Deep breath, inhale, slowly exhale. Repeat. You can do this.
With my fingers paused on my office keyboard, staring off at the same spreadsheet for an hour, I tried to give myself a pep talk.
Today is the day I quit my job.
Hopping up from my uncomfortable black chair, I grabbed a handful of manila files and marched off to my boss’ office as a pretext for entering his dominion without having to do the whole “Do you have a minute? Can we talk?” speech.
Deep breath. “Hi J, I need to tell you something.”
“Sure, tell me,” as my boss swiveled around to look at me.
“Um…well… the thing is….we have a problem with production on the Brazil order, and we are going to have to delay again.”
DAMNIT! That’s not what I meant to say! Once again my mouth and brain failed to work together.
Round two. Back in my office, I grab my phone and messaged Steph of Twenty-Something Travel. Whining, I told her my dilemma and how I was having issues plucking up the courage to resign my job.
“Just get it over with, the sooner the better. Rip it off like a bandaid,” she replied. Sage advice. Except I’ve never been one of those people who can rip a bandaid off. I’m such a wuss.
Image via Adventurous Kate
Why was I struggling with those two, easy monosyllable words? Why was it so tough for me to just say ‘I quit’?
As hard as it might be for you to believe, but I actually CANNOT stand confrontation or drama! In real life that is. Online is different. If I even get a hint of a possible argument, I run the other way as fast as I can. In retrospect, this might have something to do with my failed relationships…
But I digress. People leave jobs all the time, it shouldn’t be a big deal, but for me it was. Since childhood, quitting anything has been ingrained in me as a just plain disappoint and failure. With over a decade of steady work, I’ve never quit a job before. And before you haters say it, I’ve never been fired either. The jobs I’ve held have mostly been temporary around the school year and my teaching English in Spain gig always had a finite end date; i.e. when I got threatened with deportation.
Since my unexpected departure from Spain last fall, I have been working for a big corporate office and living at my dad’s house outside Washington D.C. Not exactly the glamorous travel lifestyle you might imagine. Knowing that I wanted to travel more and move abroad again, I decided to temporarily give up my wandering lifestyle in exchange for a “proper” job to save up as much as I could and get to a financially secure place, something that has eluded me for years.
I had been planning to move abroad again in the near future, but getting invited to Jordan threw a gear in the works, and I had to face the tough decision of leaving a lot sooner than I intended.
Building a travel writing career has been a big dream of mine for years, but it never seemed plausible or possible until recently. Leaving a “real” job for “following my dreams and just wing it” job was always in the back of my mind, but I convinced myself that I had time to spare before making that choice.
Lord, I feel like such a pretentious d-bag writing this. Talk about bemoaning first world problems.
Thank you baby jesus for this princess. One of my best friends, I would never get through life without her
Thank you, mom, for instilling a strong, ever-present feeling of catholic guilt in me. Half the reason I was so stressed about leaving my job was that I felt absurdly guilty!
Logically, I have no reason to feel this way. I was denied two pay raises I was promised when hired, one of my coworkers takes pride in bullying me and starting drama, and I get yelled at on an almost daily basis. My boss still calls me by the women I replaced’s name (which is kinda hilarious because her name was LAKSHAMI, easily confused with Liz haha) and one of the guys in HR keeps nicking my yogurts out of the fridge.
I draw the line at stolen dairy products.
Unfortunately, I have both a guilty complex and a people-pleasing complex. The thought of going into my boss’ office and saying “I quit” made me want to cry a little.
I feel like I am letting my family and friends down. I feel guilty that this is not the life I want. Am I a bad person for wanting a different kind of job?
I know dozens of people my age who would love to have the job I have. Less than a week after I returned home from Spain, I was hired for a big company with benefits and even dental insurance! Holy cow! They even offered me a 401K, not that I know what that is. My boss is nice, and I get to speak Spanish and learn about international business – I should be thrilled, right?
But while this is a lot of people’s dream job, it’s not mine. Why is it so wrong to want something different?
Growing up in the US, I feel like we are really pressured to follow certain career paths, especially by our parents. Though moderately supportive, I still feel like my family doesn’t really understand my desire for a different life – a life without cubicles, dress pants or photocopy machines. To them blogging and travel writing is just a hobby, something they hope I’ll grow out of.
How will a blog ever pay for a mortgage? Pay for healthcare or my student loans? My passion for travel writing is an amusement in their eyes, and no matter how serious I take it, the chances of it paying off or for me “making it” is minimal.
Someone buy me this mug!
I want to try to be able to travel and live abroad full time, and I want to develop and hone my writing skills. Journalism was never something I had considered until a year ago, and I’ve already started drafting plans for a book or three. For the first time in my life I feel like I have direction and purpose. It’s the best feeling in the world, and I am not going to give up before I even start.
But along with that comes really challenging and tough decisions. I put it off for a long time but I am at the point in my life where I have to choose between my blog and my office job, between staying safe and taking a chance. Between doing what I want and what my parents want me to do.
Striking a balance between my own ambitions and the expectations of my family is no easy feat, but as Steph patiently reminded me as I desperately clutched my iPhone trying to find the courage to resign, we have to live for ourselves and not for our parents or anyone else.
Thank goodness for good friends and red wine
If fifty perfect of my fear came from guilt, then the other fifty undoubtedly was firmly rooted in something much more frightening - a fear of failure.
Is there anything worse than throwing yourself out there for the world and failing? What if I left this safe job, threw a wonderful opportunity away and completely failed at writing? What if I can’t make a career out of this? How many people want to be writers and how many actually succeed at making a career out of it?
While everyone I knew was becoming more and more successful, facing corporate promotions and job offers back home, would I be taking 3 steps back and be working at Starbucks in a year? Was that a risk I was willing to take?
I suppose yes, because the thought of another year in my hole of an office was enough for me to want to fling myself out of my boss’ window – as I am too lowly to have one of my own. Honest to god, I am really not meant for the office world.
But if I have learned anything over the past year, it’s you can’t give up without trying first, and good things happen to people who work hard and never give up. I am not prepared to admit defeat without putting forth a valiant effort. Dramatic tendencies aside, I will try to be a writer or die trying. Go big or go home, right?
Whenever I get stressed, down-trodden or disillusioned with the future, I watch J.K. Rowling’s profound commencement speech at Harvard a few years back about failure. It’s really inspirational – I suggest watching it if you haven’t already
So faced with an endless stream of files, corporate emails, paperclips and quarterly review meetings running through my head, I stood up once more, squared my shoulders and walked down the hallway towards the VP of sales’ office. This was not the life I wanted, and it was time for me to girl up and take responsibility and control of my own life and change it.
What is life if you don’t even believe in yourself?
Taking deep yoga breathes, I made my way towards my boss’ office, mumbling things like, “you got it…you can do it…and no more fucking fax machines” under my breath.
I think you know what happened next, and no, I didn’t have a panic attack in my office.
In my most professional voice, which isn’t very professional at all, staring at his desk and avoiding eye contact, I announced my formal resignation. Goodbye dental plan hello food stamps!
Fortunately for me, he was really nice about it, didn’t yell or fire me on the spot; he didn’t even throw anything! Frequently I fling myself off cliffs, go rock climbing and do adventure sports, but quitting a good job was the hardest of them all!
Afterwards, I was in total shock and I may or may not have cried for a few minutes in the bathroom before regaining my composure and heading back to only two weeks more of hell. My cave of an office took on a whole new light.
In my best Mel Gibson Braveheart impersonation: “FREEEEEEEEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOM!!!”
Wish me luck!
PS: Stay tuned because over the next two months, I am going to be making some big, big BIG travel announcements. I wouldn’t quit my job without something fantastic lined up, would I? Follow me on my journey towards self-discovery and following my dreams; feel free to point and laugh if I fail!
Have you ever had to quit a job or make a hard decision to follow your dreams? Have you ever left a career or job behind to travel?