Leaving the nest
I've had a few last days in my working life, but none can compare to my last day with United Way and the beginning of my "semi-retirement". Instead of stretching out the hours cleaning up my desk and pretending to look busy, I painted. It was a suggestion that was a stroke of brilliance on the part of Cecilia, as it afforded me a beautiful way to reflect and create something of value that will stay at The Redpoll Centre (named after the redpoll bird) for years to come.
I set up in the kitchen, the heart of the social profit shared space centre, and began working on the background long before anyone else had arrived. As people started to roll in at 8 am, I began working on the bird, first doing some underpainting with warm colours like alizarin crimson, deep yellow and cadmium orange, then bringing in some of the finishing details.
The whole time I was painting off in the corner, tenants of The Redpoll Centre were coming and going, having conversations, and connecting. It was so lovely to hear people from different agencies having these perfectly natural collisions in the kitchen. Strong relationships have been formed, and the community is stronger because of it. The vision that was The Redpoll Centre has become reality.
I kept painting as people streamed in closer to the lunch hour. By the time I turned around, I was taken aback by the number of people who had gathered.
Cecilia said a few lovely words, as did my friend John Evans on behalf of the board. Maryellen read a lovely message from Major Don Scott and Shelby and Muna presented me with the most beautiful farewell gift ever created by Liana Wheeldon from Arts Council Wood Buffalo and signed by everyone at The Redpoll Centre.
I felt the emotion welling up inside of me as all of this was happening, reflecting back on the journey we had all been on: getting The Redpoll Centre designed, built and opened; working out all the technical hiccups; surprising each other with the Redpoll Rat and the Elf on the Shelf; and so much more.
I said some words, between joyful and appreciative tears, speaking out loud how coming to the United Way changed my life and that I will always be grateful.
Maryellen was working away as I popped into her office.
"This is the hardest part for me," I said, placing all my keys and my access card on her desk.
I think she said "Me, too", though I can't be certain. I could tell she didn't want to go to that emotional place.
We had a lovely visit with just the staff to close out the day. We then enjoyed some cake lovingly created by the amazing Valerie Winters.
I packed up my paints, easel and canvas and left The Redpoll Centre for the final time as a staff member of the United Way. I will return today as a citizen with the finished painting which will be hung in the kitchen in which it was created, with love.