For overseas readers, I should explain that the expression ‘P45‘ is highly-charged with significance in the UK. This is the famous document you get when you officially finish employment with a company. It’s really for tax purposes but it is the one, incontrovertible document that proves you no longer work for a company. Bosses in dramas and sitcoms threaten bolshy workers with the P45. So, it arrived in the post. Like everything else to do with accepting redundancy, I just thought ‘oh right’ and carried on.
Yesterday, I chatted with two men who had quit their jobs in the past; one an old friend, the other a total stranger. The stranger, who worked in the construction industry, had simply quit after 20 years and taken 14 months off before starting another job. In the intervening time, he trained as a yoga teacher but, mainly, he rediscovered himself. He reckons it takes at least six months to discover who you are.
The old friend had taken early retirement at just the right time when the deals were good. After eighteen months, he started another job – as a mediator in an international diplomatic initiative. It is precisely the sort of work he loves to do.
My actual last day at work was pretty normal. Being transmission day it was busy. I was filming a piece-to-camera in the morning and polishing a script in the afternoon. After the programme playback in the edit suite, production team colleagues gave me a nice card and a bottle of Bollinger. By this time, it was dark outside. I went through the brief and pretty informal business of handing over my staff camera kit, laptop and mobile phone and, of course the electronic entry pass. I shook hands with my line manager, took my hat and scarf from the hatstand and walked out. One colleague joined me for a last little chat as we left the building.
Driving through the barrier. When I arrived in the morning for my last day, it didn’t feel all that different, even tough I knew it was my last day. There was just a mild curiosity to find out if my pass was still working. (It was.) Driving out, though, was different. You don’t need a pass to get out of the premises; the exit barrier raises whenever a vehicle approaches. So, outwardly, everything was normal. But I knew I hadn’t got a pass. The barrier would let me out but not back in again. I really had left the building.