colleagues friends gathered around for a toast, laughs, and more than a few tears to say farewell and best wishes.
The surprises were non-stop. A sea of face kabobs, cookies with the Nine Toes logo (or my face), a video tribute from family, colleagues, and clients (I wept at that point!), a gorgeous necklace, a perfect photo album, key art with my face magically appearing.
And I’m just getting started.
To be honest, I’m still recovering. Since I can’t recount the evening in any adequate way, I’ll share a slightly edited version of my toast. (I’ve cut out the list of names of current and former colleagues since most of you don’t know them and those of you who belong in the list know who you are!)
I’ve been worried about this toast getting awkward…
I mean, there’s a bunch of ground to cover and I figured since a portion of this room wasn’t even alive when I started working here, I shouldn’t recount many of my stories.
However, since so many of you are numbers people, I thought perhaps a few facts would interest you.
When I started at A&E in 1986, gas cost $.93/gallon.
NO – wait.
I don’t want to go down THAT path. That just screams “OLD” – but still, 93 cents??!!! Yikes.
Let’s cover other numbers. In 26 years I have had…8 bosses, 43 teammates, but I only worked in three different buildings.
I have visited 44 states ON BUSINESS, flown 2.1 million miles (combining United and Delta trips), and colored my hair approximately 252 times (A little known fact: I color my hair while I’m packing!).
I moved cross-country at the company’s request, but to my ultimate benefit – where I met and married the man of my dreams, I had 2 kids, a couple of dogs and gained and lost 122 pounds in the process. (Did I mention I have big babies?)
But, if you’ve ever worked with me, you know I think numbers only tell part of the story. The important part of my narrative is what’s behind the numbers.
Why does this story exist at all?
My story is a little piece of YOUR story – and your history – even if youre like Ross, the ultimate contrarian, who told me he’ll miss the “theory” of me more than the “reality” of me since we didn’t work closely.
I didn’t work closely with many of you, but still, our stories are linked.
You see, we all work in an industry that’s ridiculously dynamic.
We work for a company that values people AND cultivates creativity.
We have a leader who is not only kind, but also worthy of following.
I hope you appreciate this…
These are not “givens” in business.
This is an exceptional turn of events which we have in common.
You are part of something important. Remember this!
You are a light.
I’ve had the song “Emphasis” (by a great band, “Sleeping At Last”) on repeat lately, and the chorus rattling around my brain seems especially appropriate here…
The smartest thing I’ve ever learned
Is that I don’t have all the answers,
Just a little light to call my own.
Though it pales in comparison
To the overarching shadows,
A speck of light can reignite the sun
And swallow darkness whole.
I know I don’t have all the answers, but I hope I’ve been a light to you.
You have most certainly been a light to me.
When the shadows of doubt creep in – one of you ALWAYS steps in and reignites my little sun.
I am nothing if not humbled by and grateful for your love and encouragement.
I’ve tried to write meaningful words to those who have been closest to this journey, but every time I do my tears blur the computer screen, and my nose runs uncontrollably.
My teams through the years have been more than patient as I learned how to lead. My colleagues have been more than tolerant as I learned how to play nicely in the sandbox. Beyond all of you, more than any other person, my career and any legacy I leave behind, is linked to my fearless leader, David Zagin.
David is loyal, kind, and BEYOND supportive. He taught me civility in striking a deal and how to keep my head down when striking a golf ball. He showed me how to be courageous in protecting our business and gracious in the win (I mean, unless it’s Syracuse basketball. Then all civility goes out the window, but I digress…). He taught me what it looks like to have a “Rainman-esque” ability to compute numbers and rate formulas off the top of his head with stunning accuracy.
My friends, the days are long, but the years are short. And, eventually, they will come to an end. It will be both bitter and sweet. Enjoy them all.
Thanks will always feel inadequate for the level of gratitude I have, but still I want to say..
Thank you for walking beside me on my journey.
Thank you for the encouragement.
Thank you for the education and countless life lessons.
Thank you for your influence.
Thank you for your grace.
Thank you for your friendship.
Thank you for tonight and 26 incredible years.
I love you all.