Quitting My Job Saved My Life

man and a woman sitting looking at a laptop with a window behind them

I am sure you’ve heard this story (especially if you live and or work in the United States).

People who are killing themselves at their jobs. Drowning themselves in stress, in terrible food, alcohol, even drugs.

I won’t say that I was killing myself with chemicals…but I was 100% dying at my desk each day.

Each day, putting in the hours, getting things done, really shining and performing well….all of these things were killing me.

Physically, while I did well in my job, my health was suffering.

I had gained weight, and I couldn’t lose it.

I wanted to eat healthy, but didn’t have enough time in the day to make arrangements for high quality food, and it was just so much easier to order the fatty, high calorie food available within minutes from the diner in the building.

group sitting at a table, with a woman handing a document to another person

I knew that I needed to exercise, but there was always something more important to be done at the office.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was drowning in anxiety. My phone was glued to my hand, and every notification from the phone caused my heart to race and my blood pressure to spike.

I was feeling dizzy….a kind of random vertigo. Sometimes while lying in bed. Sometimes while driving.

I was guzzling coffee throughout the day.

I didn’t realize it at the time….but I was super depressed. I just didn’t know it because I didn’t have any time to spend on myself, to actually look at myself and take stock in how I was doing.

After all, wasn’t I supposed to be happy? I’d achieved all of my goals. I had the brass ring. Marriage. Kids. High paying job. Big house on the hill. Travel.

But I was sick. It made me sick, all of this stuff. Sick in my body, and sick in my heart, and sick in my mind.

And then…through no fault or action of my own, that job disappeared. I had an opportunity within the company to take on some new responsibilities, and that meant leaving behind the old position. It was a natural transition, and I made the jump.

But within 12 months, that position, that opportunity, concluded. Not because of me….I’d done my job and done it well.

But external circumstances were what they were.

And I found myself, for the first time in more than a decade, without a job.

woman sitting with arms around her knees looking at mountains

I had the option to return to my old job, to become what I had been before.

But I found that I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.

Right then and there, given just a little bit of light and air due to circumstances out of my control, I made the decision that I was done.

It was then that I realized how bad off I was. How I was dying a little bit each day, and how my job would have eventually been the death of me.

Honestly though, it hasn’t been easy.

I am just over two years post-decision. The first 6-12 months, I felt like I was in recovery. A recovering work-a-holic. I jumped when my phone rang. I felt strange and nervous if my phone wasn’t in my hand, though it barely buzzed and sang anymore. I struggled to find things to do. I felt like a failure.

I had been addicted to dopamine, the rush I received in my brain any time I completed a project or a task successfully. And when those dopamine rushes were gone, I think my brain went a little bit nuts for a while.

I was SUPER depressed, more than ever before.

I wanted to do nothing but read, or curl up on the couch.

Yes, I could have gone back to work…but I felt like it was important to spend some time on myself, some time healing. I spent a lot of time with my kids. I got a divorce.

My whole life changed when I quit my career.

It was in year two that I started to notice how much different I had become. In year two, I started to feel like myself again. I had energy. I no longer needed my phone, and I spent very little time surfing and distracting myself with social media.

I started reading for learning and self-improvement rather than escape.

I felt my self-discipline return, and I started making better food choices. I added exercise to my life, and felt more energetic.

I was happier.

While I share my kids with their dad, I am actually spending more time with them than I did before.

I no longer struggle with vertigo.

My caffeine intake is closer to that of a normal parent with small children.

coffee cup on a small plate, with coffee beans spilling out

I worried when I left that I would struggle without my former circle of colleagues and friends.

They were not supportive of the transition, and they thought I was a bit crazy to leave.

After going two years without a single phone call or email, I’m glad that I am no longer investing my effort and energy into those people…people I respected, people that I thought were my friends. People that I had known for years.

Who no longer respected me because I was no longer one of them.

I ran into a gal that I used to work with at a festival this year.

At the time, I was actually volunteering in a face painting booth. (Random, I know). We talked about what we were doing, and she was shocked that I hadn’t returned to my old work.

The look on her face was complex….I could tell that she both envied me, and despised me. We talked about spending time with our kids, and here is what clued me in….she mentioned how she dropped off her kids at 6:30am and picks them up at 6:30pm, with this curiously unhappy voice. I could tell that she felt strongly about the amount of time the kids were in care….but had somehow convinced herself that it was a necessary evil because there was no other way to live…..until I was there in front of her, living another way.

Anyway, I’m done with that life. I’m done giving up the majority of my life for clients who don’t care, and for colleagues who really don’t care.

I never wanted to quit my job….but I’m so glad that it happened, and that it happened when I was still young enough to have some life left to live.

Yes, it has been hard, and the hard parts are not over yet.

But I am living my life, and it is no longer living me.

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