I arrived at the office for the first time in twenty-five months. It sat relatively empty with a surplus of parking spaces available, but it felt… foreign.
I guess I was just reeling from the shock of being back at the place I’d devoted so many hours to through the years. The feelings, the emotions, the experiences, the big decisions, the unspoken loyalty of being an employee to the firm for nearly ten years.
I tapped my badge on the west entry door and went inside, approaching the area of the floor where my desk had once been.
At first, it was kind of an eerie, surreal experience. Many of the halls and cubicles looked just the same. Others were graced with a fresh coat of paint, maybe a new nameplate, here or there. Others were empty, representing staff that were gone—perhaps terminated, passed on, or having left the company to work at the mega corporation that moved in just across the road. It was hard to reflect on it all.
I approached my work area. It was sanitized and clean, but nearly everything was just as I left it, untouched and unscathed. I keyed my logon information into the workstation as it struggled to find its identity on the corporate network— its inner workings likely idle and clogged with dust for months. While the machine came out of its ever long hibernation, I pulled a few of my desk drawers open, reconnecting with mementos and personal effects that never made it home before we all "got the boot" from campus in early 2020. Many of which were simple reminders of my struggle to stay organized or part with the sentimental. I rifled through, finding many things I’d long forgotten.
A woven sweater for cooler days.
A broken Newton’s cradle I should have thrown away.
Little toys to fidget with on long conference calls.
Pre-pandemic photographs of my family.
Then, there were the stale potato chips. I had to laugh at myself for a moment. They were open with a paperclip clasping them shut, stashed away for an eventual consumption that would never be. I noticed the “best by” date, February 28th, 2020. As I reflected, a swirl of mixed emotions hit me unexpectedly.
I glimpsed perhaps my favorite work-related object, a small globe with push pins in it representing each corporate location I’ve had the privilege to visit on business travel through the years. As my system came back online, I felt as if I received an unspoken company memo kicking me into a high gear, my emotions and energy surging.
You’re back in the office!
It wasn’t long before a familiar feeling overtook me. Everything came back to me like I’d been working there all along. Even my workstation seemed to find its rhythm after it had some extra time to re-acclimate. Just like riding a bike, once the momentum started and I went into motion, there was a lightning-fast fervor in my every keystroke and decision.
The day went on, offering me many happy and fulfilling moments. There was nothing foreign about it anymore.
Grabbing a coffee in the company café, I interacted with long disconnected colleagues, our faces lighting up as we caught up for the first time in ages, the tone in our voices more chipper about work and our families than ever before—and offering us all a reminder that though we all spent a long, dark winter apart, spring had dawned upon us all, and we were better off working together.