September 22, 2009

30 Days of Happiness, Day 26: The Great Escape

Yesterday I did the unthinkable, that thing that is especially unthinkable in such an unstable economy.

I quit my job.

The truth is, I've landed a much better gig. I've graduated from peon to mother - and now the only person peeing on me is Charlie. I was hoping it would turn out this way, but it wasn't until very recently that we decided to take the plunge. And so I am now something I never thought I would be, something I never even really thought I wanted to be until I got pregnant.

A stay-at-home mom.

When I started my job (the one I just quit) three years ago, I was so excited! Finally, instead of serving burgers and beer and working three hours a day, I had a real job. Instead of serving all the office workers on their lunch break, I would be served on my lunch break. I would have a steady income and a 401K and honest-to-goodness health insurance. I would wear cute clothes to work and not a stupid serving apron with a hamburger on it. I would have something worthwhile to put on my resume. The only really noteworthy thing I had on my resume at that point were my poetry publications, and most people could give less than a shit about those.

I have no idea how any sane human being can romanticize an office job, but I managed to do it. But I always have been one of those "the grass is always greener" types. At the time I didn't think I was wrong - not about this. The company had an absolutely stellar reputation, and I thought it was my ticket to getting into a position I really loved. I was made promises as well, promises I so stupidly fell for.

My first day back in September 2006 was so awful and boring that I wanted to kill myself. Not only did I not have nearly enough work to do, but I was sitting in a hellishly beige office. But I made it through that first day. And then I made it through the first week. And then it became clear to me that this was not what I thought it was going to be. But if I am anything, I'm stubborn. And I try to be true to my word. I said in my interview that I was willing to give a couple of years to the job. I've never wanted to look flighty on my resume. And so I let myself stay stuck.

I got sucked into a completely dysfunctional system, and I had to learn the hard way that office jobs (or at least this one) really do suck balls, that to these people I was nothing more than a body in a chair, and that there is nothing more soul-crushing than being trapped in a beige office for eight hours a day, five days a week.

But I learned. I learned so much from this job. I learned about office politics. I learned that everything is negotiable - if you have the power to negotiate. I learned how to ask for what I wanted and how to accept it gracefully when it didn't happen (because it never did). I learned how to anticipate management's next move so I wasn't completely thrown every time they made that move. In the end, I realized that I had learned to accept my place of employment for what it was: a very flawed system. And then I learned that I could never expect it to be anything more. Because it just wasn't. Isn't. Never will be.

But I think the most important thing that I learned was how to be happy doing a job that I absolutely hated. I took pride in my little rebellions. I used the internet for personal use all the time. I made friends and *gasp* went to their offices to talk with them. I planned my entire wedding. I completed a ton of coursework for my Master's degree. I brought my camera to work and took photos of things in my office. Once I created a massive collage on a huge piece of cardboard. I wrote blog entries and journal entries, wrote poetry and organized my personal files, read books and in general just farted around. I was able to keep going when it was the last thing I wanted to do.

That's not to say that I never did any work. I did. It's just that I never really had enough to do. I found myself bored all the time, and that is a horrible state to be in. And I figured that since I was never reprimanded for my little rebellions, that was management's way of saying they were okay. So I never felt guilty for them. I needed them to survive.

Last summer was completely awful, and I found myself in a state of despair concerning my job. Roy saw that I was drowning and we came up with a plan to get me out of my job and more focused on doing something I actually enjoy. But then I got a wake-up call. And shortly after that, I got pregnant. Once again, I decided to let myself stay stuck.

But I won't lie - my ultimate wish was to not have to return to my job after having the baby.

And well, it looks like that wish has come true. And I am ecstatic, terrified, overjoyed, anxious. I feel everything that there is to feel, even a bit of sadness. Those three years that I gave to my job are now over. I will never get them back. And as much as I resented being stuck in an office all day, I had some good times, some damn fabulous times, actually - because I met some wonderful people that I am so grateful to call my friends. When I broke the news to my supervisor, he was so supportive of my decision that I found myself crying. I didn't realize that quitting my job was such a hard decision.

It's a huge risk we're taking, going down to one income. We could be more financially set. We could do with less debt, that's for sure. I am anticipating some financial hiccups. But I also know that the decision we've made is the right one. With some lifestyle changes, we can and will make it. I cannot see myself ever regretting quitting my job to be with Charlie for his first year (at least).

I don't plan on making a career out of being a stay-at-home mom. I do still have big dreams for myself, not to mention a degree to finish. Now I am even more devoted to doing what I love: writing, photography, helping people. I'll never let these things go. If there's one thing that having a baby has taught me, it's that life is too short to waste your time doing something you hate. I know that sounds overly simplistic, and it really is - but there comes a time when you have to stop saying things like "this is a stepping stone job" and "I'm just so lucky to have a job in this bad economy." At a certain point, these catch phrases become excuses to stay in a miserable situation. (Again, I am oversimplifying.)

I do think, though, that being a mother is enough. I never really got that until I had Charlie. To me, Charlie is my absolute perfect creation. I could write a million poems that rival the genius of The Waste Land. I could take one hundred photos worthy of critical acclaim. And yes, these things would be meaningful, and I would feel incredibly accomplished. But I've realized that there is nothing more important (to me) than my family and raising children who are loving and respectful and responsible.

I finally have a job that I love. Yes, the pay sucks, and the job is hard. But time is definitely not on my side. It's not my friend. I've watched Charlie change from a beautiful newborn blob to an adorable little infant boy in what feels like the blink of an eye. I am absolutely nuts for this kid, and I don't want to miss anything. I want to be there for the milestones, for all the moments, big and small. I know the workforce will be there when I'm ready to re-enter it.

I finally made the Great Escape. This time, the grass really is greener.


phairhead said...

you did it!!! that's scary and awesome. good for you, les!

doesn't blogging put everything in perspective?

inflammatory writ said...

I'm so jealous. I also have my little "rebellions" (if they knew how much I was really on the net, I'd be fired like immediately) and they keep me afloat. At least I have my writing career. I don't have the option of quitting now that we've bought the apartment, but man, would it feel good. I'm glad you made a decision you are happy with!

cowboyboot lady said...

Congratulations!!! I am so proud of you! I totally agree with you that life is too short to do something that makes you miserable. I, too, quit my job and my last day is next Wednesday! :) Woo hoo to us!

Anamika said...

Awesome Leslie! I knew it would happen for you. I should have placed bets all around, I was so sure this would be the decision you'd make.

Congratulations and welcome to the world of stay at home moms.

Crazy Daisy said...

Yeah! I feel your excitement! It is wonderful you are able to do what you truly want to do. I am also excited to see what comes next for you. You have a wonderful set of dreams...writing, photography, helping people...

Congrats on taking this step!

Angie Eats Peace said...

Congrats on doing something that will bring you happiness. You deserve it.

Bex said...

I can't think of a more important job anyone could have. So glad you've come to a decision that makes you happy!

sherthebear said...

Glad you are doing what will make you happy!!

Myra said...

Whoa! Big news! Congratulations!

amber said...

Congratulations m'dear. :)

Amy said...

Congrats! That's really exciting (and scary all at the same time). I'm really happy for you.

tootie said...

This is such a beautiful post! Glad you are doing something that you love! :)