This isn’t the blog post I expected to write. Not quite. Not really. When my stint acting for my boss was over, I expected to write a cheerful piece about having us both back in our rightful places, rather much as we were before he left to work on a special project for six months.
Since summer, I’ve been counting down the days until now — my Christmas vacation. When I return in January, so does he, and we’ll both be in our usual roles. As I tore off each page on my knitting page-a-day calendar, I watched the days dwindle until my last scheduled working day. At that point, I told myself, I could go back to my regularly scheduled life — a life with more telework, a life where I really could take my scheduled Fridays off, a life where I wasn’t so mentally exhausted at the end of the day that I couldn’t even knit. I’d take two weeks off at Christmas to relax, recharge, and ready myself to return to myself.
It’s not that I resent my boss or hate having to do his job — I don’t, on either count. My boss had to go work on this project, which was of strategic importance to his professional development and to our office as a whole. Part of my job is to do his job when he’s away, or whenever his position is vacant. I’ve acted in this position for longer than this particular stretch, so it’s not like a huge shock or anything. It’s not that. More like it’s something that I knew was going to be stressful, and which I tried to mitigate to the extent that I could, and serve as best I could, all the while looking forward to it ending.
As autumn progressed, I began laying plans for our transition back to our old jobs. I dusted off long-term projects that I’d neglected over the past six months, and planned to go back to working on them in January. I considered all the goings-on at work, and thought about how to inform my boss about the things he’d missed, to ease his re-entry. And then there was the matter of our offices.
My boss has a well-appointed corner office that overlooks a tree-filled courtyard. It has a six-person conference table and is in a quiet corner of our building. It’s ideally suited to a position in which many closed-door conversations must take place, and in which lots of meetings occur day in and day out. My office is far more modest and suits a position that is conducive to a fair amount of telework and fewer in-person meetings. Because I was assuming his responsibilities, though, I asked to move into his office while he was away. He, in turn, set up shop in a vacant office for those rare times when he was in our building.
The arrangement worked very well. I was able to hold meetings and private conversations without any issues. Looking out of a wall of windows onto the leafy courtyard was restful, and helped me deal with what is a more stressful position than my own. The quiet gave me the ability to concentrate on the many issues I faced.
Toward the end of my time acting for my boss, I looked forward to getting my life back, including moving our offices back to where they belonged. I imagined how happy, how triumphant I’d be on Office Moving Day. How I’d be glad that I’d survived this half of a year with some degree of success. How complete I’d feel that things were back in order.
Over the past few days, I moved our things so that in January, we’d be starting out where we should be. IT moved our computers. I moved our things. It’s mostly back together again.
What’s missing is that feeling of happiness, of relief, of satisfaction. Instead of those emotions, mostly I just feel drained and numb. There are things that have happened over the past months, things that I’ve had to preside over and provide counsel for, that have just about taken everything out of me. These are things that will continue to be with me for a long time to come, even as I go back to my regular job. There are things that have changed regarding our management structure that will affect me in my regular job, too. These things are true for my boss, as well. So, there’s no neat and tidy going back to where we were, as I once thought. We’re going back, all right, but only sort of as we were. I’m hoping that we’ll both have a chance to rest during this Yuletide season, and will come back to our changed selves and make peace with our new reality.