I had the worst sensation at my daughter’s bus stop this morning. I had my hands in my coat pockets because it was chilly and my left palm realized that my badge holder was not clipped to my front left belt loop. My palm passed this critical message on to my brain and I had a sudden sinking stomach sensation.

Then I realized I don’t have a badge anymore and I got to experience a completely different kind of sinking stomach feeling. The funding for the position that I held for eight-plus years ran out on August 31, 2017. They took back my Orca card and my badge. I carried a banker’s box of the last cruft from my desk down to my car. I had to have a friend badge me out of the garage. We said goodbye and…that was it. Very matter-of-fact, this-happens-every-day, none-of-this-is-out-of-the-ordinary.

I am now safely ensconced in a co-working space that is, mercifully, filled with quiet adults who are serious about getting work done. It is the most positive peer pressure that I’ve ever felt in my life.  There’s a big wall of windows to let in the light. I’ve learned to use the La Marzocco GS3 that’s sitting in the kitchen and I make an awesome Americano.

It all helps me stay focused and keeps the pressure on to be doing productive things (I’m currently taking a break after writing two cover letters, which I find particularly draining). I have a place to be out of the house, away from the undone dishes and the dust puppies and the bed that is calling out, “Just give up and take a nap instead…”

After a couple of weeks of reflection, I’ve come not just to realize, but to actually experience how working with people forty hours a week for eight years has an influence on you. In fact, it changes you forever. You learn from them. If you’re lucky, some of their best positive qualities will rub off on you. I’ve learned to be less intimidated by casual social interactions. I’ve learned to be more independent in my work (where independence means a willingness to just dive into the unknown head first). I’ve learned more about time management, project management, and “cat herding” from the best.

I’ve walked away from this job a better person and maybe, even though it hurts, it doesn’t hurt as much as I expected because I’m still carrying these gifts around with me and these people will, in that sense, always be a part of my life.

This makes getting a new job very intimidating. I know that if I stay too long, I will again start to pick up qualities from my close coworkers. Will they be positive qualities? Will they help me grow as a person somehow? Will I accidentally land myself a step backward in terms of maturity and cooperation? Will I feel isolated, dark, bitter, and lonely among a team in which I don’t really fit? My responsibility to assess the people whom I’ll be working with seems more critical now than it ever has before in my life. The trite “you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you” now feels much less trite and much more salient and I feel it in a way I never had before.

Overall, while I have ups and plenty of downs, I’m feeling positive about my skills in finding a good fit for me. I’m mature enough to really know who I am and what I need. Sometimes, I read job listings and get excited about who these people are and what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and if this could be THE ONE. Sometimes, I read listings and my instincts say right away “that’s not for you.”

I’m not desperate. I don’t need to act desperate. Some opportunities that I’ve been excited about have passed me by but new possibilities open up almost every day. And maybe, just maybe, you’ve landed on this page because you’re a potential employer wondering if I’m right for you. I would like to think that would happen–that someone would be curious enough to look around for my presence online (which is almost nil for complicated reasons). That kind of curiosity and thoroughness in a potential manager or coworker would certainly appeal to me. As always, I hope I’ve made a good impression.