I see them from time to time. They are no strangers. Those portable green recycling bins suddenly appear in the hallway, standing as an silent sentry outside someone's office. I know what they signify. Someone else is leaving, calling it a career, moving on to the next phase of their lives. Before you know it, a once vibrant and busy office is cleared out. The books on the shelves are removed. Filing cabinets filled with history that stretches back for years are emptied. Personal effects are packed up. Personality and warmth and presence are eradicated. The space is reset for its next occupant. All that is left are paper clips in the desk drawers and some assorted office supplies. I don't like to think about it, but I know that one day that green bin will come for me.
If you pass by the scenes, you are likely to overhear laughter and jokes from visitors, colleagues, and well-wishers. Sometimes you can catch snippets of old war stories and other reminiscences. Hey do you remember the time ...? But I know that there is a deeper mixture of emotions stirring around that room as it slowly empties out and that green bin fills up. I know that after a long career, there will be plenty to look back over, in terms of job successes and failures. Likely there will be long trail of relationships that have been cultivated. I sometimes get a sense that those who are packing up their boxes and culling through their pasts are looking forward with some excitement toward stepping away from the rat race and the routine. Finally, there will be time to do the things that have been put off or set aside or passed over. The flag of family, hobbies, and travel is raised and that of toiling long hours under deadline pressures and demands is lowered.
However, I also know that there are attendant feelings of anxiety, about leaving behind something that has defined us or given us value and a sense of accomplishment and purpose. I wonder if they have any thoughts of suddenly feeling lost or lonely or realizing that time is starting to run out. I don't look forward to that time when I must step away and call it a day.