Subject line: “When you have a minute…”

My hands trembled as I typed the email requesting a private meeting in the conference room. An agonizing 20 minutes passed before my manager replied: “OK.”

I knew he knew what I had to say, and I rushed past him and toward the conference room as soon as I heard his feet shuffling behind me.

“I know this is incredibly bad timing, and I’m sorry, but I’m leaving,” I said, sitting down and sliding my sentence-long resignation letter across the table.

“Oh.” He exhaled. “Where are you going? Did you get another job?”

“No. I’m not going anywhere. We want to have kids in a few years, and we’d like to travel beforehand – to all those places, you know, you don’t take kids.”

“I had a feeling it was bad when you wanted to meet in here,” he said, chuckling. “Bummer.”

Ten minutes later, it was over. He had seemed genuinely disappointed but incredibly understanding, inquiring about my plans, offering up travel advice and encouraging me to keep in touch in case I need a job when I returned. He told me I could stay as long as I needed, and I assured him I would help find and train my replacement and assist with arranging for a co-worker to take my place at the D.C. conference.

I thanked him for taking it so well and then apologized once more before striding back to the safety of my cubicle.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon absently performing my regular work duties, my headphones unplugged so as to better hear the light footfalls of the Human Resources director. In my mind, this soft-spoken former nun had morphed into a 300-pound, bicep-bulging bouncer, and I tensed, half-expecting a rough grip on my shoulder at any moment. But she never came and no one said a word. The only sign something had changed came as I was leaving for the day. As I tiptoed past my manager’s office, he threw back his head and flashed me a knowing grin. I returned it with sincere appreciation and then hurried on my way.

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