No matter the industry, size of the company, or location, most offices have a kitchen. Usually, there’s a microwave, a refrigerator, and sometimes a sink, if you’re lucky. There’s the standard selection of snacks and drinks and the “sunshine fund” to subsidize the supply of mostly unhealthy choices – although increasingly, there are some healthier options like almonds. The kitchen at my office has a steady supply of Pop-Tarts®. I love cherry Pop-Tarts® and I’m a consistently healthy eater. So, for the last couple of years, I’ve walked into the kitchen, just outside my door, noted their presence, and opted not to partake. I would think to myself, “If I’m ever REALLY craving them, they’ll be here; so, I don’t need to eat them right now.”

Today was different. It was my last day in this particular office, with these people, and this kitchen. I get attached to my work family and I invest in people and relationships. I had missed seeing them daily while quarantined at home, especially knowing my time with them was winding down. I started mentally preparing for the transition weeks ago, returning from lockdown to a partially staffed, physically-distanced office. I gradually packed up my things, wrote last reports and performance reviews, and drafted a farewell email. I held space for the conflicting truths that I am excited for the next challenge and, concurrently, I need time to process what, and whom, I’m leaving behind. 

The steady removal of my belongings symbolically represented the inner work of detaching from the office. As I walked in each morning, the space felt a little less mine. I spent time reflecting on the assignment, the people that have come and gone, and what I’ve learned. I stayed longer than necessary, delaying the final exit from what has been my work home. I went into the kitchen, one last time, to get a seltzer water for the road. I glanced over and saw the box of cherry Pop-Tarts®. They would be there next week, but I wouldn’t. In a final act of closure, I grabbed a pack and, as I drove home, today, I ate the Pop-Tarts®.

~ Holly S. Stofa

Pop-Tarts® is a trademark of the Kellogg NA Company.