This is the tenth article following The Irony of Quitting My Job to Take a Sabbatical, the first in a series on what I learned and what I’d recommend from quitting my job to take a six-month sabbatical (without another job in sight). Last time, I shared eight considerations I took into account prior to taking the leap. In this article, I share some funny details and key realizations from the day I quit my job to my last day of work.
“‘Winners never quit,’ we’re told, when, in reality, winners quit all the time: choosing to stop doing things that aren’t creating the results they desire.”
– Jim Allen
The day I planned to quit my job, I switched back and forth between serenity and childlike giddiness.
I was fully set on the decision, but there were a couple tiny details.
I had just come back from a week of vacation. The first meeting on my calendar was a performance review with my manager, the request sent shortly after I left for my break. While catching up on emails that morning, I saw another member of my team had sent through a meeting hold for later on in the afternoon to celebrate my manager’s birthday.
Awkward. I wasn’t sure how or when to break the news.
Before the performance review or after? Or if during, what if she goes on and on and it’s not a good time to say anything? Or maybe at the end of the day? Is her birthday really today? Maybe I should wait a day.
Yet even with the questions and potential awkwardness, I was excited to finally quit after the two months of patient and purposeful waiting.
Fifteen minutes later, I was sitting across the table from my manager in a small meeting room. In her level and practiced pleasant manner, she asked me how my vacation was. I fidgeted as I wondered when the right moment would be.
She pushed a packet of paper with my performance rating towards me. I decided I wanted to know my rating before saying anything on my end. As she began speaking generally about my overall performance for the year, I flipped to last page where my rating was. I pursed my lips and nodded at the number. As expected.
The number represented performance that met all expectations with some occasions of exceeding expectations. It was a fair rating, considering my plan and efforts to leave on good terms.
Somehow, seeing this provided the closure I needed. I rattled off something about turning in my two weeks’ notice.
Surprise briefly reflected in her eyes. “Well then, I guess we can keep this meeting short.”
And short it was. In the next five minutes, I assured her my decision wasn’t anything personal; that it was simply about doing what was right for me. She asked me if I had another job lined up, and in receiving the negative, she asked me what my plans were. She then asked if I was sure on the two weeks. The conversation ended with her saying she understood, wished me luck and that human resources would reach out to me shortly.
After going back to my desk and firing off an official email to HR, I then told my immediate team and other colleagues as I came into contact with them.
That was it.
While there were a couple more uncomfortable moments, such as meeting with each of my team members to pass off certain processes and projects, there was no big fuss or uproar like in the multiple scenarios that had previously played in my mind.
While mildly uncomfortable, quitting wasn’t the big event I’d imagined it to be.
Another interesting realization emerged. Even after turning in my notice to quit, I wasn’t comfortable sharing my plans for a sabbatical. When asked by my manager and colleagues if I had another job lined up or if I was interviewing with other companies, I simply said I was going to take my time in finding the right opportunity for me.
Part of me didn’t think it was anyone’s business. Another part of me didn’t think my highly conservative colleagues would understand, and instead they’d pass it off as crazy, irresponsible or a quarter-life crisis. Sure enough, a person on my team told me about another colleague’s remark, “She must really hate her job in order to quit without having another job lined up.”
In a way, he was right about the job; finance wasn’t a good fit for many reasons.
But quitting was more about keeping a promise to myself.
It was an exploration into an alternative way of living, about defying what was commonly accepted as “the responsible thing to do” in search of other options. It was about giving myself time and space to reassess how I wanted to spend my life. But I didn’t feel the need to get into any of that.
To a lot of people, it was a bold move. In coming by to wish me well, many people expressed their admiration and might I add, envy, on the free time I was going to have.
But as much as they briefly envied the concept of freedom, I saw in their eyes they couldn’t fathom this as a possibility or attractive option. Many assumed I’d be looking for another job over the following weeks. Some of them asked me about a week into my notice if I had second thoughts.
I didn’t have any second thoughts about quitting then, and still don’t today.
The eight remaining business days passed quickly. They were spent in full—wrapping up documentation on processes, cleaning up files on my computer, checking in with my manager and talking to curious colleagues. Goodbye lunches, coffees and emails.
And before I knew it, Friday came. The day felt surreal, like it was just any other day. Many people (including my manager) had taken the day off, so there were very few people in the office. After finishing up the last few things I wanted to get done, I left my laptop and badge on the table.
There was no one to talk to or walk me out. So I walked myself out, seemingly like I’d walked out to go back home over the past six years. But this time I wasn’t coming back.
The act of quitting was an important internal achievement. It represented a commitment to myself, to finding a path that was more fitting for me instead of fitting onto an existing one.
As I walked out, I remembered thinking that I should quit things more often and more quickly as I find them to be unfitting.
The value of quitting is still something I need to remind myself of regularly.
My tendency is to hold on—often longer than I should. I held onto the idea of being a front-end developer for years, while not taking any significant steps forward. I remained in volunteer positions that no longer aligned with my new direction for a long while. I pushed low-priority projects and tasks to the back burner because it was easier to hold on than to let go.
Letting go isn’t easy for me, but there is immense value in quitting the wrong things. Forcing something past its time is exhausting and stressful. In quitting the wrong things, there is more energy to spend on finding the right things.
Since quitting my job, I’ve continued to get better at quitting. The past year and a half has been a process of quitting many different identities, roles, habits, limiting beliefs, and physical things. The result? Growth—in knowledge, personal development, health, peace of mind—more than I could’ve imagined.
Quitting my job wasn’t the big event I made it out to be. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself to date.
When it comes to the wrong things, the value of quitting is a reminder we all need to keep in mind. What’s not working in your life that might make sense in quitting?
Up next week: Key learnings from my long-awaited, six-month sabbatical!