Sorry to Hear You’re Leaving

I was coming up the steps. The HR person was coming down the steps.

I smiled. Charming as all get out.

“Hello,” I said. I often say hello to people when I’m coming up the steps. And when they’re coming down the steps.

“Oh, hello,” the HR person said. A very reasonable exchange.

We said a few more words. I don’t remember what they were. But I do remember what the HR person told me next:

“I’m so sorry to hear you’re leaving us,” they said.

My eyes opened wide.

“I’m leaving us?” I asked.

The HR person’s eyes opened wide.

“Aren’t you leaving for another job?”

“God, I hope not,” I said. “Do you know something I don’t know?”

The HR person was embarrassed. They admitted that they had mistaken me for somebody else. I tried to let them know it was okay. It was very awkward. At least for them. For me?

Well, there was something objectively funny about the HR person mistakenly telling me that my career was over.


My career isn’t over. No, it’s just beginning. This semester, however, is very much coming to an end. My first year at The University of Iowa is very much coming to an end. Thank God. I’ve really had the wind taken out of my sails. Blow some my way, will you?

I’ve had many not-funny interactions with HR people during my time as an educator. I’ve committed such sins as watching clips of The Office in an acting class to discuss comedic timing. I’ve also been overheard saying the word “bullshit” in front of impressionable 9th graders. These crimes of mine are well documented in this book. I’ve also published countless academic articles making sense of how seemingly innocuous activities such as those described here almost led to my termination. I’m a little obsessive. A lot obsessive.

Sitting across from the HR person and being told you are a fundamentally inappropriate educator is extremely unpleasant. I’d advise you steer clear from such an interaction if you are able. I was unable to steer clear. Unpaid suspensions. Letters in my file. Those things, so many years ago, also took the wind out of my sails. The wind came back then. I hope it comes back now.

I’ve told the story about the HR person to as many people as will listen. I love a good story. One that is objectively funny. And I tell it until I should probably stop telling it. A little obsessive. I know they were embarrassed. I don’t mean them any harm. It’s just such a good story.


The HR person told me something else after they’d admitted they mistook me for somebody else. For some reason, they told me that their kids don’t like it when they predict a disaster. Say something morbid. Something about their death, perhaps. Something like “unless I die before then.” Something like “sorry to hear you’re leaving us.” Their kids, the HR person told me, freak out.

“It’s not like just because I say something it is going to happen.”

Wise words. I really like this HR person, despite their inadvertent threat to my livelihood.

Listen, I’ve got something in common with the HR person’s kids. I am absolutely one to freak out these days when somebody says something. Anxiety.

A student said something in class a few weeks ago that I can’t shake.

“I was high strung before the pandemic,” they said, “but now I think I have actual anxiety.”

Bingo, baby. I feel that statement. I’m a nervous wreck. Somebody wrap me in bubble wrap and let’s call it a night.

Here’s hoping this summer helps me dispel some of that anxiety. Calm down a little bit. Get some wind back in my sails.

The 2022-2023 academic year, kids, has been something else. Thank God that, despite what my HR person has to say, I’ll be coming back next year. Year 20 or 21 in education, I think. That’s a long time. Letters in my file be damned. Unpaid suspensions be damned. Innocent threats from HR people be damned. Anxiety be damned.

Me? I won’t be damned. I’ll be fine. Damn fine.

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