"Did I hear you were moving?" a colleague asked outside my office yesterday. I glanced up, brushing dust from the front of my dress and tucking a lock of hair back in my ponytail. Nodded and gestured to the recycle bin I was filling with unwanted papers.
"Congratulations on the new job," he offered and I raised my eyebrows while thanking him. He grinned. Shrugged. "It's congratulations or sympathy - which do you want?"
"Neither?" I replied, gesturing him into a chair not covered with the rubble of my former routine. "No need for more sympathy - thought it's terribly sweet, it's not really helpful. And I guess congratulations are fine, though this doesn't feel right. It's just the best choice in a bad situation, I suppose."
He offered his consoling felicitations once again and left me to my work.
It is perhaps not the best of times to clean one's former office when one is feeling somewhat devoid of hope or purpose. Read: I threw most everything out.
Files and forms. Notebooks and legal pads. Folders and binders and receipts and messages scrawled on post-its. It was time to move and everything-must-go and go quickly, disappearing into the giant blue recycle bin standing sentry at my door. I didn't read though 99% of the material - I'd not recently used it and had no plans to need it again. So indiscriminately into the bin it sailed.
Mostly finished, I looked around and sighed. Then I straightened my spine from its habitual slump of late and picked up a couple of bags and made my way across campus. I put magnets and photos and random bits of adorable around my new cubicle, located in a bright corner of a huge open space filled with people I don't know.
I returned home early and curled on the couch across the room from Mom. We mindlessly watched television until 6:00 when I asked if she would accompany me to the office to finish moving my things.
"I hate this halfway point," I complained. "Life is changing and this isn't what I wanted. But since I can't stop it, I want to finish the process and adjust."
So in we went, dutifully packing pound upon pound of textbooks and computer peripherals and what was left in the one drawer I'd not cleaned that afternoon.
We pushed carts across the parking lot, pausing to help each other balance across a couple of the rough spots. Upon arriving at my new desk, we started to unload, piling certain items on freshly-cleaned shelves and in newly-opened drawers. We tacked posters and the 8x10 photos I print after trips. Mom placed a photo of Daddy on the front of an enclosed shelf, positioning a magnet in the corner so he could watch over me while I worked.
"I'll connect everything tomorrow," I decided, tossing monitor, keyboard and mouse into a haphazard pile before turning to watch Mom wipe her brow and nod.
"There's just this stuff left," she informed me and I wiped my brow and nodded in return. I scooped it up and settled items in their places.
Until there were just two more. I shook my head over a tiny notepad - an old friend had given it to me and I waited to feel nostalgic or wistful or something. But I was blank and told Mom she could have thrown it away.
I glanced at the last notepad - a top-bound medium-sized white tablet with faint black lines onto which I'd jotted various items I should remember. I tapped it on the table at the corner of my cubicle, looking around in growing panic at what had become of me. No more flurry of global management floors for Katie - I'd rejected 2 offers to stay there in favor of coming here. To strange people and projects.
Wait, I wanted to cry to the mostly empty room while Mom stacked books I'd decided to bring home.
This isn't how it was supposed to be.
Blinking back tears, I flipped back the pages of the notebook I still clutched and moved to toss it in a nearby recycle bin, pausing when I noticed the message printed neatly on the first sheet of paper.
I nodded at it, clutching it to my chest before placing it carefully on my desk and pressing my hand atop it for a moment of prayer - of thanksgiving and love and hope.
"May I tell you something sad?" I asked Mom about an hour after we returned home, sitting up from where I'd once again curled on the couch. She nodded and I gulped back tears before starting to speak.
"I threw everything away today," I began. "Old or new. Used or not. Into the recycling bin. I just wanted to... I don't know. Not think about it. Finish.
"So the only things I saved to write on were spiral notebooks from Barnes & Noble with the colored edges."
I paused to breathe and swallow against tears. "Right before we left, I was feeling alone and afraid." I confessed. "I know I could have stayed where I was but I feel undervalued and ashamed of failing. So I was looking around at the choice I made and almost couldn't breathe. And then I found that white notepad. You must have packed it," I told her and Mom shrugged.
"I flipped it closed right before we left and there was a note from Daddy. It said 'Welcome Home, Katie.' in his handwriting." I paused to let a sob escape before I took a breath and continued. "I think he sees us, Mom," I tried to conclude, no longer battling the inevitable tears. "I think God's letting him tell us that he loves us and is still proud of me."
And then we cried together.
And then today, when I returned to my desk, I carefully removed that sheet from the notepad and pinned it to the wall of my new cubicle. Smiled at it. And got to work.