A little over a month ago, I quit my job to become a writer.
My quitting was not the moment of triumph oft seen in movies. In fact, I knew I was quitting for over a year. The organization knew I was quitting for over a year. On the day I left, no one was in the office. I packed up my photos and pens and binders and hauled them in one giant cardboard box out to my car (where they still sit in my trunk). Then I drove away, probably to get lunch. There was little fanfare.
The next day I woke up enlivened. I was free. The world opened before me in the possibility of doing whatever I wanted for the rest of my life (or at least my twenties). I was about to find my purpose.
But first, I was going to bake a cake.
With an entire work-free day on my hands, I wanted to do something just for the hell of it. So on my first day without an income I spent $50 at Hobby Lobby buying cake decorating tools and proceeded to make a cake for the next six hours because, as it turns out, I do not know how to bake and decorate a cake.
This would be my only completed project for the next month.
Within 24 hours, the energizing freedom that had propelled my short-lived baking career had vanished, leaving me once again at the mercy of my usual time-filling activities: scrolling through social media, sporadic hours of TV, and eating at 30 minute intervals.
Sitting alone in my apartment still wearing pajamas at 3 PM, I discovered that just because I had quit my job to pursue my dreams (whatever those were) my former lifestyle habits had not died overnight.
A month later they still had not died as I found myself waking up only two hours away from lunchtime because I had no where to be, no deadlines to meet, and no definable purpose for the day. I was a shell of a woman formerly galvanized by the millennial dream of self-employment who could now only manage to wear bikini bottoms as underwear because she had no quarters for laundry while re-watching Parks and Rec on her iPhone.
So I wallowed.
As though I had finally ended a tiresome relationship but could now only remember all our good times, I went into full-on break up mode complete with crying, Ben and Jerry’s, and listless wailing under my bed covers about how I was lost, my dreams were unrealized, everyone was more successful than me, etc.
So like all women in the throes of post-breakup syndrome, I soothed myself by making erratic spending choices.
I bought a ticket to New York City. After months of saying I wouldn’t, I fully subscribed to HBO. I continued to eat out as though my life depended on it. I got a bikini wax.
Many people congratulated me on quitting and doing exactly what I wanted to do. I tried to remind myself that all of this laziness and listlessness was simply part of the adventure and would someday feel ironic and glamorous, a necessary season of self-doubt and wandering back and forth to the couch. My successful self would look back on this time and laugh at myself for being so afraid of not doing anything with my life. Until then, it was sucking big time.
I wanted to tell these people that quitting your job to pursue your dreams doesn’t necessarily feel all that glamorous while it’s happening.
I wanted to tell them I go in and out of feeling anxious, tired, and very, very confused. I wanted to tell them I had to Google “depression because of unemployment” at least four times just to confirm what was happening to me was normal. I wanted to tell them that I have to frequently remind myself what I’m doing is brave and important and not irresponsible.
But I also want to tell these people this: I’m glad I quit my job.
A long time ago, through whatever circumstances, I had the opportunity to learn that just because something is hard doesn’t mean it was the wrong choice to make.
Quitting my job to move forward into how I truly want to spend my days has been an identity change, and a sometimes painful one at that. But I would rather quit my job and flounder for a bit, savoring the truly messy adventure of figuring it out, than feel like I was spending another year putting off what truly makes me come alive.
I do not want to minimize the choice I made. I know there are few people who can up and quit their job without it impacting anyone else or your own financial needs.
But if you are one of those people, one who could make it happen and tell the story years later about how you at least took a chance, what’s stopping you from doing so?
What I’m doing here, this whole throwing-caution-to-the-wind thing, it might not work for me. And it might not work for you. But whether it works or not, the part that did work and does work is being able to say I listened to and loved my own hopeful, dreaming self.
That is what will happen after quitting your job.
Have you ever quit a job to pursue something you’re passionate about? What was that process like for you? What advice would you give to others considering quitting their jobs?