Today I say goodbye to a colleague. I cannot call her a friend, for in my mind such a relationship goes deeper into spirit and soul. We have not scratched those surfaces together. But neither do I call her an enemy, for while we have had an occasional clash, we never went to war against each other. She has been a co-worker, facilitator, overseer, disciplinarian, encourager, leader, and so much more. She is a consummate professional. While not my mentor, I have glanced more than once in her direction for inspiration and guidance, wondering how she does what she does with such ease and poise. We are of a same age. If the winds had moved differently, we might have found ourselves together in graduate school. Instead, we carved our own paths, gathered experiences and expertise along the way, and found ourselves together at this time, in this place. For the last nine years we have worked together. Very soon, she will leave for a new adventure and challenge. I wish her well. She will be missed.
Her imminent departure got me to thinking of other departures, other partings. Thankfully, I can say that almost all the valedictions experienced during my career have been without rancor. Some separations were quiet and uneventful. Others came with a party, gifts, and well-wishes. Still others came with tears and hugs. Each time provoked an introspection—whether it was me taking leave or in farewell to another. Those moments of contemplation following a leave-taking offered a chance to take bearings, soundings, and make a course correction. Now, with this latest sendoff, I find myself wondering what needs attention, correction, or adjustment. What does the future hold? Will I be able to advance confidently in the direction of my dream?
And while a good part of any post-exodus analysis is self-directed or focused, at least part of this contemplation needs to be directed toward the other, the one no longer in the picture. I am painfully aware of at least one breaking of the fellowship in which there was little grace on either side. My default position in this case was one of silence and abstention. I offered no well-wishes and refrained from any recognition of the event. I felt at the time that to say or do anything in recognition would have been insincere. It was, in retrospect, not my best moment as a professional, or a human being.
I am reminded of a scene from a film adaptation of Len Deighton’s “Game, Set, and Match” series. At some point in the film an old hand in British intelligence offers some advice to his young protégé. While I cannot recall the exact quotation, it runs something like this: “Don’t isolate yourself laddie…you’ll need one or two of us before the day is through.” Working as I sometimes do as a “lone arranger” or with long stretches of time without interaction with other staff, it is easy for me to take a solitary route. The exit of my colleague reminds me of a better way, one done in the company of others. It is through such company that friendships are born.