The Joy of Quitting

I think most of us dream about quitting our jobs at one time or another–some of us dream about it constantly. Some of us dream about quitting everything, dropping our lives and running off with the circus, living in a tiny home in New Mexico where we’ll sell turquoise beads to tourists and watch the sunset over the desert each night, climbing to the top of a mountain and living alone in a cave. It’s a dream in which we’re able to surmount our fears or inabilities, in which we’re able to steer our own destinies.

It’s why we love books like Eat Pray Love and Wild. We love knowing that there are people out there, real people, who have done the impossible and changed their lives. We love experiencing it all vicariously from the safety and comfort of our homes.

We love closing the book at the end as if the author’s life didn’t continue once the adventure had ended.

Sometimes, quitting is inadvisable. Sometimes, it’s impossible. Sometimes, it’s the best possible choice.

So it was for me, recently, when I decided to quit my job.

This was just a part-time gig, something I did from home–maybe five hours a week on the clock, honestly, but it wasn’t the time I got paid for that was the problem–it was everything else. Emails coming whenever (and wherever, thanks to my stupid smart phone), emergencies arising at odd times, problems lingering in my mind long after I’d stepped away from the computer. Text messages saying, “Do you have time to chat? I have a problem.” Then hours and hours of waiting to find out what that problem was–days sometimes–and sometimes, finding it had been fixed without me while I kept on worrying. I was constantly on call. And, being the overthinker I am, I was constantly trying to figure out solutions, trying to fix things I couldn’t really fix, trying to overhaul the whole business when it wasn’t mine to overhaul. It was like being in a toxic relationship–my boss and her company are not bad (in fact they’re very good at what they do and provide an incredible service) and I don’t think I’m generally a bad employee, but we were bad for each other.

Of course, quitting a part-time job when my husband is our family’s breadwinner doesn’t count as quitting in the way it would if I packed up and moved to India, leaving my family behind. That’s something I would never do, and not just because I don’t like hot weather. It’s not a dramatic and sudden life change–I’m still getting frustrating texts as my ex-coworkers try to wrangle our website without me–but it’s a choice that was quite nervously made. “Quit” is a four-letter word in more ways than one. We’re taught not to do it–never give up, never surrender. Persevere!

But sometimes we can’t. Sometimes, we have to look at the situation carefully and make a real decision. Sometimes, the worst parts of our lives disguise themselves as the good parts. Jobs, relationships–these are things that are worth fighting for, right? Often so. But smoking, binge eating, picking your nose–no one would tell you to keep it up, keep going. They’d say quit it! You’re going to make yourself sick.

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