A few weeks ago I quit my job and bought an impromptu ticket to Prague, the historical capital of Bohemia. Half of me was proud of myself for quitting. I had tried for over a year to make my job feel meaningful. For over a year, I had traded my most valuable resource, time, for a paycheck. Even though I don’t consider myself a materialistic person, I do understand the value of money. It can pay off student loans, give you proper food and shelter, give you the means to donate to non-profit organizations, and allow you to treat those you love.
Money can allow you to feel secure, confident, generous… so the logical side of myself tried its very best to keep me in this job until “something better came along”, but weeks became months and months became a year. While I was chained to my desk for 8+ hours a day doing work I wasn’t passionate about, I often thought of my pop-pop, who during the last years of his life had such weak bones he couldn’t move from the chair in his living room. Whenever I visited him, I always imagined myself stuck in that chair – what would matter at that point? What memories would sustain me?
What regrets would haunt me?
So I motherfucking quit. Put in my two weeks notice, bought a ticket to visit my brother who lives in Prague, and you know what? My mind was still. Usually I can only get my mind to shut up when I’m practicing yoga or meditation, but once I purchased those tickets, everything became quiet inside. It’s almost as if my inner voice no longer needed to shout, because I was finally listening.
As I traveled throughout Prague, admiring the rundown historic buildings that held millions of memories, it felt as if I was in high school once again, when the world felt full of possibility. Finally, I had time that was mine. Not my school’s, not my job’s – my time belonged to no other entity except me.
While exploring, my brother took me to a village of “little houses” that people lived in centuries ago, including the famous writer Franz Kafka. Basically, each house consisted of a small room that included a bed, desk, and table for eating. As I toured through the houses there was something so peaceful about the simplicity of it all.
So many of us continue to trade the only resource we can never get more of -time- for money. Yes, money can give many good things, but at what point does one realize she has enough? At what point do we quit the rat race and take back our life? When we’re 65, and our bones are more brittle? When we can afford a million dollar mansion?
“People don’t need enormous cars, they need respect. They don’t need closets full of clothes, they need to feel attractive and they need excitement and variety and beauty. People don’t need electronic equipment; they need something worthwhile to do with their lives. People need identity, community, challenge, acknowledgement, love, and joy. To try to fill these needs with material things is to set up an unquenchable appetite for false solutions to real and never-satisfied problems.” – Donella Meadows, Beyond the Limits.
There’s so much more to life than the one you may be living. Before quitting, I had never taken full control of my life. Without even realizing it, I just wanted to be liked and accepted so bad. I had followed paths that were chosen for me by societal norms, with only small rebellions along the way to keep me sane, and somehow convinced myself that I was living life for me in the process. Now, the more I’ve accepted myself and made myself happy, the less I feel the need to gain others’ approval.
So here’s my advice: No matter what you’re doing in life, if you’re happy with it and you own it, then people will see that and they won’t be able to say anything against you that’s worthwhile.
Some people (my parents) think I’m crazy for walking away from my job with no back-up plan, still in student debt, and with meager savings. They don’t understand why I don’t care about climbing the corporate ladder. My brother, while supportive, also raises concerns about why becoming a bartender on an island, or a barista in a local coffee shop, or a cat sitter in the city, or a traveling nanny throughout the country, isn’t a sustainable way to earn money. Maybe I am crazy, but that is for me and my therapist to deal with.
I don’t know what the future holds, no one does. All I know is that my savings are running low and I need a job that I actually care about, even if it requires a giant pay cut. Until I land that job, the gig economy is working out just fine for me.
You have to figure out what works for you. Maybe that’s quitting your job at some point, but maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s leaving the corporate world, but maybe it’s attempting to climb the ladder. Only you can know which direction feels right. Some people may support your decisions, others may be jealous. Many will call you crazy (or at least think it) and try to convince you to follow their path.
Ya know what I say? Fuck em’. You do you. That is the greatest rebellion of all.