I don’t get it… You love your job, why would you quit?”
I understand why I’ve been asked this question countless times. I’m one of the lucky ones. I went to college and graduated debt-free. I had an internship that I loved and it rolled into a career that I loved. Make no mistake, I worked my ass off to get to that point. I graduated with a 4.0 in high school, top of my class. I got scholarships and worked in high school and college to pay my way. I chose to go to an in state college and receive and affordable, quality education. I applied to countless jobs before landing my internship. I went to work early and stayed late, always asking for more so that my company would hire me upon graduation. I worked two jobs to save up as much as possible so that I could enjoy the life I had created for myself.
Filling the Gap
So why would I be so eager to abandon it? Well the truth is, I wasn’t. I could have been very happy working my 9-5. I loved my job. I received promotions and pay raises. I was making a decent wage that allowed me to invest and have savings while still able to go out and have fun with my friends. While all of that was great, I still felt rather empty. All my life, I had been working towards something. There was always this goal in sight… You play sports in high school to win. You want to go to the state championship and prove yourself. You go to school to graduate. You do well and hopefully get something at the end… scholarships, college admittance, a degree, a job… After completing all of this, I didn’t have anymore goals. I was already at my career end goal. I graduated. I got the job. I lived with this nagging question of what next?
Is there anything more to life? Or am I just supposed to find a husband, settle down, and start reproducing? I started trying to figure out what more I wanted out of life. Yes, it’s true, I do hope to get married and have babies some day, but I wasn’t ready for that. Not yet. There was a great big world out there, and I wanted to see it. I wanted to have experiences outside of my small town, Montana life. I wanted to meet people who came from different cultures and spoke different languages and lived different lives. All my life, I’d been surrounded by people doing the same thing as me. Go to school, graduate, get a job, get married, blah, blah, blah… I wanted something different. So I decided to quit my job and pursue something entirely new.
Was I the only one trying to fill this void? Was I crazy for wanting something more?
Quitting My Job
My hands were sweaty. My heart was audibly pounding, I was sure of that. I didn’t know if it was the right time… But I wasn’t sure there would ever be a right time. I had already chickened out the day before, making excuses that my boss looked busy, I shouldn’t disturb him.
I worked at a small mom & pop business. We were in the field of convenience store distribution. (Doesn’t every child grow up hoping to one day enter the exciting world of c-store distribution?) It was a very random job, for sure. To be honest, I can’t say I had ever considered a career in that field before I started working there. I went to school for media arts and marketing. My goal was always to work at an advertising agency upon graduation! But when I saw the school email asking for a marketing/graphic design intern, I had to apply. I had run into some road blocks at my job working as the sales coordinator for Hilton, and I knew I needed something different.
The job was great, a perfect fit for me! I worked as an intern until I graduated, at which point (after “proving” myself and a bit of nagging) they were able to offer me a full time position. I didn’t have any transition from graduation to career, it just fit nicely together for me. So I worked! I created advertising campaigns, collaborated with coworkers to make new programs, and designed everything from small flyers to giant banners. I became so much better with the Adobe Suite programs. I learned how to use a large format printer & plotter. I loved it! My job was largely solo. There was no other graphic designer in the building (hello job security!). They gave me a nice raise upon graduation and I even opened up a 401(k). How adult of me!
For a long time, it was great. I always loved my work, but eventually that stopped being enough. Then I started feeling guilty. Why didn’t I feel like it was enough anymore?
Because society pressures us into thinking that there is only one right way to live. That if I wasn’t happy in my job, there was something wrong with me. That I should start looking to settle down and have babies and retire and die. That that lifestyle is normal and anything else is wrong. For quite some time, I believed that. There must be something wrong with me for feeling dissatisfied with my life, I thought. No matter how hard I suppressed it, the feeling didn’t go away.
I’d always wanted to travel, so I started talking to friends abroad and eventually found the Auxiliares de Conversación Program, a way to live and work in Spain. This was something I could get behind! I found blogs of current and former auxiliares. I devoured their “alternative” lifestyle and craved it for myself. So I applied and I got accepted. After months of waiting, I had another option, a new goal, and suddenly, it was scary. I started questioning whether or not this was the right choice.
Society was beating me with its conformity stick once again. Somehow, I was able to push past it and chase my crazy, exciting dream.
Back to the sweaty hands and heart racing. I tapped on the door. “Umm, do you have a minute?” I asked my boss. “Sure, what’s up?” was the response I got. Everyone was always so casual. I smiled and explained that a wonderful opportunity had presented itself to me, and I would regret not taking it, that while I loved my job, I needed to do something different. There was a bit of stunned silence and then questions: when are you leaving? How did you come about this? Europe, really?? Are you sure you want to leave? Again, I smiled and said I was sure, but that I would miss my job and everyone here. I was giving them a month’s notice, plenty of time to find a replacement to leave as small of a gap as possible before I headed to Spain.
Slowly, everyone at work started finding out. Every single coworker was incredibly supportive and encouraging. It made the transition a lot easier. It was still scary as hell, but I felt loved and backed by the people I was so afraid of letting down. They all assured me that if I hated it, they would still be here if I came back! I felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I had enough to stress about before leaving: getting my visa, finding an apartment, making contact with my new job, buying a plane ticket, ending my apartment lease… It was great to have one less thing to stress about.
Take the Plunge
So when asked why I quit a job that I loved, I get that you’re going to roll your eyes when I say that it just felt right. That I wanted to travel the world. That I wanted something different for myself. Something different than what you want.
We’ve heard it all: millennials are a spoiled generation! You’ve all got your heads in the clouds! Back in my day, you’d have been lucky to be where you were; we didn’t have the luxury of quitting our jobs on some whim!
But you know what? That’s all bullsh*t. Times change. Our wants change. Our needs change. More than that, our needs vary. Just because something is right for you doesn’t mean it’s right for someone else.
There is no right way to live. The only thing that matters is your happiness. So I encourage you: if you want something bad enough, make it happen. You can do it. But be smart about it. I quit my job with a plan. I quit after saving money for a year. I quit with investments in the bank. Sure, there was still a lot to figure out, but I always had something to fall back on.
If you’re considering moving overseas, there are tons of options out there for you. As a native English speaker, there are crazy amounts of job openings for teaching. Get something lined out before you head out and make a huge change. It’s still scary, no doubt, but having something prepared will make you feel a thousand times more confident! Opportunities can always pop up on the way.
I’m not a guru on happiness. I can’t say for certain what will or won’t make you happy. I can’t promise you that if you quit your job and move abroad that it will be better for you than staying at home and continuing your life as is. I don’t even know if this step is right for me! What I do know is that I’ll regret passing it up. I know that I’ll learn more about myself along the way. I’ll be forced out of my comfort zone and to make friends with people I didn’t grow up with. I know that you get out of life what you put into it. If you are currently going to work every day and dreading the monotony, spice things up. Think about what you want, what makes you happy, and go for it. Carpe diem! Seize the day. Travel. Quit your job. Go volunteer. Join a club. Just do what makes you happy.
What Should I Do?
The only person who’s ever going to know what’s right for you is you. We spend so much time seeking the approval of others, wanting assurance that we are making the right decision. I hate to break it to you, but there is no right decision. You might quit your job and absolutely regret the decision. You might find it to be the most liberating experience of your life! I wish I had a crystal ball that allowed me to look down every path that presented itself to me in order to maximize my happiness, but that crystal ball doesn’t exist. Do what feels right, and if your choice was awful, change gears. Form a new plan. Nothing in this life is permanent, so don’t live a life filled with regret and what-ifs.
In less than six weeks, I’ll be departing to Spain, one of the craziest things I’ve ever done. I’m going alone. There won’t be anybody to hold my hand or help me along the way. In the end, I hope I come out a better person for it. I want to figure out who I am, undefined by anybody else. I want to learn a new language and experience a new culture. As scary as the thought is, I want to break out of my comfort zone and do something that forces me to be uncomfortable for a little while. I hope I am making the right choice, but I won’t know for certain. I’ll never know for certain, but I’m excited for the journey.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
If you’re considering making a big, life altering decision but are afraid of the consequences, I say go for it. Personal growth doesn’t happen from inside your comfort zone. Take the leap, knowing it comes with fear and that’s just part of life. So how about you? Have you ever made a huge life change that scared you? How did it turn out? Let me know in the comments below!