Gathering Embers

fire_embers

About a week and a half ago, I packed up my desk, shut off my lamp, and locked the door to the office building for the last time. I knew this day was a possibility from the moment I decided to apply for the MBA program, but I didn’t realize what a punch to the gut it would be when it actually came. I baked cookies and brought them to the office that last day, hoping that the literally sweet parting gift would take some of the bitterness away from the experience. It was a nice, yet insufficient gesture.

I had worked at the advertising agency for a little over two years. As my first “real job” out of college, I can still remember my newly graduated, 23 year-old self accepting the offer and gaping over the reality of things like salaries, sick days, and business cards. I loved the rush of independence I felt, knowing that I could support myself without the aid of my parents or my (as yet nonexistent) spouse. I was a working woman, ready to soak up the business world and all its wonders while stacking up years of experience.

I launched headfirst into full time work, putting in late nights and early mornings for new business pitches and research studies. Seeking to cultivate robust relationships with my coworkers, I challenged myself to participate in as many activities as I could. Blindly, I cobbled together fantasy football teams and dragged my ragged body out of bed in the mornings to train for relay races. I eagerly harvested comments from my performance reviews and wondered what more I could do to secure my place in the company.

And then, in the hour or so it took me to comb through my desk drawers and sort them into tidy piles for recycling or filing, it was over. I was headed back to school and would no longer be the girl in the corner cubicle. I knew moving on would be difficult—I’ve always been change-averse—but I was unprepared for this transition. No one told me how I’d sob over my steering wheel on my last commute home. How I’d avoid my coworkers’ eye contact so I didn’t have to feel like a traitor: taking my experience and then taking my leave. How I’d hug my boss and tell her that I loved her, because I honestly do. I honestly love that company and I’ll honestly miss it more than I can adequately express.

Not to say that I’m not excited. Change is equal parts terrifying and thrilling (especially in this case). And I don’t want to be guilty of dwelling in the past, but I feel as though particularly life-altering experiences deserve reflection and, when necessary, proper mourning. Like Elder Holland said in one of my favorite speeches, “The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future.

So I’m still gathering embers while trying to faithfully turn towards the future. And as I gear up for orientation and fall classes, I’m taut with anticipation and a hunger to learn. I find it hard to turn from the fire, though. Maybe the point is not that change is only right when it involves turning from one sorry circumstance to a better one. Maybe the point is that change is just change, regardless of right or wrong. And even if it hurts, it doesn’t mean it was a poor choice. It simply means that you’re growing, and you’ll be better for the growth.

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What transitions have been particularly difficult to make? Have you ever left a job you loved? How do you learn from the past, yet avoid dwelling in it?

3 thoughts on “Gathering Embers

  1. Meditation helps me process past experiences and integrate them into the “now” better than anything else I have tried. I also dislike change but I’m getting better at it!

  2. Meditation sounds wonderful, Sarah. Thanks for the suggestion! It’s one of those things that I feel I would benefit from, but never actually implement in my life. How do you find time to meditate?

  3. All my best to you. I’ve experienced a lot of change, and being outgoing helps me most of the time. The hardest change was leaving my career as a writing teacher and embarking on a new vocation in gerontology. My prior career just wasn’t working for me anymore, and I refused to read the signs that I needed to quit and do something else. I kept insisting that I could work through the problems, be tenacious, persistent, dedicated, etc. WRONG! Sometimes an organic change arises up and invites you to a new opportunity, and I caused a lot of pain for myself and others by refusing to read the signs. Once I finally let go, everything quickly fell into place. And in the last 5 years, I have been very happy as a gerontologist. The next time I feel conflict about my current life path, I will more quickly consider making a change that wasn’t planned. I don’t want to go through the chaos and pain of that again. *Shudder*

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