Yesterday I had two very different and monumental goodbyes. I said goodbye to my cat of 17 years and I said goodbye to my company’s office of 14 years.
The emotions I felt at both goodbyes took me by surprise, honestly. With my cat, Cleo—as often happens, when my children were born the cats took a far backseat focus and priority in my life, so for the past several years Cleo has been less of a cuddle buddy and more of a “you threw up on the carpet again?” type of companion. With my office—I technically said goodbye to the space two and a half years ago when I moved back to Indiana and now only visit it once a month, so I am certainly more of a visitor than a resident.
But yet. Apparently none of all that really matters when it comes down to the final goodbye. There are the things you expect to grieve about and then there are the things that make you go “oh, man.”
Because… that office saw me grow up, essentially. So much life happened while I worked in that office in the neighborhood of Soho in Lower Manhattan. I got married, had children, moved to three different apartments, had my gall bladder removed. I watched 9/11 unfold with my very own eyes. I got a second tattoo. I watched colleagues’ lives happen too. We celebrated and we grieved, we laughed and we fought and we cried. For twelve years I called that office home, and for the past two and a half years it’s been my home-away-from-home. And that’s not all… I got to see the office itself grow up too. I was one of the lucky ones who was there from the beginning, and watched it grow from a vast loft housing six employees to a bustling, over-packed space housing more than 30 people daily and over 100 people on a revolving basis. I’ve watched wonderful colleagues move on and live their lives in other spaces and other places, and I have a large group of colleagues that have been my partners for more than ten years, in that space and beyond. And while we are ready to evolve and the space was ready to let us go and get to that evolving, the starkness yesterday of seeing our once bustling hub quiet and empty… well, I think it kind of took our collective breath away. There is just so much history contained within those walls.
As for Cleo, she saw all of the above and more. She saw me through grad school. She saw me and my husband start dating. She was there when my dad died. She lived with us in eight different homes and tolerated the addition of our other cat, Norman. Her tormentor and sometimes friend. She saw me with many different hairstyles and hair colors and many different jeans sizes. She welcomed our children. (And until the children came she spent most nights sleeping on my head). She drove from Indiana to New York and then back again twelve years later. When I first got her, it was as a birthday present for my 24th birthday. I was just breaking up a bad relationship, in the middle of grad school, with little direction in my life. Yesterday I watched the loving, kind vets help her transition out of this world as a 41-year old wife and mother of two beautiful children, with a hearty career and growing roots. What an incredible breadth and depth of moments.
As I write this, Norman—Cleo’s longtime cat-mate, himself now 15 years old—is laying at my feet in an unusually loving mood. I think he feels it too. It’s the “Oh.” of these moments. Oh. Oh, wow. Oh, man.
I think we underestimate the impact of things that have been with us for a long time, especially things that we take for granted or pay little attention to. We grow accustomed to “oh, that’s just my office” or “that’s just my cat” without realizing how much of our history those things carry with them. But our pets, our homes, our offices, our cars, our colleagues, our coffee shops or bars… heck even some outfits we’ve held on to since high school—those things make up us. It’s why we find ourselves weeping in the laundry room when our shirt from the 1987 Rolling Stones concert has ripped. It’s why we refuse to frequent the popular new coffee shop after our old beloved corner dive finally close its doors. It’s why we find tears streaming down our cheeks during a commercial about potato chips.
So goodbye Cleo. Goodbye 598 Broadway. Thank you for carrying my stories with you. And thanks for being a part of my story for such a long time.
What’s been with you for a long time? Can you pause today to appreciate the collective story you’ve shared?
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