5 Unexpected Lessons from Quitting My Job

Last Spring, I talked to a Career Coach at school. I was feeling a bit down about my job. It felt very dead end and when I looked around at my colleagues, I thought, “I don’t want to become that.” To me, that’s a problem. I want to look around at people who are a few years further than me in any career path and think, “I want to be like that.” Even at 52.

Long story short, at some point, my Career Coach said to me, “I don’t think you’re going to be here next year. I think you’re going to quit.” She was taking what I was saying and turning it around on me. In truth, I was giving every indication that all I wanted to do was get the heck out of Dodge.

In fact, I knew I wanted to leave. I just didn’t know what I would do in the immediate future. We set a date, and on that date I walked into my manager’s office and quit. It felt very good.

My husband didn’t love the idea, but he wasn’t going to stop me. His only question was “What are you going to do next?” I said I’d figure it out. And a month later, I had an answer. I got a part time job freelancing and using my teaching skills teaching Chinese kids online, and I am also currently teaching two classes in another department at the same school. Quitting was really one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.

Here are five unexpected lessons I got from quitting my job:

  1. People are often surprised when I quit a job. I had a permanent contract. I was a part of the furniture. I had colleagues I liked working with. Students liked me. I was pretty miserable, and to certain people I would say, “I can’t do another year of this,” but most people were oblivious to my misery because I was in the enviable position of having that golden ticket, the permanent contract.
  2. Something always shows up. As I told my husband, I’m not the type of guy to just sit around and read novels on the balcony all day. I am fairly industrious. I kept looking for something I could do that was either local or online and would require only my current skillset, i.e. I was not about to learn technical proofreading.
  3. It felt really good to get out of a work environment that didn’t ‘feed’ me. This is not to disparage my former colleagues. It’s just to say that the whole situation had run its course. I’ve done this with other jobs. It’s like breaking up with someone when the relationship has run its course. It feels good to not be there any more. I wish them well. I’m just happy to be on a new path. And because of me someone else got a job. Everybody wins!
  4. There is support. Since leaving my job, I have reached out to a number of people. Not everyone has responded with help, but a good number of people have mentioned helpful resources, offered to help, offered contacts, etc. There was a part of my monkey brain that thought I’d be out there on my own. I’m not. People are generally good and are happy to help me with my endeavor to make the next step.
  5. People envy the ability to walk away. Any number of people have told me that they wish they could just quit. Yes, I’m in the enviable position in that my husband is the main breadwinner, but even if that were not the case, being willing to walk away from something certain is difficult. The regular income is gone. The resources that the job provided are gone. But the social network is also gone, and that’s something difficult to give up.

Quitting a job is difficult, but I really think it’s like any relationship, friendship or situation. If it’s not satisfying and if I really believe there’s something else (better) out there for me, I should take the chance. Every day I think about how happy I am that I did it.

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