A few days ago, I experienced yet another last day at work. I’m 25, so it’s not like this was the first time I’d ever said goodbye to a job and coworkers, but this time felt a bit different. I’ve spent the past year of my life working as a receptionist at a dialysis clinic, and even though being a receptionist may not sound like a life-changing job, it kind of was for me.
I’d never worked in healthcare before, and as a writer with a bachelor's degree in English, I had never expected or wanted to. But I’m so glad I did — I really feel like the job made me more assertive, more empathetic and an all-around better person. The nurses I worked with were all so tough, and our patients were such an inspiration, that it was impossible to work there without some of their awesomeness rubbing off on me.
So I always knew this last day was going to be more emotional than the ones that came before it. But I had no idea just how much of a roller coaster the emotional stages of my last day at work were going to be. If your last day at work is coming up, and you didn’t totally hate your job, then heads up — you’re probably going to get emotional, too. Start prepping now for these nine emotional stages (spoiler alert: you'll be happy at the end).
It's your last day! You've been waiting for this moment for weeks, and now the epic countdown is finally over. Drag yourself out of bed with the knowledge that (hopefully) your days of waking up to this stupid alarm at this ridiculous time are behind you.
2. Sentimental Melancholy
So many "lasts" are happening today, and it's just getting a little too real for you. Never again will you lose in a heated struggle with your office's outdated fax machine. Gone are the days of completely messing up your time punches and guiltily texting your boss so they can fix it. And, for some weird reason, you actually feel sentimental about all of this nonsense. For a brief moment of emotionally charged insanity, you even worry you'll mourn the loss of the awkward dance that is your lunch break. Won't you miss having to decide between eating in the break room and socializing with your coworkers, or going out for lunch and avoiding all human contact for a blissful half hour? Ah, good times.
Couldn't your computer have kept from crashing for ONE MORE DAY? Couldn't your most inappropriate coworker have been on vacation until Monday? And why didn't anyone tell you until today that the supply order you put in weeks ago was delayed? Ugh! Now you cannot wait until this day is over, because of course all the things you hate about your job were bound to happen today.
4. Romanticizing The Past
When you’re ending a romantic relationship, there's a tendency to focus on the good times, and forget about the bad times that led you to actually end things. Similarly, when you’re ending a working relationship, be prepared to romanticize the crap out of that experience. You will momentarily forget about all the ways your job made you miserable, and you’ll exaggerate the ways it made you happy. You'll magically forget the fact that you were stressed to your limit and utterly exhausted by lunch every single day. Instead, all you'll want to think about is how much you'll miss talking to that one coworker who always made you laugh.
Multiple times throughout your last day, panic will ensue, and your thoughts will spiral into fear-crazed ridiculousness. Don't be surprised when your inner monologue starts to sound like this: Is this really practical? Should you really be leaving a steady paycheck, health insurance and routine for the unknown? What if it takes you forever to find a new job? What if your next job is worse than this one? You know you're going to have to cut back for a while, can you handle that? You're going to freak out, but it's going to be okay. You’ve got this!
Once you've got your blood pressure back down to normal, you'll remember that leaving your job was a choice you made — and that you made it for good reasons. Regardless of what comes next, it's time to accept that you're officially leaving your comfort zone. And you won't want to make that transition any more difficult by being wishy-washy.
7. Hopeful Curiosity
Your last day is coming to a close, and now that you're almost out of there, all you can think about is what comes next. But instead of going into panic mode about the unknown, you feel like you're on the brink of a grand new adventure, and you can't wait to get started.
You've said your goodbyes without crying too much, you've managed to get (almost) all of your last day duties crossed off your "To Do" list, and you've survived nearly all the stages of your last day at work. Be proud of yourself, you deserve it.
You did it! Saying goodbye can be really hard, and trading security for new challenges isn’t an easy thing to do, either. But leaving a job that you’re ready to leave will always result in relief. So, no matter how crazy the emotional stages of your last day at work make you feel, remember the final stage they’re leading you to. Now, go celebrate!