Yesterday I had to say goodbye to one of my best friends. We were just 23 days shy of working a complete five years together. I know a lot of people are friends with the people they work with, and I'm surely not the first person who has seen a coworker leave, but for some reason, I feel like this goodbye is extra hard. At least for me.
You see, Jovan and I didn't just work together, we sat next to each other - only separated by a small cube wall - every day of the work week. Five days a week, eight hours a day, 52 weeks a year. A lot of people put up walls as dividers or to block intruders out. But not us. Our wall was only there to help hold up our desks. Most of the time, the divider seemed not to even exist. We talked all day long through the wall. We passed reports and notes over it. We leaned on it during conversations or while watching YouTube videos. We shot rubber bands over it. We even used it as a volleyball net when we needed a work break.
Today, the desk on the other side of my cube wall is empty. My "work husband" is at home packing up his things, getting ready to move to the great state of Nebraska. It hasn't really set in that he's gone for good. Right now, it just feels like he's on vacation. It will probably feel that way next week too. But then I'm going to start having withdrawals.
I call him my "work husband" because that's a commonly used term around here. And in many ways, that's how our relationship was. I knew he always had my back and hopefully he knew I'd always have his. We were there for each other when we needed someone, whether it was a sticky work situation or advice on something. Sometimes our relationship was more of the brother-sister type. We picked at each other constantly and could argue over anything. But we never held grudges. We could agree to disagree and move on. And occasionally our relationship was more of the mother-son variety, with me nagging him about not ironing his clothes or shaving his face or leaving folders out of their cabinets. But all the time our relationship was that of very good friends. Always together. Partners in crime, as our bosses called us.
I don't think I could work next to just anyone for as long as we worked together. Most people would probably start driving me crazy after a while. But Jovan and I are way too much alike. We have the same warped sense of humor. If we were in a meeting together, I always had to avoid making contact with him for fear of busting out laughing. After a while we got to where we could finish each other's sentences. We knew what the other was thinking before it even came out. We had nicknames for people whose names we really didn't know...things like Sir Coughs A Lot, Worst Day Ever, Potatoes, White Tiger, Laughs A Lot. Sometimes we were the only ones who understood the meanings behind them. We liked a lot of the same movie quotes, too. Some of our favorites were:
"And why is the floor all wet, Todd?" "I don't know, Margo!" "Big gulps, huh? Well, gotta go!" "Tina, you fat lard, come get some dinner. Eat the food!" "Whatever I feel like I wanna do. Gosh!" "I see you're drinking 1%. Is that cause you think you're fat? Cause you're not. You could be drinking whole if you wanted to."
Feel free to guess the movie if you'd like. Those are all pretty easy ones.
It was easy to like Jovan for other reasons too, not just because we were so much alike. He's a good, Christian man with great morals and values. He puts his family first in everything he does. I've never met someone as selfless as him. This move to Nebraska he's making is a great example of that, as he's leaving his mom here to move closer to his wife's family. He will do anything for anyone he cares about, whether he wants to or not. He's a swell guy and I was lucky to get to work with him.
After five years, it's safe to say we've been through a lot together. Some big things - I was there when his precious little girl was born and watched her grow from the pictures on his desk. He was the first at work to know I was engaged and was there to see me marry my husband. Some not so big things too - I was around when another man at work told him he had a nice body and I was there the day he ripped the seat of his pants. He covered everything in my cube with aluminum foil and then filled my cube with streamers and balloons while I was on my honeymoon. He sent me to the seventh floor on my first day of work (note: our office only has six floors) and had me foot a folder full of journal entries (note: journal entries always balance). I found his missing ID badge and convinced our bosses to call him down to Human Resources to scare him before giving it back to him.
Wednesday of this week we had our department going-away party for him. I made him a photo album of all the goofy pictures we've taken over the years. We also "retired" his safety vest. (He was on the safety committee here at work. He had to attend several meetings, learn how to use a fire extinguisher, pass out kleenex and hand sanitizer to our department during the swine flu outbreak, and if there was a fire drill, he had to wear his orange vest and make sure we were all accounted for out in the parking lot. Oh, yes, we made fun of our safety officer all the time.) I really hope he takes his safety vest with him to his next job, or at least mentions being on the safety committee in an interview.
Last night our small group of six got together for The Last Supper. It started like a lot of our meals together, with me getting the first bite of his meal and him getting the second half of my sandwich. It ended, though, with a long hug goodbye and a tearful drive home. As sad as I am for myself, I am happy for him and this new adventure he's about to take. I know he'll find another job and make new coworker friends. A few years from now I'm sure I'll be a distant memory to him, but I still hope our paths will cross again at some point. Saying goodbye to people is the hard part of growing up.
So I'm just going to leave it with a "see you later, Jovan" instead of "goodbye." I'll miss you tons and hope to see you again soon!