5 Things I learned from quitting

Paris, September 2015. I quit my part-time job as a therapist and decided to travel. 

I once quit after working a day as a receptionist at a law firm.

I spent the day scanning documents and feeling weird that my boss decided to move his entire office into the conference room (with glass walls) right behind me. Coincidence?

At the end of the day, a woman from the office came over and told me to wear heels instead of flats moving forward because that’s what our male boss preferred. That definitely tipped me over the edge.

I met up with Vadim at the end of my first, and what would be my last day. I was crying in the train station. This is a rite of passage for every New Yorker, I believe. I tried to explain to him why I didn’t want to continue working there. He tried to be encouraging, and kept reminding me that it was just a summer job. But I didn’t listen.

I made over $100 from my first day and had no regrets about quitting. This leads me to thing #1.

1) Listen to your gut, listen to your feelings.

When you’re in pain, it’s universally understood. Feelings are a bit more tricky. They’re obviously subjective. And they’re not always logical. So it seems.

In Vadim’s perspective, I was making decent money for a summer job. Feeling like I couldn’t stay, after just one day probably looked like I was jumping to conclusions. I didn’t really give this place a chance. I get this perspective. It’s logical, practical, and safe.

But my feelings were telling me something I couldn’t ignore. I mean, I was crying in the middle of a crowded train station.  I couldn’t ignore my feelings even if I wanted to.

Did I want to feel uncomfortable at work with my boss literally sitting in the room right behind me? Did I want to wear uncomfortable clothes and heels for a part-time job, where I wasn’t even interested in forming a career in the slightest? No.

So I said to hell with that and spent the rest of my summer working as a writing tutor. I was about to head into my last year of grad school so I was still full of hope for what was to come.

But then, things took a turn for the worse after grad school.

Ironically, I had the hardest time looking for a job when I felt like I was the most qualified I have ever been in my life.

I kept a google sheet of all the jobs I applied for. Eventually, I found myself highlighting every rejection with the color red. My google sheet was red all over like a Macy’s holiday window display.

At one point during my vacation (when Vadim and I got engaged), a good friend of mine reached out and told me that the clinic she was working at was looking for one more therapist to join the team. This was my first prospect in what seemed like forever. I was so grateful and so desperate.

When we got back to NYC, Vadim drove me to the interview. The train commute would have been about two hours long one-way. That should have been my first sign, which leads me to thing #2.

2) When I feel desperate, I’m not honest with myself.

I let the convenience of Vadim driving me there and the excitement of potentially getting a job, overpower my judgment. I wasn’t honest with myself. I didn’t confront the reality that I would be commuting a total of about four hours a day, if I got the job.

The interview went really well. All I could talk about on the drive back was how I was going to make this work.

Not long after, I got the green light to start.

My first time commuting to the office was for my orientation. That’s when it finally hit me like a ton of bricks that this was going to be a hell of a commute.

I was drained when I got off the train. I started asking myself questions I should have considered in the first place. How was I supposed to have the energy and patience to work with clients? What about when I got home? Would I have the time or energy to take care of myself? 

I felt so guilty and weak for thinking this way. So I tried to silence my concerns by reminding myself to just be grateful.

But I didn’t feel okay. My heart was racing and my stomach was turning.

I was so relieved when I finally got to go on a break.

I walked to Starbucks, got myself a coffee, and called Vadim. I told him that I didn’t feel good, that something about this situation wasn’t sitting well with me.

Just be honest with them about the long commute, he said.

I couldn’t just be honest. I was afraid being honest would make me seem irresponsible for taking on this opportunity in the first place. Which leads me to thing #3.

3) Sometimes a fear becomes a reality, and that’s okay.

At the end of that day, I sent an email with my resignation. I asked my friend for her blessing beforehand. I definitely didn’t want this to be a reflection of her in any way.

The email that I got back was less than understanding. My character and my professionalism was judged. This was what I was afraid of. I couldn’t just be honest.

I was surprised, but a part of me felt like I deserved the judgment. I told myself that they were right about me. I should have just sucked it up and followed through. It would have caused less of a stir and everyone else would still be happy with me.

Except, I wouldn’t be happy with me. I wouldn’t be happy at all.

The thing with fear is that it holds us back from doing the very things that will help us see that there is either a) nothing to be afraid of or b) that we can overcome the worst case scenario.

And without this experience, I wouldn’t have learned that I could bounce back from something like this. It was not the end of the world. This leads me to thing #4.

4) A negative opinion does not define you.

I allowed myself to wallow in that negative self-talk for a moment. But only for a moment because I had to go back to applying for jobs.

I reflected on the amazing people who could vouch for me and my character and that one negative judgment of me became less and less true.

If I really was unprofessional and irresponsible, I wouldn’t have gotten this job and all my other jobs in the past. I certainly wouldn’t have finished the hardest educational experience of my life aka grad school, at the top of my class.

One person’s negative opinion is all that is, an opinion.

I didn’t regret my decision then and I don’t regret it now.

Quitting doesn’t get easier though.

I recently quit an unpaid internship at a small fashion company. I was so excited to finally start doing something in the fashion world, which has always been a dream of mine.

I was asked to come on because they liked my ideas. Instead of being paid, I would gain valuable fashion experience. At the time that was a fair trade off. I could hustle for three days a week for four months with no income. No big deal.

Without going too much into it, I resigned after three weeks. Things didn’t feel right to me when they asked me to write a paid job description for something I could certainly do. I wasn’t even considered for it. I was also coming home everyday drained and uninspired to work on my blog. So in the end, I decided to go with what I was feeling.

Even though I had made up my mind, it was still really difficult for me to resign. Which finally leads me to thing #5.

5) Value yourself: Inexperience doesn’t mean unqualified. 

Venturing into a completely new field left me feeling completely unqualified. I have no fashion experience therefore, I would be so lucky if anyone even glanced at my resumé.

So quitting this opportunity made me feel crazy. For every thought I had of quitting, I kept telling myself I need this experienceI won’t find this opportunity again. No other opportunity will crop up ever again. I’m doomed. 

With this kind of negative self-talk, no wonder I was so hesitant to quit.

But this belief simply isn’t true. Every time in the past, I was able to find another opportunity. I second guessed myself when I really shouldn’t have. My lack of experience didn’t matter even for this internship because they liked how passionate I came across in my cover letter. They also liked my ideas.

It’s important to take some time to consider what you bring to the table. Maybe you have awesome ideas. Or a serious passion for the field. Or you’re a fast learner. Reflect on your experiences, what you have accomplished up until this point in your life, and everything you have overcome. These all reveal your strengths. Don’t downplay them, let them have their moment in the spotlight. After all, you’ve gotten yourself this far.

Have you ever quit a job? Did you learn anything from the experience? I would love to know!

I hope this post was helpful in some way.

Thanks for stopping by and I will see you in my next post.

Sophie 🙂