What I Deleted on the Way to the Finish Line

I woke this morning in a cold sweat – heart racing and body tight and stressed.  I slept fitfully, apparently feeling the stress of the last day of work.  It took every ounce of energy and skill I had to breathe my way to calm.  Why?

(c) AdobeStock Photo

(c) AdobeStock Photo

Because I spent yesterday racing to the finish line.

As I’ve said in an earlier post, I’m leaving my job as of the end of the year. Yesterday was the 29th.  The last work day.  I had allocated the day to complete all but the last-minute items on my checklist.  I thought it would take about 4 hours.

I was wrong.  And I wasn’t prepared for the emotion I’d feel as I went.

Part of me was just executing on the plan.

  1. Copy appropriate files from my personal drive to a shared one.
  2. Delete email folders to virtually eliminate my mailbox.
  3. Set up and test all passwords for the sites I’ll use after I leave
  4. Validate my last paycheck to make sure I was paid for unused vacation time.
  5. …and so on

The challenge came in as I reviewed the files and emails.  Some of it was purely time – time to go through the emails of people who had left so I could contact them later.  And to send pictures of my co-workers’ kids home.  I had personal files I’d saved at work – like receipts and stuff.  It took a long time to go through all that.  Instead of the 4 hours I expected, it took 10.

But the other challenge was emotional.  Watching myself deleting all those years of work.

  • LaSalle Merger?  – delete
  • Merrill Lynch Merger? – delete
  • Changes to the loan system?  – delete

It was like deleting my life.  It felt so strange.  Awful.  And liberating at the same time.

This purging went on for hours.  I barely stopped to eat or go to the bathroom.  The clock was and is ticking.  I’ll be cut off the system at midnight on December 31st, so whatever isn’t finished won’t get done.  I have to make sure I properly execute on this.  There are no second chances.

So when I woke up this morning, all this was swirling in my head.  I hadn’t had time to process it during the day, so I’m guessing I spent the night doing it.  That’s why I woke up in such a state.

So, I did what I now know to do at times like this.  I meditated.  Breathed deeply and slowly to bring some calm to my body and mind.  I then pulled out my pad and started writing.

What I realized as I wrote was that the true work wasn’t being deleted.  It was merely the written record.  The real work was still in place, and had been built on since then.

  • LaSalle Merger? – loans and people fully integrated
  • Merrill Lynch Merger? – same.
  • Changes to the loan system? – The last communication I had with one of my former co-workers is that even a design I had done that someone else finished is working extremely well.  It finally got completed earlier this year after 3 years of planning.
  • Investment in my teams?  – Yielding great returns as they continue to grow, flourish, and contribute to the company’s success.

Yesterday I felt as though all my work was just being deleted – wiped out – with the touch of one key.  Just like that.  Gone.  This morning I realized that nothing could be further from the truth.  The real work remains – the innovation, and even more, the investment in people.

Maybe you’re going through something similar.  Like you’ve been laid off.  Someone you love died, and you’re going through their stuff.  Or your kids have moved out of the house.  Maybe you feel as though all your “work” has been deleted.  Just. Like. That.

Remember this – the real work is still there.  In what you’ve built.  And even more in those you’ve touched.  That work can never be deleted.  It’s part of you and part of them.  It’s there forever.

And so now I’m setting my mind and heart toward my future.  The next chapter.  All that I’ve done, as wonderful as it is, is now in the past.  Yes, it’s a great legacy.  But it’s just that.  A legacy.  Now it’s time to move on.  And since I deleted all those files, with a lighter step.  Less baggage.  Just me.

Even if you’re not going through a major life transition right now, you can do this too.  Leave the past in the past.  As a memory.  A legacy.  Whatever.  You may need to wrangle with it a bit to put it in perspective, and then decide what you want to take with you and what you don’t.  Move into the new year lighter.  More nimble.

The real work is still there.  It’s your legacy, and the foundation for what you do next.

Would you like to start the new year feeling lighter?  What do you want to hit “delete” on today? Share in the comments.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Debra Healey

    Kathleen, I celebrate and honor how you have moved through this transition and have put all of the right finishing touches on your body of work. Your love in every movement of your transition to your new life is evident and with all that great karma you have created I’m positive it will be returned to you in many ways. Wishing you peace and the satisfaction of a job well done as you move into a brand new, fresh 2018 full of possiblities.

    • Thank you so much, Deb. I just signed off for the last time. Now packing everything up to return on Tuesday. It feels very strange.

  • Wow what a transition you are going through Kathleen! A year ago we had a similar, but not so final purge. At the office where I work we moved site and had to transition to a mostly computer based system with getting rid of as much paper as possible. Just as you described it took way longer than anticipated! I am often struck how anything of importance always seems to take longer than you expect and has the unforeseen complications – but its always worth it in the end! Also I am reminded of the Ecclesiastes writer when he laments everything is ‘meaningless’! However, by the end of the book he concludes “For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing whether it is good or evil.” The encouragement I take from that is in Christ everything ultimately becomes meaningful and nothing will escape His attention and loving care. Thank you for your encouragement to move into the new year lighter and more nimble – I need to hear that as well!

    • I just finished my purging, and signed off for the very last time. At 10:45 pm on December 31, 2017. Quite something, that. It’s a strange feeling – to turn off the phone and laptop for the last time. I feel both lighter and heavier at the same time right now. I do believe it will be only lighter soon.
      Thanks for the reminder from Ecclesastes, Sunil. And especially the perspective that everything ultimately becomes meaningful.