I was at my last job for six and a half years, and to a certain degree, I wanted to leave my job for as long as I was in the job. Of course it has more nuance than that, but ultimately that was how I felt. It was a constant roller coaster of good and bad. Here’s my story on my fear of quitting my job, quitting and what I’m learning along the way.
It was 2008, and the economy had just tanked. What the heck was a 22 year old with a liberal arts degree in Religious studies and theatre going to do? I managed to get an entry-level position at a healthcare tech company as an implementation specialist. I always operated under the assumption I would find a better job and I would just stick this out for a bit longer…but I never felt confident enough in my skills to shoot for something different or better. Every time I consulted with close friends and co-workers about leaving they kept telling me I would never find a better gig that what I had and that I should appreciate what I have now. The notion that I would never find anything better at the age of 22 and that it’s a lot worse out there was unfathomable to me. I rejected that idea and never once felt convinced of the thought. Nevertheless, I didn’t even know what I would want to do elsewhere, so i just stuck with it.
Over time, I learned that I actually had a knack for problem-solving and cutting out the extra crap to make things run more smoothy and efficiently. I moved around several times in the company always looking for the next challenge until I finally landed in R&D doing product innovation. This was it for me. I thought I would stay here for a while. I loved the team I worked with and the project(s) I was given, but after months of working nights and weekends and always getting stressed out about my project status and seeing no end in sight, I had had enough. I had no extra mental space to polish up my resume, network and find another job. I felt stuck. I had lost my mojo.
Then, around New Year’s 2015, things began to shift. I began to really devote some thought to leaving my job and figuring out what I would do next and weighing out all of my options. It was the first time I felt at peace that it was time for me to move on. I didn’t feel like I was running away from anything or that I hated the people I worked with. It was simply a genuine assurance that my time at this company was drawing to a close.
I started planning for the change. The most important thing I did was build a support network around me. If I was really going to do this, I needed my friends and family to back me up. I also started figuring out what I wanted to do next. It occurred to me that I really wanted to take some time off to recharge. Also, even though I began making more of a concerted effort to leaving my job, I still felt my work load was taking up too much mental space to really know what I would want to do next. So, I decided I would figure out how much I need to have saved up in order to leave my job despite having a job lined up.
That support network really came in handy when I told my family that I was planning on leaving my job and taking some time off. I had never quit a job before! This was terrifying! I nailed down when my last day at work would be and put in my notice. Once that happened, it was a done deal. I think the toughest part about leaving job was knowing that I was leaving great friends and mentors and they would have to handle my work load until they found my replacement. It’s not easy telling your friends your leaving and then saying “oh and by the way, sorry about all the work I’m leaving you with.” When I told my boss, I felt myself shaking from nervousness. I consider him my friend and mentor, so it made it even more difficult to break the news. He was tremendously supportive and understanding. Everyone was.
In fact, this experience taught me how important it is to have a support network and how important it is to do some soul searching when you feel conflicted about your job. Even if everyone tells you that you should just appreciate what you have, it doesn’t mean you should ignore what you feel so strongly inside that you are meant to do something different and something that inspires you.
When I was telling my good friend Sonia what scared me the most about quitting was telling my boss, she asked me what specifically was causing the fear. All I had to do was hear myself say that I was afraid of being honest that I wanted to try something different and that my time at this company was drawing to a close. I realized how silly it was to be afraid of that. It was perfectly reasonable to want those things. Talking about it really helped. Also, it took all of 10 seconds to put in my notice at work. Once it was done, I had CONQUERED MY FEAR! It was just like ripping off the bandaid. I felt in my heart of hearts that once I left my job it would be a springboard for new opportunities. I feel completely liberated and courageous from the experience.
I still keep in touch with the people I worked with and consider them my close friends. While I do feel strongly that you should listen to your heart when you think it’s time to try something new, I also think it’s incredibly valuable to soak up as much opportunity as you can where you are, and don’t ever burn bridges! It is a small world and a large network of people out there. Relationships are invaluable, so take good care of them.
What I am doing now
I have been “funemployed” since May 1st and have been surprisingly busy. I’m volunteering my time at a local non-profit called the Boston Cyclists Union twice a week and I started attending my neighborhood’s Bicycle Committee meetings. Now that I have been working in the virtual problem-solving world for 7 years, I have realized that I want to put that problem-solving to good use in the city planning space to make Boston a more bike-friendly city. I’m having a blast working in the community to see what projects are underway and how I can advocate for the cyclists and pedestrians of Boston. Leaving my job truly has been a springboard. I hope to find work in the urban planning sector.
When I’m not volunteering, I’m teaching yoga whenever I can. Just this past weekend, my friends Charlotte and Deb hosted their very first festival called Make It Weird Fest. They asked me to teach some funky yoga, so I did 🙂 Damn it feels good to be free!