An Ode to Quitting

I quit my lousy day job and I wrote this thing.
Publish date:
April 24, 2012
career, jobs

The face of a quitter

Remember that time you went to that bar in Koreatown and got really drunk on soju and chain-smoked like two packs of cigarettes and the next morning you woke up so hungover you thought you might actually die and your entire body felt like a dirty ashtray and then you never smoked another cigarette again? Yeah, you quit that. (Nine years this July 1!)

Or how about that time when you were 16 years old and worked as a hostess in a chain restaurant and your (male) boss said “Listen, sweetheart” and then reprimanded you for something that wasn’t even your fault to begin with? You wrote your resignation letter on a bar napkin and walked out on your shift, because no one calls you “sweetheart” except for your mom and really old people. That felt pretty good.

And who could forget that lame 8th grade musical called “Clowns” that half the cast dropped out of, and you were the only one left to sing a solo number, but no way did you want to sing it and besides, who wants to be in a lame musical about clowns anyway? You quit that and the chorus director’s disappointment in you haunted you for years after. (Sorry, Mr. Quijano.)

Remember when your college astronomy class assignment was to go somewhere (ideally outside of Los Angeles, into the desert or mountains) and chart the night sky, and you didn’t want to go alone into the middle of nowhere at 10 p.m., but the guy you were dating at the time bailed on you at the last minute because he was too busy getting stoned with his friends? You responded by breaking up with that guy. (You wanted to break up with him anyway).

Remember when you quit college, twice? You hated listening to lectures, so good for you.

Oh, haha, remember when your marriage was making you miserable and it took you two years to realize it but then you got a divorce and it was like a huge weight was lifted from your weary shoulders?

Or how about the time you ordered that thing for lunch that didn’t taste right to you but you ate it anyway because you didn’t want to waste food (it’s like throwing money in the trash!!), and then it made you sick? You wish you had quit that.

And the time you quit gluten, dairy, sugar and caffeine and felt like a normal human being for the first time in your life? Good quitting, kid.

Let’s not forget the time you quit the office job (the one where you had to wear pantyhose if you wore a skirt) so that you could go back to Iowa for a few weeks to see your Grandpa before he died of cancer, without a single thought of what you would do for work when you got back to California. For a 23-year-old, you sure had your priorities straight.

But remember when you had a miscarriage and you only took two and a half days off of work for it and your employer said you should “throw yourself into your work” to take your mind off of it? Why didn’t you quit right there, that moment? For a 32-year-old, you sure didn’t know much about priorities.

Why didn’t you quit your job all those times one of your bosses made sarcastic remarks about your performance instead of giving constructive criticism? Or when they gave you grief about taking time off because your child was hospitalized for the stomach flu? Or when you knew, deep down in your soul, that you were not put on this earth to sit in this cubicle and type the same email over and over, and listen to your cubicle neighbor sigh and suck spit through his teeth every two minutes? Why didn’t you just quit?

All those years with your kid in daycare while you sat under florescent lights, breathing recirculated air in a cubicle, making money for people who didn’t always treat you so nice and whose office politics left a bitter taste in your mouth at the end of each day.

All those years, putting your own projects on the back burner so that you could make money so that your kid could be in daycare so that you could resent the fact that you missed a good chunk of his childhood (so that you could work and make money to keep him in daycare so that you could work).

All those times you sent your child to daycare, sick, because you just couldn’t miss more work. All those years. Why couldn’t you quit?

And the two potentially profitable businesses you started had to remain part-time gigs that weren’t very profitable at all because you had a day job. And hey, what about all the freelance writing gigs you had to pass up? You tell yourself that your number one priority is your own happiness and spending time with your kid, but, as evidenced by your behavior, your actual priorities are a) making money for other people, and b) being able to afford cable TV.

If the Mayans and crazies are right about 2012, you must ask yourself: Do you really want to die sitting at this desk? No, you do not. So you talk to your boss and you reach an agreement, the details of which you can never reveal because you also had to sign a massive non-disclosure agreement.

And you know deep down that the problem was not That Place but it was you and your unhappiness and your unwillingness to concede the life you want for yourself, steady paycheck be damned.

And you decide that you can trust yourself. Because, remember that time when you moved from Iowa to California with $1,000 to your name and no job lined up? You trusted yourself then. Remember all those other times you quit the things that weren’t right for you? You knew best, then. And you know best now.

So here’s to quitting.