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Transitions (Sic Transit Gloria Mundi)

Lincoln Memorial at sundown 

You don’t think of yourself getting older. But you do. At the cafeteria today, an acquaintance was talking to the checkout woman about coffee. He told her that he could remember when coffee was a quarter. Then he looked up, noticed me and said, “And that guy can remember when it was a nickel.” Actually, I can’t, although maybe it is just because I didn’t drink coffee.  But the young checkout clerk seemed to accept it w/o serious doubt. She looked at me and asked, “Really, you used to be able to buy coffee for a nickel?”  I suppose it is better to be talked about than not talked about. I just mumbled “yep” and let it go at that. This is my last day here, so I don’t need to maintain my credibility.

US Capitol waiting for the John Stewart show 

I am done and the day is not even over yet. I turned in my Blackberry, did the final checkouts, said my last goodbyes and reduced the size of my email box (according to IT, the most important thing). Nothing remains but to slip out the side door. Transferring within the Washington Metro area is not very hard. I look forward to the adventure of language at FSI and then to Brazil, but it is always sad to leave.

US Commerce Department in late afternoon from Smithsonian Mall 

Of course, I will miss the big things like the people I work with and the job. But I am past that now. Now I am thinking about some small, prosaic things that have contributed to quality of life.  For example, the shower/locker room downstairs is what really made bike communing possible.  It was very refreshing after a hot ride.  It also made lunchtime running a realistic option.   It is really important to integrate exercise into the day, because you will usually be too tired, busy or have some other excuse for avoiding workouts in the evenings and weekends.   A valid excuse is weather and darkness.  In the winter you can run during the middle of the day, when it is often sunny and reasonably warm even many days in January. By evening it is dark and cold.

Another pragmatic benefit was Gold’s Gym, although when we moved to our new building that became less useful.  But when we were in our old building, Gold’s Gym sat between my office and the Metro.  There was never any excuse not to work out.  In fact, I felt compelled to go in, even if I was “tired from a long day.” I have been lifting weights fairly regularly since I was fifteen, which is now forty years, but over the past six years (except for my Iraq time) I lifted MORE regularly because it was just more convenient.  FSI has a gym, although I haven’t looked closely at it.  It probably will not be as good. Gold’s Gym doesn’t have the really fancy equipment, but it is a place more attractive to people who really want to work out, as opposed to the dilettantes who just want to be seen looking good.

Well, one door closes and another opens. I am sure I will find plenty to like in my new incarnation.  I am eager to get to the kinds of work I do well and the intellectual challenge of the language and area studies is attractive.  

Time passes slowly but before you notice it has lurched forward and the future has become the past. The many days of doing routine things and seeing the same places seem to merge.

It is funny how things end. That is why it is more important to have goals re what  the type of person you aspire to become, rather than attaining particular jobs or positions. The day after you leave your job, no matter how exalted, is the day you are a former-whatever it was you were. You cannot take the nice office with you and the fancy title is meaningless once it is done. But you always take yourself along wherever you go, so it is a good idea to get to like what you are and to work not so much to win respect as to be worthy of your own respect and that of others, not matter what position you currently hold, or not  Sic transit gloria mundi.

The pictures show the Lincoln Memorial at dusk.  Next is the Capitol with the preparations for the John Stewart/Stephen Colbert show.  Last is the Commerce Department from the Mall. 


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