In today’s post, I’m revisiting a topic that many of you already know about if we’ve ever chatted in person or if you’ve read this post from a few years ago. But I realized that I never shared the details how I managed day-to-day life after I quit my job. I know there are so many people out there questioning how their work makes them feel or whether they’re doing the “right” thing.
I’m going to be as transparent as possible about what it was really like.
A couple FAQs and context before I dive in:
- I’m not advocating for anyone to quit their job, nor am I suggesting/guaranteeing that life will be “better” afterwards–whatever that means to you, personally.
- I didn’t own any property. Mike and I were renting an apartment in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn at the time. I’ll share more details about cost of living in a bit.
- I did not have any children nor other people financially dependent on me.
- I had about 10,000 dollars saved, which was a significant factor in whether or not I was going to walk away or grit-and-bear it through the remainder of the year.
Reality 1: Telling my community I was leaving was the hardest part.
My principal asked me to deliver the news of my resignation to the entire faculty at the end of a meeting. It was a Thursday and my ears were on fire as I listened to him go through updates about report cards, family conferences, and data analysis details from our students’ quarterly assessments. Then he passed it off to me for “one more important announcement.”
Have you ever actually felt your voice trapped in your throat? It’s like inhaling water.
Reality 2: The money goes really, really quickly.
Like I mentioned before, I had about 10,000 dollars saved to my name when I quit my job in February, 2016. Our rent was 2,100/month (we lived in an 800 square foot, 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom brownstone) and my student loan payments were hovering somewhere around 850/month. I had budgeted and considered these things, but I didn’t take into account just how many dollars were going to my Metro card, coffee, groceries, barre classes, etc. There are a lot of misconceptions about millennials out there, but I can vouch for one: we are not great at adjusting our lifestyles.
I distinctly remember the day I officially ran out of money.
It was August and I’d gotten hired to teach at Lawrence High School, but hadn’t received my first paycheck yet. I was at Wal-Mart buying poster boards and fabric to decorate my classroom and the total came to something like eleven dollars. My debit card was declined at the self-check out and I had to leave the stuff behind.
P.S. I was obviously crying.
Reality 3: There was guilt.
This one could be more specific to the field of education, but the guilt of leaving my school was heavy. There were many moments when I would crumble into tears of shame and go figure it was usually when I was out in public somewhere. I felt physical pains of sadness for a very long time and an absurd feeling of abandonment from my colleagues and students.
Reality 4: I didn’t feel good, but I did feel relief.
The first morning of my unemployment I didn’t leap from bed twirling and singing anthems of freedom. Maybe you will, if you ever go down the same path, and that’s cool!
What I felt was calmness. Despite the sadness and guilt and increasingly thin bank account, I never once regretted my decision to quit.
Reality 5: Unemployment was nothing at all like the Real Housewives or Girls or Sex and the City.
Being of the middle class and not working was boring sometimes! TV and movies convince you of what your day should look like, especially in NYC. In reality, “glamorous” is likely the last word I would use to describe unemployment, especially when you have no idea how long it will be for.
Mike was working full time from home, so it wasn’t like he could go gallivanting to brunch happy hours with me on a Tuesday. Plus, all my girlfriends were either hundreds of miles away back in New Hampshire or working there in New York, so there were no leisurely midday get togethers. And window shopping wasn’t that fun when it was at Forever21 and I still wasn’t going inside.
Reality 6: I missed the work but…
I didn’t miss there being any expectation of me. No deadlines, no grading, no meetings, no emails, no planning into the night and through the weekends–it was exactly the right kind of recharge I needed, and it kicked in pretty immediately. I felt more creative, more inspired, healthier, more balanced, and simply more like myself again.
I was out of work for 7 months. I was ready to go back to the classroom by then, but probably wouldn’t have been had I not taken this time away. And if you never go back to your same field of work, that is 100% okay.
I will say that no matter what you do with your life, it’s okay to step away not knowing if you’ll be back. Trying to plan it all out won’t bring you any genuine relief or space to process. I never called my unemployment a hiatus.
If you’re out there questioning how your work makes you feel, or wondering if something isn’t quite right, know that you’re not alone. I hope that some of my takeaways shed light on any uncertainties you might be having.
Below are a few links with different points of view on quitting your job:
Quitting your job with no back-up plan
Are you quitting for the “right” reasons?
10 honest insights–smart move or big mistake?
I’d love to hear any comments or thoughts that you’re having about this topic. Have you ever left your job or thought about it? What did you learn or what are you learning still?
As always, thank you so much for your support and for reading along.
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