This past week, after almost a year of putting it off, I finally made it back to the Ministry of Health to pick up the two boxes I had left behind when I resigned my post. They had been stored in someone's cupboard and all but forgotten until I called to say I would retrieve them. (Technically, I didn't make it into the building - but to the front door where two of my former staff kindly lugged them to my car.) There is nothing remarkable about the contents - some personal items that passed for decoration in my old office and things I saved and carried with me over the years - announcements that I had worked on that had some meaning, clippings of news stories I'd been part of, photographs, personal notes from staff and Ministers I had worked with and other bits. There are many reasons why it took me this long to make the effort to take them away - not the least of which was the false hope that at some point I would have the option of returning there and my life and job would be as they once were. There was precedence for this, in that I left and went back to the Ministry at least four times for short stints in education and a couple of the health authorities during my 17 year run. But from the beginning this felt different in some intangible way. In the beginning I felt relief at my decision - even elation. I was free and that feeling carried me for a long time. I was incredibly tired after what had been a grueling last couple of years.
Gradually I assimilated and went through the process of setting up my own consulting business - but somewhat half-heartedly, clinging to the notion that once I had recovered - life would return to some kind of normal. Until eight months later and the fateful doctor visit where I discovered my kidneys were failing. In retrospect of course I know that had that visit happened before my decision to leave, I would likely be on paid sick leave right now - a luxury of public service I know - but one that is meant to protect you when bad things happen. But that was not to be and so I get by without it and so far I have managed without leaning on taxpayers for support - something I dearly hope to avoid. But I am at that point where I check my bank balance daily and try to measure how long it will last vs. how long I might have left - a gruesome math exercise but there you have it - it can not be avoided.
So now the boxes - the sum of everything I worked for sit unopened in our front hallway - and I find I can't bring myself to touch them - to feel the weight of this ending and sort through the remains of my working life.