“It’s so good, but trust me, you don’t want it.”
For months I had been planning to quit my job. I described my feelings toward work as existing in three dimensions: the general, the specific, and the abstract. Generally, I hated the work I was doing, the office I was doing it in, and the people I worked with. I specifically hated my job on particular bad days, like when a coworker would argue with me, or a client complained, or when my boss would decide it was time for one of his incredibly long-winded and redundant pep talks that went nowhere. I conceived of a plan to start spending much less money and saving up for a responsible time to quit.
That never happened. And this increased the abstract hatred my job was cultivating in me. Abstract hatred of your job is the worst, because instead of hating your job and blaming your misery on your work, you turn it against yourself. Because I wasn’t able to cut my spending down and save an extra penny, I began hating myself. I should have made better decisions in college, had more direction in my twenties, found more productive ways to deal with balancing work and recreation that didn’t involve getting wasted (the main reason I wasn’t able to curb my spending). It was all my fault, I was trapped, the longer I stayed in the job the deeper I was digging my own nine to five grave.
I want to say I had a revelation, or that I hit rock bottom, but nothing so grand happened. One banal day I realized there would never be a perfect time to quit, I would never be that prepared or that financially secure. So I just did it: the first day back after Christmas break I sat across from my boss and told him I had given it a lot of thought over the holidays (a lie, this was months in the making), and that I needed out.
When I tell people I quit my job, and that I don’t have a plan to find a new one right away, there are several reactions I get.
- “Good for you.” This encouraging person is either in the exact same boat as me, or wishes they had it in them to do the same. Mostly they are the latter, which is why “good for you” people secretly want you to fail.
- “Are you sure that’s such a good idea?” Basically, this person is the more pessimistic version of the “good for you” person, but also more sincere. They might not necessarily want you to outright fail, but they assume you will.
This brings me to the last type of person: someone who has already quit their job and has failed in making the most of their liberation, probably by sleeping in, getting stoned alone, and streaming every single premium cable series ever. Their reaction goes something like this:
- “It might seem great at first, but trust me, it’s a bad idea, I know.”
First of all, anyone who emphasizes that I should “trust” them, and that they “know” immediately drives a wedge in our mutually-shared conversational understanding.
Imagine some popular fast food chain advertises a new burger: two quarter ounce patties fried in duck fat, topped with three slices of orange cheese, thick bacon, smoked spicy capicola, a sunny side up egg, jalapenos, deep-fried pickles, sauteed onions, crispy pieces of chicken skin, chipotle mayonnaise, and served up on a deep fried bacon brioche. Sounds amazing right? Sounds disgusting right? It is both, depending on where you are in relation to eating the thing. Before eating, it sounds absolutely delicious, but you could only imagine how you would feel afterwards, nauseatingly gross.
So, the “trust me” guy is the guy who tried this cheeseburger, told you how tasty it was, then went on to complain about the physical assault on his stomach afterwards. He did you a favor, actually, in tasting it first and warning you off of it.
What bothers me about this person is that they project their failures onto you. I know that being unemployed, with no steady income, and nothing but my own discipline to keep me from turning into a pathetic burnout, will not be easy. And just because the “trust me” person failed to write his million-dollar screenplay or start that cupcake business doesn’t mean I will fail just the same. I know you, to some extant, and I know myself, and excuse me for thinking that I am better, smarter, and more disciplined than you are (and clearly have a higher opinion of myself).
I want to taste the unemployment burger, let the grease of freedom drip down my chin. I know what the pains and dangers are. I can stomach it. You didn’t bravely sacrifice your career for my sake. You did it for the same selfish, lazy, or delusional reasons I have. And you loved it, sleeping in, being alone, experiencing freedom. How I digest the experience is up to me.
And besides, I just had an idea for bacon cheeseburger cupcakes, so I’ll make a million dollars in no time.