On Calling it Quits (And Being Okay With It)
Written by Kathleen Gredler
Women often feel like we’ve gone “too far.”
We feel that if we don’t work every shift, get an A on every paper, attend every social gathering and in all other ways keep up the facade of our perfection, we have failed. We have too many expectations, too many commitments, too many responsibilities. But the truth is, we have to make choices. Recently, I made the choice to quit my job. And not just any job—the job that taught me how to be a professional woman in the workplace. The first job to truly value my work and set it as an example for others. The job that made me a babe who hustles.
However, it was not the job.
I took a year off before starting my master’s degree last August. I wanted to do “something else,” although I didn't quite know what it was. I only knew I was itching to do something outside the world of academia before taking the plunge into yet another degree. I was bored. I was ready to jump at anything that would lead me to discovering what I was meant to do with these vital, precious, invaluable years of my early twenties. Instead, I moved back home with my parents and completely regressed. I spent my time re-watching Gilmore Girls, making scones, and waiting for a spark. After a few weeks, I decided I couldn’t sit on the couch waiting for inspiration to come any longer. It wasn’t getting me anywhere. I took my resume out to at least a dozen different places, and a local coffee shop called me back the next day. Within five minutes into my interview there, I had a job.
I was hired as a seasonal worker on a six- to eight-week trial contract, and the funniest thing happened: I was great at the job. I enjoyed the job. I tasted success, no matter how small, and I wanted more time to savor it. A little over five months into my temporary employment, I was offered a job as manager. I immediately rejected it as my mind ran in a million directions. I’m not right for the job, I don’t have enough experience, I’ve never been in charge before, other employees know more than me, etc.They asked me to interview for it anyway, and I was offered the opportunity of managing a new location opening on the other side of town. I stood up a little straighter. I said yes.
I failed a lot in the beginning. During the first six months, I felt as if I couldn’t do anything right. Up until that point, I had been lucky enough to be instinctively good at a lot of the things I tried, as though I had perpetual beginner’s luck. But I wasn’t good at this. Managing took work; work I was unfamiliar with. Conversations with my boss quickly developed the tone of "I thought you would’ve known what to do," and "I’m not mad, just disappointed."
I tried to rationalize the experience. I was working over 40 hours a week while taking a full semester of classes, and had recently started a new relationship. Soon enough, though, I found my stride. Working so much was making me feel invincible; I had never been so productive. I started to hear positive feedback, but it was terrifying to feel like if I slowed down for even a minute, I would crash. Life was accelerating and, quite honestly, I didn’t want it to stop. I often wondered what would happen when I did.
One insignificant Tuesday about a year into my role, I had a meeting with my boss, who informed me that I was being moved to a different location, further away, to manage the staff there. The first words out of my mouth were, “I don’t know if I can logistically make that happen.” They told me to sleep on it, because it was happening no matter what. I went home that night and planned out what a week would look like in August when school started back again: a full-time class schedule, 40-plus hours per week, a minimum of 10 hours per week volunteering at a preschool, and the start of my thesis rough draft. I began to immediately feel the panic of the impending stress to come. I knew it was time to quit, but I wasn’t ready. It still felt like a conversation, not a decision.
I met with my boss the next day and said I couldn’t make the transition. I walked in without a solution to the problem (something I rarely do), resolute only in the decision that I wouldn’t be doing what they had told me I had to do. I was prepared for her to tell me to put in my two weeks, then and there. She was angry, but, to my surprise, willing to work something out. I felt like I’d opened a can of worms; that as soon as I had entertained the idea of leaving the job, there was no way I could go back. And that was exactly what happened. I slept on it again, but the next day, I pressed “send” on the formal email declaring my two weeks’ notice.
The truth of the matter is, I didn’t set out to manage a coffee shop. That was never an aspiration of mine. While it was a beautiful opportunity I was afforded and dedicated myself fully to, it was always just an auxiliary position. It taught me you can be great at something and still know it’s not going to last forever. You may disappoint people along the way, but you have to make choices for you. Even though I was upfront from the day one that I would eventually leave the company, it didn’t make saying goodbye any easier. It just meant that saying “no” was a longer process.
This was my first experience quitting a job, so there are only a few pieces of advice I can give. First, never disparage, trash talk, or reveal company secrets in your departure; these will only do you a disservice in the future. Remember that every employer is prepared for you to leave at some point. If you make the decision, see it through. Go to your supervisor ready to rip off the Band-Aid, and accept the consequences - whatever they may be. Third, remember that your business is just that: yours. I didn’t know this when I set out on my journey to quit, and I felt like everyone who asked deserved an explanation as to why. But the fact of the matter is, I didn’t owe anyone an explanation—not even my boss. You do not need to make excuses or apologies. Your life is yours to live as your choose. At the end of the day, work is just work.
Whether you’ve just landed your dream job, are working for a Fortune 500 company, or work part-time in a beach town serving ice cream on the weekends, it’s okay to call it quits. It’s part of work. Sometimes jobs are there to help you pay the bills, and sometimes they’re where we find our purpose. Regardless of when or why you decide to leave your job, though, remember this: saying “no” and pressing "send" just might create space for something better.
Kathleen is currently managing Liberty Bar and Restaurant in Tallahassee, FL, while pursuing her Master's in Music Therapy. She specializes in working with medically fragile children and hopes to be a Music Therapist in a children's hospital. In her free time, she practices yoga and cultivates a knowledge of as many cocktails as possible.