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.

12 comments:

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! :)