I slowly made my way past the first two corridors of cubicles and embarked down the third until I came to the blank beige wall that signified the location of my own cubicle. I often found myself wondering if during university initiation week, had they handed me a catalog of cubicles to choose from for where I would spend the majority of my adult life, would I have changed my career choice at that moment? My morning ritual changed little in my year and half working as structural engineering intern: login to the client server, check a few emails, contemplate responding to emails, eventually decide to let my responses linger a little longer, stack some paperwork, peer up at the clock and about ten minutes after seven it was time to make my rounds.
A few months back, acknowledging my inability to arrive at work on time, my boss cleverly gave me the responsibility to lead our engineering staff in the company wide policy of morning stretches at 7am. I should probably add that the conspicuous corner of the building that my cubicle was located in had no other employees surrounding me. I never had to worry about my cubi-neighbor walking in on me fooling around on the internet checking out snow conditions at Mission Ridge ski area or perusing the last minute weekend getaway deals on American and Alaska Airlines' websites.
But let me tell you about the stretches, part of our annual reviews consisted of our ability to contribute to workplace safety. Since the company was primarily a construction company, this was mostly to encourage the field workers to not cut of their fingers whilst tying off rebar and to pay careful attention to their surroundingss as they jackhammered through the concrete pour that was mistakenly performed a week prior without the appropriate reinforcing spacing. So the necessity of workplace safety on annual reviews for us lucky few who found ourselves in the office setting pacing the corridors, just did not really make a whole lot of sense to me.
Nonetheless, my manager Mark, had the ingenious idea that a daily routine of hamstring stretches and calisthenics would meet the same safety goal standards as our soil toting colleagues. If nothing else, at least he could be certain that I showed up to work on time every day, I should note that Mark attended three morning sessions total.
Yet on this day, I was glad to lead the morning militia in daily drills needing to ease the tension in my own shoulders. I was about to inform my manager of my intentions to quit my first professional level employment desiring to relocate myself to Florida. I had grown weary of flying back and forth between Richland, Washington and Fort Lauderdale, Florida every three weeks. I had also grown increasingly bored with my seemingly mundane engineering existence. I watched my potential future in the lives of the 40 and 50 year olds who surrounded me daily. Their families lived back in Houston or Detroit or D.C. or a number of other cities while they worked 12 hour days with seemingly no life outside of their cubicles just waiting for their two year terms to end so they could rotate to the next city far from their families. This was a clear slap in the face to any young college grad who dreamt of cars, homes, cities, vacations, etc. I knew I needed to break this trend before it had a chance to settle in.
I was nervous about approaching my manager, he had been so supportive of my need to make frequent excursions away from the Tri-Cities, which were numerous; I believe I took off a total of three months during my first 12 months of employment to travel. I would take extended weekend trips to Whistler, B.C. or back to Idaho to go skiing, weeks to travel to Latin America and Europe with my brother, and multiple four day weekends to Florida. The man had practically taken me under his wing and even planned out my next major career steps for me. So I was utterly surprised by his reaction when I finally was able to work up the courage to step into his office after my daily ritual of strolling down to the Starbucks a few doors down with my good friend Claude after lunch.
"Well, I expected this to happen eventually. Are you going to marry her? I mean, she is clearly quite the catch, so you should probably put a lock down on that before its too late." A lock down, I was surprised by his use of terminology before it struck that he was aware of my decision even before I had the courage to tell him about it. He had met Kate a few months back when she visited me in September for her birthday and had apparently been counting the days until I would announce my desire to move on in life. He knew long before I did that I was head over heels for a woman that lived across the country from me.
He suggested I consider just taking a long leave of absence rather than actually handing in my resignation as this would leave me eligible to return to work easily if I decided to move back to the Tri-Cities. He also thought I should visit Croatia as he pulled out pictures of green landscapes and beautiful cityscapes. I never did either.
I would spend the next three months slowly completing projects I had started, handing off new work to my fellow colleagues, and planning out the movement of all my worldly possessions back to my mother's house in McCall, Idaho. I had no real plans of what I would do once I was without work, but truthfully at that point, I also did not really worry. I was confident that I would find some way to continually contribute to society, but most importantly I knew I no longer wanted to sit in a cubicle behind a computer monitor watching time slowly move forward, especially with the world outside to be explored and a love recently discovered.
Fade to black and key curtain fall.
Fade to black and key curtain fall.