Advice is given on how to dress for an interview. We all know the rules. Clean shirt, shined shoes, our best foot forward. My grandmother who worked in the banking and insurance business was a stickler for etiquette. If anyone would know the answer to my question she would. What does one wear when you are cleaning out your office? In the morning as I was getting ready to go to my non-work, I stood in front of my closet for almost an hour. Just staring at the clothes. The dresses and suits that I would no longer be wearing were getting in the way of what to wear today. The day after the day I was let go. The day that I have to clean out my office. I was raised with a dress code for every occasion. But I can't remember my grandmother ever talking about what to wear when you have to clean out your office. I am no longer capable of making those kind of decisions. Much like the choosing the beer last night, I went with something familiar. Making decisions is overrated when you are numb and your moorings have been let loose.
I stopped by to get a coffee on the way in to work, as usual. My car seemed to know the route better than I because I was staring at the mountains that I would no longer see everyday, because I would not drive this way everyday, anymore. Before I knew it I was pulling up in front of my local Starbucks. My usual barista asked if I had the day off today--the question startled me. I said yes, I have today off, and then I said to myself, I'll have tomorrow off, and the next day, and the next and the next. The simple questions are the ones that catch you off guard. How to respond to the simple questions? I knew I would have to prepare myself and steel myself for the simple questions. The ones that catch us off guard, when we are at ease, when we are lulling ourselves into thinking everything is going to be all right, or that nothing has changed. Well, the simple questions remind you with a swift kick to the shin that everything has indeed changed and you don't know yet if everything is going to be all right.
I took my time cleaning out my desk and office. I took the time to file papers, create file folders for those papers that needed one, and tossed papers that needed tossing. I stopped for lunch and walked over to HR to pick up my last paycheck. And that's when I began to wonder why I was doing all this extra work. I could just walk away like the other manager did. I felt like I should leave the desk in a pristine condition because that is how I was raised, that is how polite people move through this world. And then I thought, it is no longer my concern. As I was sitting eating lunch, I friend e-mailed me to see how I was doing. When I expressed my dilemma about the desk, the advice was to leave the desk the way you want to be remembered. I liked that. Even though the desk, the office, the work, the whole institution for that matter, was no longer my concern I could leave the way I wanted to be remembered.
And that is the ultimate etiquette lesson.