In an ideal work world, all hardworking, dedicated workers would get to decide when to give their two-weeks' notice and go out on their own terms, probably after a farewell reception and, at the place I know so well, getting an original work of art signed by co-workers.
But after 53 years of living and 31 years of professional employment (one year at a starter job and 30 with my current company), I know it doesn't always work that way.
So, on a a recent Thursday, I shared this little note with my co-workers:
Thirty years ago today, on Sept. 13, 1982, I began spending 38- to 40-plus hours most weeks at what was then known as The Oklahoman and Times. I can only think of one person for sure who has been here in the NIC all that time, but there probably are others. So many of those who were here then have gone, and many others have come and gone.
Given the way employment is these days, and even more so for journalists, I'm glad to still be here. I have had many roles, from reporter and assistant metro editor to religion writer/editor, and now I am editing, proofreading and doing some layout ....
Again, given the economy and our industry, I don't know if I'll be here by the time of my official service anniversary (I didn't go full-time until October 1983), so I decided to have my own little celebration.
At 4 p.m., I'll put cookies, candy, nuts, chips, dips and a few veggies on the table ....
***And remember, if you reply, please send it just to me and not to all. Your co-workers will thank you. No need to reply or say anything to enjoy something sweet or salty.***
The following weekend, I started trying to express why I needed to do this. I think what triggered it was spending the previous week on a 30th wedding anniversary vacation trip that included visiting people I had not seen in a long time. Of course, we tried to catch up on highlights in our lives, including in our careers. That provided lots to talk about, especially since several of us met as journalists. I loved the conversations.
Afterward, I was aware of some second-guessing about choices that I've made that have led me to where I am right now professionally. But I worked through those fairly quickly, realizing that, any time I have considered doing something else, when I prepare my "balance sheet" of positives and negatives, staying where I am seems right. At first out of desperation and now out of faith, I've always prayed along the way as I've encountered questions, doubts, challenges and crossroads at work. Looking back, it is easy to see that God has used my relationship with my career to help refine my relationship with Him and to trust Him as my ultimate employer. That has provided a sense of hope and security, especially in times in which involuntary workforce reductions have left what to me looked like some of the most skilled, productive, cooperative, willing, dedicated and loyal employees without jobs -- and without the appreciative send-off their years of service deserved.
So, on that Thursday, I said another prayer and hit "send" on the email, casting to God my lingering fears that I would appear vain or attention-seeking. (Is it clear yet that that's not what this is about at all?) I'm glad I did. Co-workers old and much newer seemed eager to respond graciously -- and I learned there are about 10 in the "news and information" center who have been here as long or longer than me.
The timing also was significant for me because it was the day before I had to have my desk cleaned and belongings packed -- not for a move out of the office, but to relocate to a different floor. Moving is typically a traumatic, down to the last minute process for me, and inviting all those in person and email responses slowed me. But they also seemed to help facilitate what became the smoothest move I've ever experienced.
I may never get that card bearing one of our staff artists' original work reflecting something about me and my years of service, accompanied by signatures and well wishes from co-workers, but God helps me see that as I continue to give my best at work and in all things, seeking to glorify Him, the material things matter less and less. He also helps me see that even though my skills as a reporter (which it's hard for me to imagine now how I ever survived that role!) and now a copy editor are needed and valued, what is more important is that I strive to maintain a positive, cheerful, helpful attitude each day. I can only do that through faith in God, starting with prayer, strengthened by worship and Bible reading, and blessed as I follow through in action.