Quitting My Job Has Made Me a Slowly Unraveling Ball of Tightly Wound Stress, but I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way

A strung-out guide on how I gave myself permission to stop being miserable and do something with my life.

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

There’s an unsent e-mail with the subject “Two Weeks’ Notice” sitting on my screen. I’ve read it over probably a hundred times now, making sure every verb, noun, and adjective perfectly describes my feelings.

Every time I think about sending it, a deep guilt creeps up over me. “What am I doing? What am I going to do? How will I make ends meet? Maybe I should stay.” But before I completely derail, I click the send button, slam my laptop screen (gently though, so I don’t break it), and kick my chair away from my desk.

I’ve worked in restaurants since I was sixteen, which if you’re doing the math was one-third of my life ago, and it was making me miserable. After all, I’ve changed since I was sixteen, so why am I still doing the same thing?

I’ve felt stuck in Purgatory for a long time, which is funnier if you knew the name of my former employer. We’ll just say it was a burger place, and I’ll let you piece the pun together.

But that feeling of being, well, stuck wore on me. Maybe some of you can relate. The days blur together, you’re filled with constant dread of having to go into work, and you can’t bother to give a damn about anything you’re doing. It’s a cold, zombie-like existence.

Then to leave and say, “I’m a writer, and I’m going to make a career by writing,” well, you have to have a certain kind of crazy confidence to do that. Maybe I have it, or maybe I just took too much Ritalin. Either way, I’m here to figure it out, and hopefully I can help you figure it out too.

We Suffer Through Stupid B.S. For No Good Reason.

I’ve known people to quit their job over one lousy shift, while others never leave no matter how miserable they are. From what I gathered, though, people smarter than me decided these are some of the biggest indicators that you should leave your job:

  1. You’re unhappy most of every day doing the work
  2. You’re in a toxic environment
  3. The skills you use for the job aren’t what you’re good at or enjoy
  4. You believe that you’re meant for bigger, better things
  5. The outcomes you’re working towards feel meaningless or negative

Well, check, check, check, check, and check.

Even if you’re good at the work, even if it pays decently well and you like your coworkers, working a job you hate can be the most draining thing you’ll ever do — and it manifests itself physically as much as it does mentally.

You can feel tired all the time, yet unable to sleep. Your muscles and head will ache. You’ll lose interest in hobbies, food, sex; eventually this becomes the new normal for you, and you look back at the person you used to be and wonder, “What the hell happened to me?”

I’ve always had a toxic relationship with the restaurant industry, but what it ultimately took was an incident at work causing me to realize I really don’t want this anymore.

When you dedicate yourself to something for a third of your life, it’s hard to walk away, but for the first time I have enough self-respect to understand that I deserve better.

To Stop Being Miserable, Gain The Crazy “F*** It!” Confidence.

I’m a worrier. I always have been. I’ve read dozens of books on happiness, mindfulness, and self-improvement, but I’ve never been able to apply the mindset, “Stop worrying what other people think about you.”

It’s brilliant advice, but it’s the hardest in the world to follow. I wanted everyone to like me, even though I knew it was impossible. I sought the validation of other people because I didn’t believe in myself. I needed someone to come along and say, “Hey, idiot. You’re worth it.” I craved it.

It takes confidence to say, “F*** it.” A lot of confidence. An unconfident person will suffer the greatest miseries just to survive. The instant I started believing in myself and recognizing my value as a person, I finally could accept that not everyone would like me and be okay with that.

As long as I did the things every day that contributed to the person I wanted to be, I could be content.

It turns out that I was the person I’d been looking for the entire time — the person I needed most to believe in me was myself. Despite that, there’s still a part of me whispering, “You can’t do it. You’re not good enough. You’re a failure.”

But f*** it. If I fail, I fail. Life comprises a million failures and a few minor victories. I’ve spent twenty-four years living in fear of failure. When I played baseball in the first grade, I was afraid the ball would hit me in the face and I’d cry in front of a crowd of people. So I never caught a single ball.

Failure is a natural, inevitable part of life. I wish that baseball had nailed me in the face because then I’d have learned how to catch it. Instead, I’m a twenty-four-year-old boy who can barely catch a balloon.

Failure is the greatest teacher you’ll ever know. There’s a small part of me that thinks I’ll succeed, that the pressure under my wings will carry me towards the sky, but I know that if I fail, I’ll be okay.

So just say, “F*** it.”

It’s worth a shot.

You’re Always Going To Be Stressed, But At Least You Can Choose Why You’re Stressed

Any job is going to have moments of hardship, just as it’s likely to have moments of joy. With some work, the stress comes from a customer berating you, and with others it comes from the fact that you have no idea what you’re doing and what if nobody wants to hire you?

It’s the same package, but it’s being delivered by FedEx instead of UPS.

If I’m going to feel stressed, tired, paranoid, and anxious either way, I figure I might as well experience those emotions pursuing something I care about.

“Through our greatest adversities come our greatest successes” — Marcus Aurelius

I’m taking a chance on myself because if I can’t, who else will? I’m not typically the person who makes large, sweeping life changes, but I’m choosing now, at twenty-four, to take the leap.

Yeah, it’s terrifying. I haven’t been sleeping well, like, at all, but it’s still better than spending 40+ hours a week in a place that makes me miserable.

That’s the cool thing about brains. We get to choose the stuff we worry about. My worries have moved from the existential, “Does my life have any value beyond delivering a beer to this table?” to the practical, “How am I going to pay rent?”

At least, with the latter, we can make a plan.

Depression, Anxiety, and Other Demons

I’ve always liked the analogy that depression is a demon riding on your back, and on your good days you can carry it with minor issue, but on your bad days the weight is simply too much.

In that case, anxiety is like someone jogging along beside you with their middle finger up the entire time. “Why is this person silently flicking me off all the time?” you might wonder.

And they’ll say, “Cause I feel like it!”

We’ve all got baggage and demons that follow us around. We all have things we need to attend to and things that we want to achieve. I’m not trying to say, “Everyone should scream ‘F*** it!’ and quit their jobs,” but I am trying to say that if you’re miserable, you deserve to allow yourself the chance to find happiness.

I let myself be miserable for far too long, and I became a worse person because of it. When I finally started to get my shit together, I found the self-worth that I needed to take a chance on me.

So now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to listen to ABBA, drink some gin, and dance around my room with an infinite number of futures laid out before me and a smile on my face.

Writer, musician, rock climber, and human trying his best. Get in touch: www.austinharveywrites.com

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