Yesterday was my last day at Company South. It was a year ago that I accepted a position as an SSL VPN administrator.
I accepted the position after being laid off from Company X for three and a half months. It was farther than I wanted to commute (60 miles each way); was a Windows environment (I do Unix and IT Security); and was for a State Agency (the occassional bureaucratic bullshit).
I did, however, realize almost immediately that working with this particular group of people was refreshing. They were all grown-ups. They were all parents or grandparents and understood the importance of work/life balance. They all came in to do their jobs. They weren't surfing the web all day. They would take their few minutes of participating in the commeraderie and then go back to work. It was unlike any place I had ever worked before.
I made friends with my coworkers. They had more than earned my respect. Whereas as at former companies there was always someone who was an asshole who no one particularly cared for, at Company South, that was pretty non-existant.
My contract was supposed to last until July with an additional two year extension, but budget-time rolled around and they ended up pulling my contract.
I hated my commute. I didn't mind driving back and forth in my Mustang, I just didn't like the three hours a day I lost. I didn't like that Auburn Aries missed school events because there was no one else to take her when I couldn't be there. It's hard to get your kidless friends to help you out in those situations - regardless of how important it was to Auburn Aries. That kind of stuff is just too inconvenient. That's reality.
I ended up not going to the gym nearly as much because at the end of the my 12 hours away from home, three hours of which was spent in traffic, I was too gawd damn tired to drag my ass over there. We ate out more, ate later and gained weight. I spent more time with the people I worked with than I did my kid.
Every day posed some new traffic twist that drove me crazy...a stall here, an accident there, new freeway construction, useless traffic reports. There is a long list of why commuting sucks and I won't miss it.
There were seven very good reasons why working at Company South made it all worth while. Those reasons were Steve, Judy, Terry, Bruce, Karina, Kenny and Tim. This small group of people embraced me and my idiosyncracies. They laughed at my stories about Auburn Aries. They listened to my stories of Gayland and didn't bat an eye. Steve, the straightest man alive, could have passed for a Bear and I teased him about it. I even gave him Mardi Gras beads with Bears all over it. He took it in stride.
I learned a lot from them. They are genuinely good, grounded people and I'm proud to call them friends.
It was hard to walk out the door yesterday. Every time someone said anything remotely kind to me, I teared up. Everyone there seemed to really like me and was sad I was leaving as well.
As I drove out of town, I thought about how I wouldn't have to fill-up three times a week anymore but somehow that thought didn't help the images of all of us laughing and cutting up together. It didn't squelch the tightening in my stomach when I thought about not being able to take anymore smoke breaks with Steve, Tim and Kenny - my bruthahs from anothah muthah.
It's another chapter in my life that I've experienced that has enhanced who I am as a person. The closing of one and the beginning of another. The next group of people I work with may be amazing people, but my friends at Company South raised the bar on both personal and professional expectation and they'll be a hard act to follow.