The rest of that day was like a cool breeze. I was feeling better by the hour and more assured that my decision was the right one to make. There was one more day of work before the weekend and then I would turn in my notice on Tuesday. I felt strongly that I would be able to get through the two weeks just fine. That was when Fate stepped in and decided otherwise.
I texted a few friends to thank them for their prayers and to let them know of my decision to quit. The responses were positive with the lone exception of concern about not having a job to go to. Two of the friends, both of whom used to be coworkers, wanted to have breakfast to celebrate. One of them, one of the three friends I had confided in seven years ago, wanted to have breakfast… the next day. A day I was supposed to work. I figured “ah, what the hell.” What were they going to do? Fire me?
I called in that next morning. My old coworker and I met at a north side restaurant. I hesitated at the choice at first because it was close to work and I had seen members of management in there before. My friend had business to attend to on that side of town, though, so I agreed to the location.
Within minutes of sitting down at our booth my fear came to pass- one of the higher ups from work came in and walked past our booth. He said hi to my old friend and acted as if I wasn’t even there. It was something I had grown accustomed to at work.
During my last month of work I was pretty much persona non grata with the management team. Only one of the managers, a guy who was working on the production floor when I started and worked his way up the ladder, treated me like a regular person. He had a reputation for being a hard ass but always treated me with respect and appreciated my work. Another manager was a good friend who also started out on the floor and worked his way up. My last month there he would often speak to someone standing right next to me and not bother to acknowledge me. No nod. No hello. Nothing. I regret that I never pressed him as to why.
My old friend and I had a good chuckle over the snubbing I received with my cup of coffee. We talked about what was going on at work and my plans for the next six months. He offered some ideas on what I could do with my writing and what I could do at the end of my sabbatical. The higher up walked by again to say goodbye. This time he told me goodbye as well. You have no idea, I thought to myself.
The next Tuesday morning the same old feelings came bubbling up. I called in again. I spent the day thinking about my decision and came up with a new plan.
The next morning I hopped out of bed and got ready for work. I stopped for a cup of real coffee to drink in the break room. That vending machine slop wasn’t good enough for this morning’s momentous occasion. I arrived at work a bit early and headed straight for the usual table in the break room. One by one my coworkers came in to store their lunches in the cooler. One by one they took notice of me sitting at our table in street clothes rather than a uniform. One by one they realized what was going on and came over to shake my hand and wish me well.
There was a buzz around the table as I told them what was going on. I finally opened up to them about my depression and the toll that place was taking on me. Most of them wished they could join me. A few of them couldn’t because of circumstance. For me, that was a heart breaker.
I wanted to tell our latest shift leader, the team lead I once worked with and who managed to change my opinion of him, of my decision to leave and to request the opportunity to say goodbye to my teammates. The guys told me that he would not be in due to a death in his family. The dude who asked me to update my board months before, the same one I changed shifts to get away from, was now on our shift and would be filling in as the shift leader. I was confident the current leader would have no problem with me addressing the team. This guy was a by-the-book type and might complicate matters.
The fill-in leader was a good guy. While he was part of the reason why I changed shifts, I never disliked him. Quite the opposite, in fact. He was the kind of guy I would enjoy tipping back a few with around a campfire. At work, though, he was a bit high strung. He stepped down as a shift leader and came to our shift to be a team lead. He did a great job of it.
I approached him and told him my news. He was shocked at my decision. I laid it all out for him, holding nothing back. He understood and told me I had to do what was best for me. He hesitated when I asked to address the team, telling me that he wasn’t sure how management would like that. I assured him that it was just to say goodbye and explain why I was leaving. He agreed to let me talk to them.
My teammates filed into the conference room for morning pre-shift meeting. A few of them poked fun at me and told me I needed to get dressed for work. I let them know why I wasn’t. The team went through their meeting as normal, saving my news for last. I dropped the news on them. There were a few gasps of surprise and cries of “No, you can’t quit.” I told them how it was depression that was keeping from coming in to work. It felt good to get it off my chest. I shared with them my plans for the sabbatical and the following of my dream to write. I added that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my days in that hell hole. I was going to go out and live life for a change.
There were a few tears and a few hugs. A lot of hands were shaken. A few of them offered up that I would be missed. Some wanted a signed first edition of my book. To a person they wished me well.
I stayed behind to talk to the interim shift lead and a trainer. We talked about conditions there at work. They had heard a lot of grumbling around the plant. We talked about our days there and the days that lay ahead. They offered their best wishes and I offered them mine. For my benefit, they escorted me out the door. “That way nobody can say you trashed anything on your way out,” I was told. I hadn’t considered that. I thanked him once again, shook his hand, then walked out the doors for the final time.
I paused outside the doors and looked up at Old Glory flying on the flagpole. A grin spread across my face from ear to ear. How appropriate, I thought.
I’m finally free.