I left my job in May. I didn’t have a horrific boss and wasn’t forced to work long hours. Day-to-day things really weren’t that bad. So why did I quit?
It may sound idealistic, but I want to wake up and be excited to go to work. After two acquisitions, I was no longer in a corporate culture of my choosing; I wasn’t motivated to excel. I don’t want to work just to have a place to pass time and earn money.
Life at Work
My degree is in computer science, but over the years it has become increasingly clear that it’s not my passion. I always got A’s in school and certainly have an aptitude for it, but the interest just isn’t there. I was never the girl who had a server farm in her basement, spending each evening coding my own side projects. In fact, I don’t think I would ever code for enjoyment.
In 2010, I stopped coding. I left my project as a software engineer and looked for other projects within the company. This was incredibly eye-opening.
I didn’t think it would be difficult to find a non-coding job. I had built a reputation as a solid employee. Surely, someone would want me on their team.
And they did…to code.
I would apply for job after job. But all the calls I got were for software engineering positions. My résumé had marked me as a software engineer, and no one wanted to hire me for anything else.
After a while, the phone interviews got a bit comical. A manager would call me and ask all sorts of detailed technical questions about frameworks and design patterns. After a few questions, I asked which job he was filling. Invariably, it would be the software engineering role, when I had applied for a different position on the same project.
Eventually, I did end up in a project management role, and later, a consulting role. I was grateful for the opportunities and did well, but still wasn’t inspired. I held out hope that there could be something more. But staying in the same environment wasn’t helping me get there.
When I announced my departure, everyone wanted to know what I was leaving to do. I didn’t have a good answer…or a plan.
Deciding to Leave
Quitting my job was scary. It was a lucrative career; I was the breadwinner of my household. Financially, I worried if things would work out. Without my regular income, I would be living off savings. I wondered how long that would be feasible.
But part of my assurance came from the 30/40 World Tour. Last year, I was on a Leave of Absence for 3 months with no income while traveling around the world. Plus, I was spending money to travel, while still maintaining mortgages and car payments back home. So that was reassuring and gave me a little more confidence to take the plunge.
Life After Work
I had a surprisingly rough time over the summer. At first, I was quite industrious. I started taking things apart in the house.
I spent more time on my home desktop computer, which is near the hall bathroom. This caused me to notice an intermittent drip from the toilet. It was so infrequent that it was hard to pinpoint. It didn’t occur immediately after flushing, and I could never see the actual drip. Eventually, I got fed up and decided to replace everything in the tank. I’ve replaced flappers, but never actually removed a toilet tank.
As a teacher, Mr. HalfFull was off for the summer, but he was taking grad school classes from 7-10 PM. Of course, I started this repair project while he was in class. At around 9 PM, I realized that I needed a hacksaw to shorten the new pipe. So I was done for the night. Upon his return, Mr. HalfFull was rather surprised to find his toilet in pieces on the floor!
Then I tackled the ceiling fan in my bedroom. It started making an intermittent ticking noise that made it difficult to sleep because it was so irregular and nonrhythmic. The airflow in my bedroom isn’t that great, making the fan especially critical in the summer.
So I took it apart. Don’t worry, I put it back together too. And the noise stopped!
Then I noticed a dripping sound in the master bathroom toilet and decided to replace that one too. By then I was a pro, armed with a hacksaw and plumbers wrench ahead of time!
During this time, Mr. HalfFull became fearful of what he would find in pieces when he returned home. He was especially worried that his TV and stereo system would be disassembled with cords and cables all over the place. But his fear was unfounded!
Eventually, I ran out of projects around the house and wondered what I was supposed to do with myself. Since Mr. HalfFull was taking classes on a compressed summer schedule, he had papers to write every week. He seemed busy and productive. But what should I be doing?
I thought that being spontaneous and unscheduled would be wonderful. I was no longer stuck at a desk during business hours. But it wasn’t wonderful. I had no purpose. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing.
You may be reading this wondering how I could be so unhappy with a decision I made myself. I wasn’t laid off. I wasn’t fired. It was completely my decision to leave.
I was happy that I left, but it was hard to not know what I was going toward. I’m a planner. I’m practical. What the heck was I doing?
Vision of the Future
Over the summer, I read a book called Einstein’s Dreams about the nature of time. The short chapters each tell a fable based on a different theoretical flow of time — circular, captured, frozen, etc. One passage in particular spoke to me:
This is a world of changed plans, of sudden opportunities, of unexpected visions. For in this world, time flows not evenly but fitfully and, as consequence, people receive fitful glimpses of the future.
For those who have had their vision, this is a world of guaranteed success. Few projects are started that do not advance a career. Few trips are taken that do not lead to the city of destiny. Few friends are made who will not be friends in the future. Few passions are wasted.
For those who have not had their vision, this is a world of inactive suspense. How can one enroll in university without knowing one’s future occupation? How can one set up an apothecary on Marktgasse when a similar shop might do better on Spitalgasse? How can one make love to a man when he may not remain faithful? Such people sleep most of the day and wait for their vision to come.
Without my vision, I spent much of the summer slumbering. Naps are divine, but I was using them as an escape. When you have no plan, it’s much easier to sleep than seize the day. It requires no planning, and you can’t fail.
But I really wanted that vision of my future. In fact, I still do. I want to know the right path for me. I want to know that my efforts are not wasted. I want to know the future.
- Have you ever left a job without a fully defined plan? Why?
- Have you made a career change? How did you reinvent yourself?
- Have you been surprised by the emotional aftermath of a decision you willingly made for yourself?
- What home repair projects have you tackled yourself? Did you take your household by surprise?
- Have you had your vision?