In Which I Quit My Job

Is there anything better than quitting your job?

I ask because it’s a little over a month since I handed in my notice; and alongside getting a brace (expensive but necessary) switching sixth forms (painful journey but necessary) and moving to London (necessary for entire existence and sanity) sacking in my day job has got to be one of THE BEST THINGS I’ve ever done in my twenty-three years.

Yep, throwing caution to the wind and announcing I was leaving without the offer of another job to transition into has raised many eyebrows and generated more than a few inspired comments; ranging from “I wish I was as brave as you” to other-end-of-spectrum “Oh the youth! Aren’t they so BLASÉ? If only we could all just NOT HAVE A JOB!”

The thing is though, I’ve never really pulled a move like this before.

I was always the nerdy one at school. I always had a plan. I got good GCSE’s and sparkling A-Levels; went to the redbrick Russell Group university and interned my socks off; balancing scalding cups of coffee, lugging clothes returns for weeks on end in the August midday heat and spending hours transcribing dry interviews. I had a plan.

I won writing competitions, did charity work, tried to educate myself further with battered books from charity shops and talks on new sexual revolutions in far-flung town halls. The plan was still intact.

And at the end of the three-year university machine, I was chewed up and spat out, like many before me and many after me will be, as a supposedly well-adjusted young human. Bizarre, isn’t it, that once we reach a certain age, we’re deemed to be educated enough to be cut adrift?

“I didn’t do a creative degree to do an uncreative job mate” he sobbed in his pinstripe suit.

What happens in the aftermath, you wonder to yourself. What happens, as Bridget Jones once pondered, looking out the window into The Big Smoke, fag in hand, “what happens after you walk off into the sunset”?

I once sat opposite a couple of young guys on the tube. One was practically crying on the shoulder of the other, describing how it had come to pass that after a wild, uninhibited stint at art college smoking hash and painting ten-foot murals, he’d ending up designing Dulux paint tins.

“I didn’t do a creative degree to do an uncreative job mate” he sobbed in his pinstripe suit.

Poor sod, I thought to myself.

If you’re wondering what happened to my plan, well, it didn’t go to plan. I mean in so far as the whole getting-a-job-and-saving-myself-from-that-dreadful-abyss-of-unemployment (or WORSE, just not knowing what you want to do) it went alright. I managed to stay in London, and support myself, and I wasn’t DESPERATELY unhappy; and the combination of money and security and just generally having a good job at a reputable company seemed to compensate.

We’re not told what to do when it all goes tits-up though, and you reach the really unhappy stage and find yourself crying into your soggy cornflakes  - before you even brave the morning commute. You’re made to believe that if, by some miraculous circumstance, you even manage to swing a job straight out of uni, you should pay homage to the powers-that-be and jolly well think yourself lucky that you’re not one of those poor young people living off Smartprice baked beans. And then one day, you find yourself sniffling at your desk while the emails stack up on the screen in front of you, wondering where your autonomy flew away to, and what day is it again?

I couldn’t quit, could I? I found myself continually turning the word over in my mouth; thrilled by the thought, terrified by the reality. I read this marvellous article - and deliberated a bit more. I hovered, longer than necessary, over the answers that would liberate me; and which by that same token, I was agonising over. There wasn’t a boulder blocking my path over the threshold to the office. My boss wasn’t thumping her staff on the floor emphatically and yelling ‘YOU SHALL NOT PASS!’

No, it was the psychological burdens I had to free myself from in order to make the decision to leave. You see we’re told, since we’re tots to persevere, don’t give up, try, try and if all fails – try again. We resit tests and exams, uniforms ink-spotted with frustration, because it’s good, normal even, to push ourselves to the hilt. Isn't it? We have to choose our career paths before we’ve even chosen our A-levels (go figure?!) because of course, that eliminates the risk of not getting our preferred degree, or university. And then, in Higher Education, It’s All About Employability. Where’s the risk-taking? Where’s the joy? Why do we have to endure the process-of-elimination of jobs that don’t suit, just to arrive at a place where we could’ve started off from the get-go?

It’s only been a few days now but I’m gradually getting back to who I was. My muscles feel lax – my brain too - as if they’re just warming up again after a period of dormancy. But I’m noticing things – cherry blossom, truant tomcats, church spires, that I haven’t paid attention to before. And writing, evidently. And I’m feeling a lot, lot better. I’m not forsaking employment - but I’m going to bide my time, until I find the thing that’s just right for me.

Recently, my sister took my five-year old nephew to a big gymnasium for a family-friendly hour. She described to me how he’d pelted along the big, brown pommel horse, outstretched his little arms, and flung himself off the end into a huge pit of foam pieces. He’s never done it before. But there he was, his yellow-blonde hair standing vertically as he fearlessly sailed off the edge like a little sparrow.

What a brave boy, I thought to myself. But then again, children aren’t afraid to take risks. They’re not afraid to get things wrong, because they haven’t been taught otherwise. Everyday a blissful game of he-who-dares.

I hope he remains like that, I thought to myself. 

And if I manage to achieve but a shred of that childlike - but fiercely honest conviction, I'll be happy.

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