Got a great new job - why do I feel so sad?
June 28, 2012 9:51 PM   Subscribe

After eight years at an idiosyncratic dept at a major university, I got a "golden ticket" job at a hot new start-up in my field. I am thrilled. But I am also deeply sad about leaving my friends and colleagues. I mean, deeply, deeply, crying-about-it frequently sad. (More sadness inside!)

Some of this grief is to be expected: in the last 16 months, I have lost my house, my marriage and my community (I moved). Work has been a constant - I have made good friends and I am well-liked and respected. But the money and opportunity I need now aren't there for me. I feel I need to keep moving forward and this new job will allow me to do that.
Most of my co-workers are thrilled, but some of those I am closest to have become inexplicably distant in the past two weeks. My good bye lunch felt like a wake! Most of the meetings I ran were far more entertaining.
I'm missing the obvious here. What is going on? Why does a good thing feel so bad? Why are my good buddies being so quiet? Why am I crying all the time? My fear is that all these relationships are really over. How can I maintain them if people have already started pulling away? Or should I just let it all go, like everything else?
posted by Fierce clam to Human Relations (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This is always scary and nerve-wracking and worry-inducing. Everyone does it when they leave a comfortable place. Your decision to leave almost always ends up working out for the better, in the end, though. You will meet new people at the new job. Everyone does.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:30 PM on June 28, 2012

I think people usually become anxious and hyper-aware of awkwardness when their scripts for routine interaction don't seem to fit the situation. So I'd say that's all normal. You don't have to let them go and cut them out of your heart or whatever--they're just not sure what to say. You'll probably keep in touch with plenty of them by email, social network, etc., especially as you hear about opportunities of interest to them in your new job.

Other than that, you seem to be experiencing situational depression. If you have a history of feeling this way without obvious explanations for it, then that's a concern. If the situational depression is really incredibly painful, then that's a concern. But crying and sad? Who wouldn't be? You're going through a lot of changes pretty rapidly.

It sounds like you probably have some things that center you to focus on--your work/field if nothing else--and this will be over in a couple of months.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:34 PM on June 28, 2012


Your good buddies at work are privately pissed that your have made this jump in success. I'm sure they are happy and proud for your new success, and simultaneously pissed about that situation, which sets an internal conflict in them about how to treat you now. You're upset too, you're leaving and moving on. It's normal, just do what you can do to keep in contact. If you want to. Things will never be the same. That's life.
posted by caclwmr4 at 10:58 PM on June 28, 2012

My good bye lunch felt like a wake!

Weird, so did mine! I think that sometimes, even when colleagues are friends, it just doesn't 'gel' - I know that some of my best times with work-friends have been just hanging around the office when we were supposed to be getting work done, but during actual, scheduled fun-times like goodbye lunches, no one is really in the mood. This doesn't address your bigger question, this is just to reassure you that the fact that your goodbye lunch was kind of weird doesn't necessarily reflect on anything bigger.

Why does a good thing feel so bad?

It's scary, that's why. It's totally natural to feel this way. I'm sure many other responders will agree. I was very ambivalent when I left my old job, even though I had known for at least a year that I needed to move on.

Why are my good buddies being so quiet?

They probably feel ambivalent too - they're going to miss you but they're probably a bit jealous as well.
posted by Ziggy500 at 1:30 AM on June 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Change like this is a pretty major thing for everyone. People don't know how to respond, they often feel conflicted, you're going, they're staying, you're no longer going to be a colleague, and so that relationship changes.

Meanwhile, you're off to do something new - scary and exciting, all at the same time!

It's all fine and perfectly normal.
posted by heyjude at 1:39 AM on June 29, 2012

Yeah, the going away celebration is supposed to be after work at a bar, non official and completely off the hook, the night before your official last day.

You and your work buddies come in completely hung over and late on your last day. Everyone just smiles at you and is glad for you.

Then you get on the airplane to fly off to your new career a day later and just feel that long arc of love and fear, making promises that to yourself that you'll keep in touch with everyone.

Then you don't. You make new work buddies and wonder how your old work buddies are.

Then someday, at an airport bar in Cincinnati you'll run into an old work buddy. The nostalgia will kick in and you'll have a blast catching up. Then your boarding call comes and off into the haze your old work buddies recede into.

In three days time I will be meeting up with my bestest work buds ever, from my last position.


So yeah, feel sad! These are your friends!

And you need to get a party on outside of work, non-sanctioned. That'll allow everyone to work the separation demons loose. There needs to be a defining moment that closes this chapter, yet binds you all together. Something that you'd probably not want to share with your managers. Something between you and your work buddies only.
posted by roboton666 at 3:18 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

You've now had pretty much EVERYTHING in your life change by now. The work is the last thing to go. Of course you feel like this!

As for the co-workers, it is kind of a wake, because realistically you'll probably never talk to most or all of them again. It is kind of a death in its own way, along with everything else in your life. Even if the death is for a good reason, i.e. happy job opportunity, there's still gonna be "This is over forever, I'll never see these people again" going on in your head.

"My fear is that all these relationships are really over. How can I maintain them if people have already started pulling away? Or should I just let it all go, like everything else?" don't really maintain them. Or more specifically, it depends on how much effort you put out to maintain and how much THEY do. There are a lot of folks who have been in my life in the past that I really liked, but knew darned well that I'd never hear from again once they moved because they don't really contact people they don't see regularly, don't like e-mail, only do token Facebook crap, etc. There is the occasional person here and there who will be willing to put out effort (hint: those are the people you regularly hang out with outside of work), but most people--especially coworkers who are more circumstantial friends than guys you go to the bar with every Friday and invite to your birthday parties-- are just gonna be gone. And I'd say to let it go because if life and personalities aren't facilitating staying in contact, it'll be frustrating for you trying to get a hold of someone who doesn't get back to you. The people pulling away know that they're not gonna ask you out for lunch in a few weeks, so...yeah.

What do you do in this situation? You're gonna mourn for awhile. You're gonna feel the changes and feel sad about it. Then eventually you will get used to no longer having those people in your life, and you'll get used to hanging out with the new ones who now are. Eventually you won't feel that sharp pain because you're used to the new normal now. That's just how life goes.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:14 AM on June 29, 2012

What you're feeling is perfectly normal.

Leaving a tight work group is always hard, and the weirdness you're feeling is just everyone else's feelings of jealousy, envy, discontent, pride, happiness and mixed emotions.

There were reasons you took your awesome new job. You'll meet neat folks there as well! Unless you were super close to people, don't be surprised if you never hear from them again. That's just the way it is.

Also, eight years is a long time. You've lived a lifetime in those 8 years. I remember when I was younger, work was my social life. We went out each night for happy hour, we'd do group activities on the weekends, and now, while I'm friendly with folks at work, my social life and work don't intersect at all. That's just the way it is.

What you're feeling is nostalgia. A pain at leaving a work/home. It will pass, it will be fine.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:20 AM on June 29, 2012

It sounds to me like this job change is a fine step onward and upward (congratulations!), but at the same time it's closing another chapter in your life, cutting one more tie - one of the last - to the old life you had. I wouldn't be surprised if that meant it had more symbolic significance than it otherwise might? Your comment about whether you should "just let it all go, like everything else" seems telling there.

Either way, grief seems a natural response to me, even while you're seeing the exciting new prospects ahead.

As for your co-workers, if they've seen you through all this, perhaps they're picking up on some aspect of it? Even without that, 8 years is a long time, and those close to you are possibly making the mental gear-shifts they need to in order to reconcile themselves to not seeing you several days a week.

Whether or not there is an aspect of envy involved, change can be hard, and this means a change for them as well as for you. They'll miss you, and they need to deal with that in their own ways.

In your position, I'd do my best to stay in touch with those work friends (can you drop by a happy-hour gather from time to time, maybe?), but don't forget that the new position will provide opportunities to make new friends, too.

Good luck!
posted by Someone Else's Story at 1:59 PM on June 29, 2012

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