I couldn't think of a clever title, so yeah. I quit a little over two weeks ago. On my last day, I turned my keys into the security office and let them know that I was no longer an employee of the college.
“Where ya goin’?” the (white-haired) security guard asked.
Very honestly, I replied, “I’m taking some time off.”
He snorted. “You’re too young to take time off.”
And I got to bust out the immortal line from Indiana Jones: “It’s not the years, sir. It’s the mileage.”
In this economy, quitting your as-secure-as-it-gets job with benefits after almost seven years is generally looked upon as an act of lunacy. Especially when I don’t have another job lined up—nor am I looking for one.
Indeed, as I was making my escape plans, it felt, more than once, like I was about to step off a cliff. It didn’t matter how long I’d been thinking about it (since Thanksgiving). It didn’t matter how carefully I went over the numbers. What I was about to do was mad—but also exhilarating, liberating, cathartic.
It is, quite possibly, the smartest thing I’ve ever done.
I figured if I cash in my retirement fund, after taxes, I would be left with a year’s salary. Maybe 18 months if I make it stretch. (Nothing says futile like realizing seven years of paying into the retirement kitty = only one year’s salary.)
The only hitch was insurance. My husband is a transplant patient. He needs antirejection medication to keep his one functioning kidney—well, functioning. Insurance is an absolute necessity. But then, my organization, like so many others, has been trimming back our benefits every year since I started working there. I keep paying more for less coverage.
And now—oh, looky here. There’s this little thing called ObamaCare. I sincerely hope that companies and individuals understand how important the Affordable Care Act is to workers. We are no longer married to jobs that treat us badly because we rely on them for insurance access.
So—income for the foreseeable future? Check. Insurance? Check. And, if all else fails? Well, we’ve been poor before.
But in the end, sometimes logic isn’t the deciding argument. It was the list of reasons I wrote out that really swayed me. I won’t call them reasons of the heart. That’s entirely too hokey, and anyway, it comes from a place deeper and even more essential than that.
Let’s call them reasons of the soul:
First and foremost, my health. I have suffered from migraines since I was seven years old. Briefly, in my twenties, I found a preventative that kept them at bay. About five years ago, that preventative quit working. No one knows why. Since then, the headaches have gotten progressively worse. In February, I had an ocular migraine that put me in the hospital. From January to the beginning of April, I missed 25 days of work. That’s a solid month of working days gone. So, on top of being in (literally) blinding pain, I felt bad about being absent all the time. Talk about a negative feedback loop.
Almost equally important, I was miserable. Like many people, I hated my job (which was, of course, affecting my health). I hate the working life. I hate everything about it. I’m not a morning person. I hate driving. I hate that work takes time away from what I actually care about, which is writing. I have been in the workforce for 14 years (20, if you count the minimum wage jobs I worked as a teenager) and I have precious little to show for it.
I’m a workaholic. I know this about myself. My brother is also a workaholic. How could we be otherwise? We were raised by a pair of workaholics. But I keep looking around and asking myself—is work ethic really such a virtue?
During the years that Patrick was sick and I was working, (sometimes two jobs), and going to school nearly killed me. But it also made me a better person in a lot of ways, a stronger person. It made me see how little time we have on this planet. I don’t want to look back on my life and see that I’ve spent it as an office drudge for bullshit pay.
And money isn’t even the biggest issue for me. I’ve never considered myself a materialistic person. Don’t get me wrong, I expect to be compensated appropriately for my work and my expertise. Otherwise, the only reason I want nice things, like fancy clothes, is to wear to the office. It’s the classic dilemma-- I don’t own the things, the things own me. When I think of what I really want to do in life, which is to write and travel, I realize that work is actually the thing preventing me from doing either.
If I quit, I realized, my time would be completely my own. I could focus on getting healthy. Oh, I don’t harbor any illusions about the migraines improving. I’ve had them my whole life. But being home would mean I could implement some more aggressive lifestyle changes that could, maybe—just maybe, reduce them.
With the job, I had to expend so much of my energy just dragging myself to and from the office, so that at the end of the day, I was left with nothing. No energy to take care of my home. No energy to visit friends and family. No energy to go out and do the things I wanted to do, and certainly no energy to write. That’s fucked. Even more fucked is the idea that I am spending the few good hours that I do have in some fucking office. Life is too short to be anything but absolutely free.
The farther I wade into this—this idea that I don’t have to work for someone else, I began to realize that what I’ve done may be more than crazy. It may just be a revolutionary act.