WHY I QUIT MY FULL TIME JOB
A close friend suggested that I write this post awhile ago. To be honest I’ve put off writing this post for because I wasn’t sure entirely where to start. However, after a conversation with a former colleague back in March, I realized the importance of sharing this story. My goal in telling it is to normalize the experience. These words are my summary and interpretation of events since it’s impossible to capture every detail. My hope is that you will simply treat is as a story, not guidance on how to live your life.
At the beginning of June last year, I woke up on Monday with no where to truly be. I didn’t have work because I’d quit my job. I never thought this would be me. The thought of messing up my perfect resume terrified me. The thought of not having all the answers terrified me. Suddenly the girl who always had her sh*t together didn’t have her sh*t together.
I didn’t quit my job because I had an amazing plan lined up. I quit because I had no idea what to do with my life. My entire adult life, I’d always known my plan - be an entrepreneur. It was never a goal that I questioned, but suddenly what used to motivate me was something I wanted to escape from. I wanted all that pressure I was putting on myself to disappear.
I wanted so badly to do something with no expectations attached to it all because they were a crushing weight. I want to feel like I could breathe again. I wanted relief and freedom.
Honestly, the decision to quit my job really came down to wanting to feel happy again. I had spent months feeling depressed in my job. It was not the first time in my life I felt depressed. Throughout high school and college, there were periods of time where I experienced depression. However, this time I could tell it was worst I’d ever felt so I knew I had to do something.
When I told friends and colleagues that I’d quit my job, I was bombarded with tons of questions about what I was going to do next? My answer was I don’t know what I want to do next and I’m trying to figure it out. I know people were curious and perhaps living vicariously through me. However, after awhile it became emotionally exhausting to talk about it. Amidst all the questions a part of me just wanted to shout, I feel depressed and I’m not sure what’s going to make me feel happy again…ok! That was the main thing I wanted to figure out was how would I become sustainably happy again.
My decision to write this post was driven by wish to see more people talk more openly about mental health. Additionally, I want to show that just because someone seems to be “high functioning” on the outside doesn’t always mean that everything is ok on the inside. Furthermore, mental health problems are on the rise for a number of reasons and that’s why it’s important to talk about them. Mental health shouldn’t be viewed as something scary or weird. Chances are someone you know has experienced mental problems in their life.
The one thing that legitimately scared me when taking time off from work was the fact that I would be spending a lot of time alone. After feeling so alone for a long time, it seemed like the opposite of what I needed. I didn’t think I could handle it.
What I didn’t realized though was that I needed time to reconnect with myself. In the words of Jonathan Van Ness, “A lot of times when our relationships breakdown…, it’s really because our relationship broken down with ourself.” I needed time to relax since my mind and body felt seriously run down after working tons of hours each week (plus sometimes on weekends), eating Seamless most nights, and not exercising.
While my depression had silenced my creativity, one thing that reignited my creative spark was picking up photography. During that summer, I started taking pictures for other bloggers. Honestly, I think photography saved my life because it made me feel happy again. I’ve never been a good photographer, but it’s an amazing feeling to do something with no expectations attached. This was how I felt when I first started blogging - giddy with the excitement and feeling the high from enormity of possibility. When you’re just starting out on a project, you have no idea where it’s going to go. It’s such a beautiful thing because that’s where the magic comes from. You’re completely free from any care in the world about how it’s going to turn out. I desperately needed that in my life again.
Since I didn’t have anything lined up, the decision to quit my job did feel scary. Although I was afraid, I noticed that something snapped in my brain and it got rewired. My perspective shifted all things I used to worry about no longer seemed as relevant. I’m a believer though that doing things that scare you sh*tless helps you build confidence. You become more comfortable with taking risks and being bold. In some aspects of my life, I felt less worried about what others thought because honestly the freedom tasted so good. There’s something to be said for spontaneity.
The other reason quitting felt scary was because I had always been a go-go-go person. I never had been one to slow down. My life was always about achieving goals, which was satisfying but also made me feel hollow at the same time. It was only by slowing down that I was able to think about my life and process what happened. When I finally took time off that’s when I realized that I hadn’t been taking care of myself (“protecting the asset”). We live in a culture that tells us not to stop and measures our worth based on our busy-ness. We think by moving faster and squeezing more things in we will be more productive and successful. However, this approach is an attempt to defy gravity and ignore the inescapable fact we’re all human. There are trade offs. We can’t do it all. No matter what myths we get inundated with by the media. It wasn’t until I read Essentialism by Greg McKeown that I started to deeply understand the this concept of trade offs and nature of reality. As soon as we embrace reality, life gets a lot easier. It doesn’t mean there aren’t times where you won’t have to work hard, but killing yourself on a daily basis it’s not a sustainable solution. It’s a recipe for burnout.
The decision I made is not one I recommend for everyone. I was fortunate that I had money saved up so I could take a break and rest, but I know it’s not a luxury that everyone has. Looking back, there were times that I wish I had taken a leave of absence from work earlier, especially since I knew that something was wrong. However, my whole life I’ve been taught to “never quit or give up”, which I’ve now learned can be a toxic mentality. It creates a feeling of shame when you do “quit” something. You start to tell yourself that you didn’t work hard enough and if you had worked harder then you wouldn’t have failed.
That line of thinking is a trap. In actuality, you’re just acknowledging that’s something is not right for you. Now that I’m a little older and wiser, I now know that fighting to make something work for you that’s not working is like a fish swimming upstream. In the words of Elle Woods, “Don’t fight the fabric, change it.” If you have things that you need or want in a job, then it’s important to find a fit that aligns with that criteria. Growing up is about learning who we are and finding out what we like and don’t like. As we learn who we are, it’s important that we are straight up with others about who we truly are and what we value. When we are straight up and honest, life doesn’t necessarily get easier but things get clearer. We find out faster where others stand in relation to us and can evaluate if relationships with them are serving us. While it may feel uncomfortable at times, I’m pushing myself to try to vocalize my needs and wants more often because me staying silent isn’t serving anyone.
Over the last year, these are the most valuable lessons I learned that I continue to hold with me.
Deciding something is not for you is a sign of maturity not weakness.
“Protect the asset” - Greg McKeown
If you feel signs of depression, acknowledge it rather than denying it.
When you start hating things you used to love, take that as a wake up call to check your mental health.
Creativity flourishes when you’re at play and not taking things too seriously.
Spontaneity can lead to amazing things you might not have ever imagined.
When your in a free-fall situation, enjoy every second of it. Try not to control things so much.
“Burnout happens when you feel like you’re spinning your wheels to get to an end and you don’t feel like you’re getting there. What if you change the end game?” - Chinae Alexander
Life involves trade-offs. You can’t do it all.
It’s hard to give a 110% on something consistently when you just ‘like’ something.