Today is my last day at my old job.

This is also the first time in my life that I’ve voluntarily quit a job with two weeks notice. That’s given me two weeks to think about the choice I’ve made and worry that I’ve made a mistake. Two weeks to break the news to my co-workers and to undergo interrogation: Why am I quitting? Did something happen? Do I not like my boss? Did they counteroffer when I told them I was leaving? How much more does the new job pay?

Quitting this job has been like breaking up with someone.

See, this was my second go with this company. I worked here before, back in the aughts, with a group of people I still consider brothers. We were dysfunctional but tight-knit, and our department was something to be proud of. Our leaders were in the trenches with us, constantly pushing us to be better than we are. We were at the top of our game, and although you can never escape the derision that other departments direct at IT, we knew we were amazing. And we were proud of it.

But then the market crashed, and our department suffered the consequences. They cut our VP first, then followed with four more of us. After that, it was only a matter of time before the others trickled out the door. By the time I came back to the company and my old department, all the original members of the IT department were gone.

Being here a second time has been like living with an ex. You try really hard to make things work, but you know, deep down, that the glory days are over, and no matter how much you love them, things will never be the same. You spend most of your time trying to restore your relationship to its former splendor, hoping that maybe if you can put things back to the way they were, you’ll feel the way you used to, but every time you repair one thing, something else breaks. And no one’s heart is in it. Not really.

And just like any failing relationship, you eventually reach the point where one of you has to give up, and the other one is always caught off guard.

So the partner who’s leaving gets questioned… and then pleaded with, bargained with, and pleaded with some more. But their decision is made. They’re leaving.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t care. Even on my last day, I’m looking at project tickets and thinking, “God, I hate leaving things this way.” I’m trying to find time after lunch today to make sure Perl is updated on my web servers (and then I realize, of course, that they’re not my servers anymore). It’s almost enough to make me want to stay. I feel like my work here is incomplete, because it’s always been incomplete. There have never been enough hours in the day. But I can’t let that worry carry over. I can’t let myself keep caring too much, because that is the real reason I’m leaving: I care more than anyone else does about the success of my department.

If getting hired at my new job was a lesson in self-esteem, leaving this job has been a lesson in letting go.

I just hope I’ve made the right decision.

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