Why I did stay: The best answer on paper isn’t always the best answer in practice.
The day I left was exactly 18 months after the day I started. I knew about 2 weeks in that this position, in this specific space, wasn’t for me.
Each morning I woke up knowing I had a job to do, but wishing it was already done. Daydreaming 4:00 PM was here and I was free to leave and race to the gym ASAP.
I tried hard to feel good about the work I was doing; I filled my area with inspirational quotes, I filled my planner with actionable goals, I read books about using your job as an avenue to love others and make a positive impact.
I promise you, I wantedto want it.
And I figured it was kind of like coffee. The first few times you drink it it’s bitter and unappealing, but after you find the ideal amount of sugar and cream to add, it’s an enjoyable experience you look forward to each morning.
Where I got this idea I’m not sure. Because I’m still learning to like coffee.
I stayed because that’s what you’re supposed to do. I earned a 4-year degree from a respected university. I then earned a position at a respected company. I had great benefits. I had endless PTO. My paycheck was comfy and allowed me to do almost anything I wanted.
No one with half a brain walks away from a perfectly packaged position like that. At least that’s what I’d been groomed to believe. And it didn’t help that when I called home, exhausted and defeated, my sweet sweet parents made it clear that quitting without a plan was not the way to go.
So I stayed.
My breaking point: If you don’t 100% respect and stand behind your vision, why should someone else?
I’m a firm believer that 1) everything and everyone deserves a fair chance and 2) when something or someone is negatively affecting your health (mental or physical), you need to walk away.
I’d completed and fulfilled my first belief, but was blatantly ignoring my second.
My job was slowly seeping into every aspect of my life. The stress and lack of fulfillment I felt day in and day out cascaded through my entire body. It snuck stealthily into my relationships. It boggled down my joy with such thick sludge I didn’t even know how to dig myself out.
I was losing weight. Not through effort, but because my appetite had mysteriously disappeared. I was irritable, and social interaction had begun to exhaust me. I didn’t laugh out loud as much or sing in the car like I used to. My go-to playlists were now brimming with emo-esque songs that embodied how it felt to feel stuck, imprisoned in my own life.
I didn’t know myself anymore.
Or maybe I did, but I didn’t want to. I wanted the old me back. The one who people described as joyful and vibrant. The one who woke up with a fire under her butt and excitement for each new day.
The moment I realized that if I wasn’t careful, soon “old me” would be a distant memory, packed away forever in some dusty attic next to a pair of old soccer cleats, I broke.
I couldn’t lose myself for a company. No matter how respected they were.
I had to respect myself, my “why,” and my mission first.
The big moment: Sometimes you both deserve a new pie.
That day at lunch I decided I could wait no longer. I’d put my two-week notice in before I left for home. The only problem was my boss was in meetings for the rest of the day and was taking the entire next week off.
Opening my planner, I scanned the next few weeks. I decided that since I liked my boss and didn’t want her swamped with my projects, I’d give her three weeks instead of two.
Three weeks meant two more pay periods—score for me. And, it positioned me nicely for the holidays. I wouldn’t have to ask for time off to see my family and I wouldn’t have to worry about work while celebrating Christmas.
I collected my thoughts and wrote them all out on a piece of notebook paper. I included my current projects, where my process documents could be found, and any contacts that my replacement would need.
I wrote down when my last day would be and why I’d chosen that date specifically: December 7.
With notebook in tow, I waited until my boss finished her meetings and tiptoed meekly into a meeting room.
Sitting down, I placed the notebook between us. “Well…” I said shyly, eyes averting her gaze. “I’ve been putting this off for a while now, waiting for the right time. I think that time is now; I’ve decided to put my three weeks in.”
Looking up, I saw her smiling. Her hands folded neatly on the table in front of her and her lips curved just slightly upward. She nodded.
“Where do you plan on going?” she asked, still smiling. “That’s exciting for you and I know you’ve never quite loved it here. You need to go where you can be happy.”
A feeling of immense relief washed over me, and my heartbeat finally slowed to a semi-normal pace. Half of what was holding me back, I realized, was the fear that by leaving, I would be letting my team down.
And since my team consisted entirely of my boss and me, that meant letting her down.
But sitting there, in that teeny tiny conference room, I realized that in a way, staying would be much more of a let down. Because when your heart isn’t in something, when you don’t truly care about the work you’re doing, you don’t produce great work—you don’t make a good teammate.
It felt almost like a breakup. The “It’s not you it’s me,” type. Where you realize how unfair of you it’d be to stay, giving your partner only a slice of love when they deserve the whole pie.
Instead, the better choice is to gracefully walk away. Allowing you both to find a new pie.
To be continued…