Letting Go to Move Forward

I just had my last-ever meeting with my boss. She’s leaving our office  after 13 years of work in higher ed marketing for a big opportunity in a different industry and a different town. She’s taking a bold step, leaving behind an institution that not only helped shape her, but that she helped shape for others.

I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about the whole thing and frankly I’m in a bit of a daze.

On one hand, I don’t blame her for leaving when she is. Our office and our campus have been on a very bumpy road this year, especially over the past few months. She stepped up to take on a lot for our team and was not rewarded well for her efforts. Combined with all the continued protests and negative vibes going around our campus, plus new leadership still just settling in and others vacancies still to be filled, I think her timing is actually probably perfect.

But at the same time the void she leaves behind is very personal to me. Not only am I losing her knowledge and skills and guidance, but I’m also losing the only real anchor I’ve ever had in this job. This is the woman who hired me, who took a chance on a guy who didn’t have a lot of practical experience, and entrusted me as part of her team. She saw more in me than I knew I had, and gave me freedom to make the most of the role.

I’ll admit, and she would too, that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing between us. Like any really valuable working relationship, we’ve had our share of friction, misunderstandings, and arguments. Sometimes we let each other down. Our methods and personalities often didn’t mesh very far; I’m still impulsive procrastinator and visualizer, she’s a planner and arranger.

But no matter the troubles, we never made it personal, and we were always able to work together to overcome any problems that interfered with the work we needed to do. We’d found a rhythm and common understanding, and we made some really great stuff together, as two humans with mutual respect and desire to do the best work possible. We never gave up on each other.

So it only took me five-and-a-half years, but I got where I am because of the opportunities she gave me, and because she often saved me from getting in my own way. I’m grateful for her loyalty, her pride, and her tenacity.

It’s going to be very weird to work here without her. When I return to my office in the new year, I’ll be figuring out who to report to, find new roles and responsibilities to take on at least temporarily, and there will be lots and lots of work to do.

There’s been a quote from the late comic Taylor Negron that keeps coming to mind lately, from the last essay published before he died:

“By letting go of what you thought was going to happen in your life, you can enjoy what is actually happening.”

I’m beginning to realize that my boss and mentor leaving is actually her final way of giving me and my colleagues an opportunity, even though we may not yet understand what that opportunity may be. All I know for sure is that I’m happy to have had this time to work with her and learn from her, and I wish her all the best in what’s ahead.

It’s not really what I thought was going to happen, but I’m going to be sure I take time to find the joy in  what comes next.

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