’t really feel real yet. I work from home, so it’s not as though my location will change. I’m still working in the organization, so I’ll still be working with many of the same people, just with a different focus. I hope that my working life is going to become more manageable in the working hours that I have available, and less stressful now that every day isn’t dictated by deadlines. It will be very strange to have a project that I’ve been so intertwined with for so long carrying on without my input, but I think we’re both ready.

I promised myself several months ago, when I finally set a date for myself to finish work on this project, that after so many months of early mornings, late nights, and weekends, I would finish my last working day at a reasonable time, and that I would celebrate, even if I had to do it by myself. Today I walked out of my home office at 5:05 pm and cracked open the bottle of prosecco I’ve had waiting in my fridge. I even had a few people around to share it with.

I am profoundly grateful to be in a position where I have more than enough work to keep me busy, and can choose to focus on the work that best fits my schedule, interests, and goals, especially in a time when so many people are struggling to find gainful employment. And as challenging as this project has often been, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn, to develop new skills, to make a contribution, and to know that the work will continue even when I’m no longer involved.

I wish you all a stress-free weekend. If you’re still reading, thanks for listening to me ramble.


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