Why I Am Quitting My Really Good Job

I have a good job. It’s interesting and varied work. I get to apply my research skills creatively, to solve real-world problems. I run teams of smart, good-natured and committed colleagues. It’s mission-driven work, and I’m sometimes (not always) able to see the impact of my work. I’ve been at the organization for a long time and had many opportunities to both advance my knowledge and skills and increase my salary and authority in the organization. I didn’t always but now I do earn a well above-average income and have excellent benefits. So why did I give notice this week? Am I crazy?

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Well, yes, maybe I’m a bit crazy. But the decision to quit is sane.

I grew up with a fair amount of stress. (Side note: Not as much as some, more than others. I used to think it wasn’t stressful enough for me to have so many mental health issues, but let’s leave the judgment aside. It might be “not that bad” but it was bad enough for me.) An inappropriately sexualized environment. Some early sexual abuse. Loving mom who held herself at a distance. Alcoholic, philandering father. Parental arguments at nights, the pretense of happy family during the day.Parental divorce. Move across country, losing all support from friends and extended family More sexual abuse as a teen. Serious and chronic emotional abuse from my stepfather. Another big move to another state. Alienation at a school in a new setting and culture. Mother increasingly remote and never protective. No respect for any type of boundaries. Years without feeling accepted or approved of.

All those things set me up to walk straight into an early marriage with a narcissistic and controlling man; I realized that a long time ago. More recently, I learned that those early experiences set me up to have a high  “allostatic load,” or the wear on the body that grows over time with exposure to chronic stress. It’s basically the physical strain on my body that comes from repeated exposure of my nervous system to situations I wanted to run away from, but couldn’t.

Outwardly, I seemed to cope with stress well. I worked hard, did well in college and then in graduate school. I juggled a million things. I worked and studied and kept house and cared for babies and tended to a husband who oozed spite. It looked like I could manage pretty well, most of the time. Even I believed the farce I was enacting. Little did I know what it was doing to me on the inside, until I collapsed in a suicidal depression. Blah blah blah–I’ve written about this history before, here and here, in case you missed it.

Skip forward four years, and life improved for a while. New husband, new job. But the job stress has increased every single year. Therapy, good. Anti-depressants, maybe helpful. Intensive yoga practice, transformative. I knew the stress didn’t feel good. But I didn’t really understand what it was doing to me. Yes, I saw my waist thickening. Yes, I had trouble sleeping; I’d wake up at 3am with a bad case of busy brain. But I treated these all as temporary irritations that would go away “as soon as I finished this grant proposal.”

Probably a hundred grant proposals later, that approach still hasn’t worked. Instead, I have continued to tick off more boxes on the list of effects of stress: headaches, check. Muscle tension, check. Chest pain, check (meant a trip to the emergency room last summer). Fatigue, constant. Stomach upset, check (had two MRIs to search for the cause). Sleep problems, check, even taking medication. Anxiety, lack of motivation or focus, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, depression, check check check check check check. Overeating, sometimes. Alcohol abuse, not really but let’s be honest, certainly more use than at any other time in my life. Reduced exercise, check. Social withdrawal, check.

Add to that prediabetes, kidney problems (hopefully minor), pelvic floor problems, issues with my ankles and one knee. Checkmate. I feel like I am physically falling apart, and well before my time.

My days of denial need to end. I need a slower pace and time to care for myself. I need to go back to yoga. And I need to reread these words every time I start to doubt myself.

quitting

 

 

33 thoughts on “Why I Am Quitting My Really Good Job

  1. I’m proud of you, Q. This isn’t a crazy thing you are doing. It’s a very sane thing. This whole past year you have worked hard to learn tools to care for you, and now I think you are really pulling out the “big guns” and putting them into action. It’s a wonderful thing. 💟🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Over the past week, as I have told my colleagues and started the process of transitioning my work to others, I am increasingly convinced that it is a sane thing to do. It’s just time. I’ve grown a lot from the experience of working where I do, and now it’s time to do something else. Who knows what it will be, but it will need to be something where there is room for self-care. It’s a risk I wouldn’t have dared to take a year ago, but I feel ready now.

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        • Ha, I’m relieved to see that you will gladly read, as I will no doubt write about it some more. This past week has been full of ups and downs, all so mixed up in my head at the same time that I didn’t even have the focus needed to write a post. I told my colleagues on Tuesday, which was both guilt-inducing but also very sweet because many had kind words for me. My favorite was from our statistician who likes to act like everything is negative–sort of pretends to be a curmudgeon but we never really believe it because he’s so generous with his time and assistance. I didn’t really expect public words of kindness and respect for him, so I treasure that.

          I also noticed that I was so exhausted all week that I could barely hold up at work and went straight home to bed each day. It’s enough. I’m done. I’ll rest up and get healthier and then find out what’s next.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I love that – rest up, get healthier, see what’s next. And I imagine the next two weeks there will be the same, mixed, up and down – and just getting through it the best you can will be good enough. Transitions are really hard.

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          • Transitions ARE really hard. For the longest time I tried to pretend they weren’t, for some reason. (I guess for the same reasons I pretended everything was fine when it wasn’t.) At least now I realize that transitions are hard, and that’s normal, and I don’t need to punish myself for reacting like a normal human being to an upheaval in my life. This realization also makes me more compassionate to and patient with others undergoing big changes in their lives.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for rooting for me! I have no doubt that I’ll go back and forth in the days, weeks and months ahead, so encouragement will be hugely helpful as I navigate this enormous change in my life.

      Over recent months, as I’ve meditated daily and become more aware of my body and my thoughts, I’ve felt some things shift for me. Maybe I couldn’t have even arrived at the decision to quit if I had seen the connection between the two. This is something I am excited to explore more deeply.

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      • I love that my boss at my job is so aware – he will actively tell people who work on the weekends to sleep in on Monday, etc.

        The more aware I’ve become the more I’ve tried to surround myself with practitioners who believe in treating the body and mind as a unit – and it’s been so helpful.

        I am so excited to see you explore this and witness the journey.

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  2. As others have said, really glad that you are taking the steps to take care of yourself. I would be utterly terrified to do what you are doing for a multitude of reasons (mostly not healthy). How is anxiety and self loathing and all the others handling this change? I hope mostly you are feeling a sense of relief and calmness and even joy.

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    • Ah, Emily, such a good question! Self-Loathing has been speaking up in very mean ways this week. She can be such a bitch sometimes. Maybe she is having a fit because I’m giving up the stress and intensity that feed her and moving toward a life where she’ll have a much smaller role (I hope).

      I don’t feel all that calm but I have to say, my meditation practice makes such a difference.

      Liked by 1 person

      • She is a bitch, but I can see why it is scary and she would feel the need to protect you… Do you think she would have a smaller role? I think she would need to switch roles, become a different part of you. Maybe the analogy doesn’t hold up? I imagine she holds a lot of the hurt, the justifying or reasons why you were hurt so often, so deeply, so needlessly. Turning self loathing into something that is missing, perhaps helping grief or even like your next post, a sentinel that tells you its ok to reach out? hmmm maybe none of this makes any sense.

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        • Your questions are so helpful! They make me question things I keep taking for granted. What is the role of Self-Loathing? I keep thinking about how to calm her down but not about the role she plays. I think she plays the role of allowing me not to be angry at other people. If everything difficult is because I am disgusting and dirty and bad and broken, then others are off the hook. As soon as I write this, the words resonate, and I feel like they are true. I even feel a little bit lighter. I’m going to carry this idea into therapy with me today (in an hour or so). Thank you so much! You are really insightful.

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  3. I’m so happy to hear that you’re doing things to take care of yourself. That concept was so foreign for me for so long. I’m now taking tiny baby steps. But reading your post makes me concerned for myself because I see the signs in my own life. I have pre diabetes as well. I’ve been abusing alcohol lately and I’ve been abusing chocolate and candy as well. I have muscle tension ALL the time and I’m weary. I also take on way too many responsibilities as well… Thankfully, I was wise enough to tell the tutoring center that I won’t be offering private tutoring this semester though. Otherwise, I’d be piling on even more!
    Anyway, I hope that things get better for you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, Jules, you are way too young to have all these physical issues. How you push yourself! I understand that so well, having done it myself for years. I also know that changes are hard to make, for both emotional and logistical reasons. I am lucky to be in a house that I own with a relatively small mortgage and a bit of a financial cushion that will get me through a few months. I didn’t have that when I was your age so I couldn’t have made this same move. But I probably could have done more than I did to take care of myself. Within whatever is possible for you, I would really want to encourage you to do what you can to reduce your stress and give yourself some time, space and permission to take loving care of yourself. You so deserve it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I know. I think it’s just because I’ve always been on the go. The ADHD drives me on and on, while the anxiety keeps me going. I’m glad that you own a house that has a small mortgage and that you’ll be able to get by without a new job for some time. It relieves me to know that you’ll be ok for a while and that you’ve taken steps towards making sure that you’ll be ok as well. You certainly are quite an inspiration, you know? As for me, I want to give school + work + life a chance – I’ll give it 2 weeks and see how things go from there and adjust accordingly. It’s hard for me to take time off because I never feel like it’s “right” – I told S that I subscribed to Netflix. He seemed delighted to hear that and I told him that it’s only a few days to school, what am I doing?! And he said to me, “Watch all you want, while you can! And if you find that you don’t have the time anymore, you can always unsubscribe”. I grew up with the constant nag of, “You’re being lazy and wasting time watching TV/reading/playing games/etc” so I always have this huge guilt whenever I do things that takes care of me. I know I need to overcome that and take breaks. I am planning to visit someone in Columbus, OH for Labor Day though – if that plan works out, it’ll be the first time I’ll be traveling to another state by myself and it’ll be the first mini vacation I would’ve had in a long time!

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    • You know, it’s funny, but quitting is both tough and unavoidable. I think I’ve just reached that point where it is inevitable. I do know that ever since I first decided about a month ago (well before I gave notice), I have felt doubt and nostalgia and sadness and impatience… but I have never changed my mind. This is the right thing to do now.

      And yes, isn’t the card great? I had to laugh when I saw it. Too bad it would be inappropriate to share with the people at work. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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