After 11 years as a faithful client services officer at our firm, Annette is leaving.

This delightful 43-year-old mother of two, who likes to wear patterned sweaters and eats pistachio nuts by the handful, has decided to take up a position with another advisory firm closer to home.

I have been asked, as is custom, to summarise my working relationship with Annette and my wishes for her future endeavours in a short paragraph, to be conveyed on an oversized cardboard novelty card.

The card was placed on my desk this morning by one of our paraplanners, Jason, in a very Mission Impossible-esque transaction.

“This is for Annette,” he whispered. “It’s a secret. You have to write something and pass it on.”

I thanked Jason for explaining the protocol.

On the back of the envelope was a list of names, mostly crossed off. I dutifully put a line through mine and pulled out the A3-sized card. On the cover, “We’re sorry to see you go!” was printed in sparkly, stylised script. Inside, “Now who will make the tea?” completed the bon mot.

Sighing, I scanned the footprints of those who have trodden the path before me.

“Bye Annette,” Gary wrote. “Thanks for being such an awesome friend and introducing me to the joys of Xplan! Best of luck, G”

Standard stuff from Gary.

Celeste, our long-time secretary and Annette’s consensus ‘work-besty’, went straight for the emotional jugular.

“Annette, where to begin…” she began. After a chronological timeline of their friendship and several exhortations to stay in touch, she signed off with five crosses.

Underneath that were three crosses, and under that was one. Points for symmetry, Celeste.

Half the card was filled with people just mailing it in. The standard response started with a variation of “I’ve really enjoyed working with you,” and segued into a version of “Good luck at your new job”. There was also a predictable array of references to shared experiences (“We’ll always have the Matherson account!”), and an inexplicable coterie of “Love you’s” and “Miss you’s”.

I searched for inspiration. Considering I’d spent every working day with Annette for the last 11 years, it was embarrassingly thin on the ground. Despite our proximity, we weren’t that close. An impassioned and poignant diatribe was (quite literally) off the cards.

Spying the quote calendar on my desk, I considered an inspirational message.

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”

I don’t think so. Sorry Aristotle, your services won’t be required today.

A message in the card from Leo, our risk specialist, caught my eye. Leo has been with us only two weeks, so writing a farewell to an old-timer like Annette must have been an awkward proposition.

“Annette, I’ve worked with many people in my time, and I can honestly say that you were one of them,” it read.

Bravo, I thought. Brief and pithy. Slightly insulting, but in a mild enough way for it to slide on through. I shall buy Leo a coffee, the next chance I get.

I tried to follow Leo’s lead and employ subtle mockery.

“I don’t care what they say, Annette, I think you’re alright!”

Too nasty.

“Goodbye Annette, we will miss trying to avoid you around here!”

Ergh. Even worse.

In desperation, I grabbed a copy of my granddaughter’s Dr Seuss book, Oh, the places you’ll go, from my bookshelf.

Eureka. I scribbled my missive and closed the envelope, regarding Dr Seuss with newfound respect. It might not be perfect, but at least it was done.

“Dear Annette,” I wrote, employing my neatest lower-case cursive. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose!”

Love, Dixon.

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