I looked up on my way out the door this afternoon. There’s an exit sign pointing to the parking lot as you leave my office.

“Tomorrow will be the last time I look up at that sign.” I thought to myself.

Tomorrow will be my last day at work in Clearwater. I’ve worked there since the fall of 1996. Seventeen years wouldn’t give a lot of folks pause, but if you were to look through my eyes it would seem like forever.

We didn’t have kids. We were a month or more from learning Cheryl was pregnant with our first. We lived in a small, two bedroom condo we rented from Cheryl’s parents. I still drove my first car purchased with my own money. The adventures of George Bush were safely contained in Texas, and he and his pal Karl had yet to be inflicted on an unsuspecting nation.

But the most startling thing of all: a Democrat was Governor of Florida – good ‘ole Walkin’ Lawton Chiles.

It’s not like I’m quitting my job though. I’ll still be working for the State of Florida on Friday, in the same capacity I’m doing so now. I’ll just be doing it from a drab, state owned building in Largo. We’ll be trading old-growth oaks, shade, and a view of Tampa Bay for pavement, concrete, and lots of pink stucco.

A Judge I worked with years ago used to ask me, “Do you have to pay the State to work here every day?” Despite the location on the water, the buildings themselves weren’t kept as well as others might, which made the lease affordable for a government agency – even in Florida. Still, I’ve always thought we had it made.

You can’t put a price on a little bit of peace amid the chaos our jobs can be.

Well, I suppose you can if you own the place.

Give the gift of words.