The first time I quit my job was because I had landed a new, higher-level opportunity.
The second time I did it was because I realised I was living my life for other people and not myself.
The third time I did it was because I was crying every day going to work and hated it.
The fourth time was to be unshackled from the desk and go travelling again.
Every single time was difficult. Nearly every single time I was asked, Why are you doing this? I was told it was a mistake.
The first time I was sad to leave a job that had given me so much and a little bit scared about leaving the familiar for the unknown. But, I was also starting a new, exciting adventure and I was very excited.
The second time I quit my job was during a time of transition in my life. I was realising that most of my decisions I made because I thought it’s what I should do. It’s what looked good, it’s what my parents and my friends, and even strangers on the street, got excited about.
I felt like a fraud. I was living in Sydney just because I thought I should be. I didn’t really want to be there. I wanted to be closer to my family and friends. I wanted to be doing something more creative with storytelling. I wanted to be writing again.
So I quit. I broke my contract and said I would be leaving.
“Back to Townsville? Don’t you think that’s a step backwards?” I was asked. A different way of asking why?! And, don’t you think you’ll regret this?
I was so nervous, I even cried (I don’t know why I included the word ‘even’ – tears aren’t really a rarity with me, but okay), and, I felt guilty. For breaking my word. For leaving a team of wonderful people that all wanted to build me up.
And, just guilty because I kept hearing those questions Why? And that word, regret.
I did also feel determined and content because I knew I was finally making a decision I was happy with, which was my saving grace to drown out the rest of the noise.
I started thinking about all the things I wanted to do and I started doing them.
For the month between when I quit and when I left, I finally felt like I was doing life right. Just because I was listening to myself. Doing the work, even if it was just an internship, that I love.
I even had a job lined up, a writing job, that could lead to writing exclusively the kinds of stories I love.
But, then I arrived. Actually, the but started creeping in the night before I arrived when I looked at the publication I was about to start working at. (Yep, only the night before did I bother to do that.)
That night, rifling through its pages, my inner current went down about 30 volts in energy. Instantly. Lights out. Somewhere, a part of me was saying, I don’t like the feel of this.
I might have been making decisions for me, but I was still so scared about not having a job, not being enough, not making a name for myself. So, I silenced that part of me.
Well, I tried to at least. It’s kind of like a child throwing a tantrum – you can’t drown out the noise, but you can ignore it.
Then I arrived. I worked hard every day. I got good feedback. People said I was killing it.
What they didn’t know was that I felt completely outside myself. Sure, I could get the job done. I could put my writer hat on and work. But, I didn’t like the culture. The cynicism.
When I received a compliment from a reader, I was told, “Megan, you don’t want people complimenting your work. You want people to call up saying that Megan girl won’t stop harassing me.”
They wanted someone dogged. Someone who would rip apart people just to find the truth. And, this was just to cover the local show.
The workplace embodied a type of person I didn’t like nor wanted to be.
That inner voice of discomfort was getting louder. The tantrum was leading to visible damage.
So, after just five weeks, I quit.
It took me about four weeks to work up the courage to do it. I called my family. I called a friend who I knew would help. Then I decided to just get on with it and do it.
I approached my chief-of-staff and gave my one-week’s notice. I later found out you are supposed to hand in your resignation to the editor.
Who told me? The editor did, as she painted a grim picture of the world for me without this job. Regret, unemployment, a shining star that fell quickly from the sky and was completely forgotten.
“There are people who would kill to have your job,” she said.
“I’m glad that it won’t take you long to fill the role,” I replied, while thinking about my fellow journalism graduates who had also suffered the same disillusionment from the industry.
This time I didn’t cry. I wanted to because it was highly emotional and I had been crying for about five weeks straight at this point (and because it’s what I do). But, I didn’t.
I thanked the editor for the opportunity. I apologised for wasting her time and promised not to waste any more of it.
I went back to my desk and finished my shift. No one else knew I had quit. I didn’t want the drama and people feeling like they needed to say something uplifting to me.
And, I definitely didn’t want to have to answer more questions, trying to justify a decision I was still grappling with.
The editor called me back into her office.
“I’ve been thinking, let’s not drag this out any longer. You can leave tonight. You’ll still get your one week’s pay, but when you finish just hand in your badge and go.”
So just like that, the job was over. The next day, I woke up with no job to go to. It was a strange feeling. But, as odd as it was, it was nice to also feel relief. The tantrum-throwing inner voice had finally fallen asleep.
Within the next two days, I packed up my life and headed back to Townsville. All I knew was that I was going to live with my sister. The rest, I decided, would fall into place.
Not that I was just waiting around for it to fall into place. I had been job hunting for the past three weeks, been offered one and had another potential one lined up that suited me better.
The next two weeks I spent unemployed. Not that I had any time to worry about all the regret and shame I should be feeling.
An unexpected death in the family, my baby niece, reminded us all about mortality, the unpredictability of life, and most importantly, what’s really important in life.
And then, I heard back from that potential opportunity – I got the job. A maternity leave contract for 15 months as a communications advisor for a government department.
It was great – something new and different, and something that helped me get through the grieving process.
But, just twelve months later, I was facing the same challenges: my inner sparkle felt like it was dying out, I wasn’t wearing a writers’ hat even if I was writing, life was moving by too quickly.
This time it was easier to make a decision. I knew all the questions I’d be asked, but also knew I could never regret doing anything that added to my life and therefore added to the lives of everyone I loved.
A thought I had two years previously popped into my head, travel. It seemed to come from that same voice susceptible to tantrums and not wanting to cause another inner kerfuffle, I decided to just do it.
Pack it all in, again.
Deal with the consequences of being a fickle twentysomething who had quit four jobs in fewer years.
And, the strange thing was, no one chastised me for it. Instead, their eyes gleamed over dreamily with their own wanderlust.
I was congratulated. It seemed everyone wanted to be doing what I was about to go and do.
There was no questions of why or cautions about regret. Rather, people told me about their own regret not doing something similar.
Sure, there were still a few who warned me about the realities of what I was doing, especially in the jobs climate we are currently in.
But, you get used to them and know it comes from a place of fear and concern for you (a form of love). And, if it doesn’t, you know you don’t have to listen to them.
Life really is relative. There is a spectrum for everything. You can quit your job and it is the most horrendous experience, or you can quit and find it motivates not only but others as well.
No matter where it is you find yourself on the spectrum, there will always be people that will ask why, who think you should stick to the carefully laid plan that society apparently set out for us all.
There will be those that chastise you and look at you differently.
But, I’ve learned it doesn’t really matter how you see me – am I a fickle dreamer or a determined go-getter and life-liver? – it matters how I see myself. That’s what will be reflected outwards.
Thinking about quitting your job?
I’m sure you’ve thought through the why for quitting your job. You’ve got a plan in action, or at least the shadow of a plan. I can’t help you work those out. But, I can share my two tips for when you actually sit down to have that “I’m leaving” conversation. They are:
- Be grateful. Let your employer know you are grateful for the opportunity. Even if you are leaving after being distressed in the workplace, it gave you a chance to learn more about yourself. In fact, I would argue the places that make you the most uncomfortable are the places where you learn the most.
- Be succinct. My friend gave me this advice and it is golden. Don’t try to explain the ins and outs of your decision. I’ve done this before and it just confuses your employer. And, I guess it can seem a bit trite. Give your notice and then let your employer ask you questions.