I love me more than I love my job, so I quit

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Last week, we spoke to a room full of 75 professionals at a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion conference hosted by Auburn University. The conference was designed to bring together thought leaders and practitioners from all sectors to discuss effective Diversity and Inclusion [D&I] strategies.

Our talk was about how work, as we know it today, is broken.

We spent an hour walking the audience through some alarming trends and paralleled that with the growing interest in the Financial Independence movement. Our message was essentially that one of these things is more “extreme” than the other (and spoiler alert: it’s not saving your money). We left them with a single question…

how does your workplace attract, retain and lead a financially empowered employee? Click To Tweet

We were close enough to the audience to see lightbulbs coming on and cobwebs clearing in their heads via their facial expressions. We felt really good about it. Afterwards a corporate recruiter came up to me to ask a question. In her job, she almost exclusively recruits for entry-level roles best suited for new college graduates. She agreed with everything we said and even mentioned that she’s been hearing more students talk like we [r&R] talk but confessed it was a barrier to moving forward in the interview process.

“When they start talking about wanting a ‘laptop lifestyle’ in 5 years, I just turn my ears off because I know I can’t put them in front of the hiring manager. How do you coach students to still interview well, even though they have this conflicting goal?” she asked.

I nodded my head because it was a well-meaning question. Then I told her, as gently as I could…”we don’t”. Instead, we share how my pursuit of Financial Independence has actually made me a better employee and that I wasn’t alone in my experience. Our conversation was quick, but her comments have stayed on my mind because looking back, she asked the wrong question.

Today marks my last week as a full-time employee. Yes, that's right…I quit. I am a six-figure earner and breadwinner for my family and I'm leaving traditional work about a year earlier than we planned. Click To Tweet

In the last 18 months, I’ve taken on a new job with more responsibilities and survived two more rounds of layoffs, but I didn’t come out unscathed. Despite being able to do the job in my sleep, work became less predictable which made the pace of my life feel more frantic. I found myself falling into familiar unhealthy habits.

I was less present and would become irritable on Sunday nights, dreading the Monday commute. Meanwhile, it’s been about 18 months since Julien left and I hardly recognize him – in a good way. But the widening gap between how we experience the world has created a wedge. His perspective has rapidly evolved and I’m convinced it’s because he’s had more time to sit with his thoughts. He’s become more creative, daring and about as blunt as a pickaxe. One of the reasons I married him was for his sincerity, but lately I’ve heard it more more as a confrontation than refreshing honesty.

Like the recruiter at Auburn University, I felt stuck because I was asking all the wrong questions. If I had spent more time grappling with questions like “what’s really at risk here?” or “what kind of person is this job teaching me to be?”, I would have made this decision a year ago.

But still, improving my marriage isn’t THE reason I’m leaving. I feel like I’ve been doing mental backflips trying to explain THE reason. I told my boss, my reason was “more flexibility”. When I told my mom-friends, I said “more time with my baby boy”. Even in writing this post, I stared at a blank screen longer than any doctor would recommend trying to figure out how to condense my rationale in under a thousand words. Everything I came up with felt like a half-truth.

The fact of the matter is, I quit my job because I can. It’s the same reason we’re selling our rental properties and the same reason I didn’t host a birthday party for my son.

I'm finally at a point in my life where I can choose me. My job was creating friction because the traditional workplace isn't set up to support employees who can make that kind of choice. Click To Tweet

The whole reason we started this journey was for this level of freedom. Our very definition of ‘rich’ involves how many options we have in any given circumstance. If something needs to change, we change it. Over time, we’ve become better architects of our own lives but, the thing is, you can know something is intellectually true enough to create a blueprint and still not believe it enough to take action and start building. I spent most of 2019 digging deep into my fears until I believed that reclaiming my time was an option that didn’t have to wait another year.

You wanna know another reason? I quit because it’s time to support my local Girl Gang. Black women are the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs and Atlanta leads the nation. Many of us are opting out, unwilling to continue to participate in a system that doesn’t work for most of us. We have a long history of carrying movements forward, and my plan is to stand in that legacy and further contribute by introducing them to FIRE.

But I also quit my job because it’s time to be fully present.

As I join Team r&R full-time, I’m reminded of how many of my favorite memories were diluted because of my job demands. I remember how I skipped lunch and took this interview in a vacant conference room instead. And how I fought traffic, barely making it in the door 5 minutes before we recorded this podcast. This video was shot after a half-day of meetings and a trip to urgent care and the one below was on the tail-end of a 4 day business trip. I’m tired of the unnecessary double duty and I’m done with playing small ball.

I've spent almost two decades shrinking in the name of "professionalism" and now I'm ready to be kinder to myself. Click To Tweet

I look forward to confidently rocking my hair even when it’s frizzy, to get dressed in a carefree manner unbothered about which curves may be accentuated, and to only use my ‘Customer Service’ voice when I actually need Customer Service! These may seem like little things, but they’re not.

I can tolerate the discomfort that comes with believing in myself because when I look at the alternative, one of these things is more “extreme” than the other…

22 comments

  1. Congratulations! I know that feeling of Sunday dread and making it through a few rounds of layoffs with all the odd feelings that come with that. Also congratulations on the fortitude to hold that property for a s long as you could! I know it wasn’t easy, I gave in and took the loss on my house in Marietta when the job moved me instead of keeping it as a rental in early 2014 and regret it.

    Best wishes in your new chapter. I had plenty of odd feelings in the first six to eight months after being programmed to do the same thing the same way for fifteen years Monday through Friday. I never realized all of the small things I was tolerating that just weren’t….normal. Its okay if this all takes time to adjust to. The entrepreneurship and building something that you’re passionate about is exciting!

  2. My experience was much different. I loved weekends but also loved going in to work on Monday . I think because I was so good at it and received so much praise and affirmation, and money, for doing it. I did retire slightly early but still consult some, because a little work adds to the quality of my life even though I don’t need the money. I wish everyone could enjoy their career , even if they do decide to make it a short one.

  3. You led me right to the same conclusion just before I read it: you were quitting because you can. Amazing. Wonderful! Can’t wait to hear how it unfolds for you now.

  4. I’ve spent almost two decades shrinking in the name of “professionalism” and now I’m ready to be kinder to myself.”

    This is my favorite line. It resonates deeply. I wonder what’s the psychology behind our “need ” to shrink or reasnoning.

  5. AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! I’m so excited for you!! I had a reminder on my calendar to bother you in August about making a decision, but I’m so happy to delete that reminder 😉 . Congratulations on taking the next step. I hope it will help you relax, refocus and also allow you to have all the time you need to do all the amazing work y’all are already doing…without that Sunday dread 😉 .

  6. This is so cool. Congratulations on the change, and for no longer playing small ball. Love that.

    I wish you two the best in this next phase and I’m so excited to see what comes of it!

  7. Thank you so much for this post! I have to begin calling my clients in 4 days to explain my decision to retire. I am at peace with my decision but I have been having trouble explaining it to everyone else. Thank you for saying it so well.

    Congratulations to you!

  8. “I’m tired of the unnecessary double duty and I’m done with playing small ball.” Yes! Love this. I also quit my big corporate job recently and have had zero regrets since. Thanks for sharing your story

  9. Congrats! Working in HR for over 20 years now, I can see the tilt from traditional employment to entrepreneurship as more jobs go freelance, so inspiring people to go into business for themselves and to pursue FIRE are worth contributions even to traditional entrepreneurs. Being a role model for entrepreneurs of color is also sorely needed. I know I was raised to get a “good job” (I’m Filipino) and as a result entrepreneurship came to me late. A good book that touches on this issue (among many others) is Entrepreneur’s Manifesto by Steve Mariotti, the founder of the National Foundation For Teaching Entrepreneurship.

  10. Congratulations! You are completely right that freedom is the reason for all of this. I am glad you’re figuring out how to do your life on your own (and a little bit jealous, but in a totally inspired kind of way).

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