How many times do you have to up and quit your job, and in how short of a time frame, until you begin to seem unstable? At twenty-four, I realized I have a low threshold for bullshit and resolved to stop tolerating it from my employers, colleagues, and friends. But there are a lot of assholes out there, and years later I am beginning to feel like maybe I am running away from something instead of bravely taking a stand. I can’t tell anymore. I just know that the days I spend in an open-plan office, using my phone voice and editing emails for “tone,” leave me feeling grimy and exhausted in a way that really hard work never does, a filmy layer of smarm I feel the need to sweat off in the gym or wash away with a cocktail.
I adjusted quickly to a freelancer’s life, buckling down to work at 7:30 every morning, still in my pajamas, drinking a whole pot of coffee before lunch. I would spend the afternoons still sweaty from my mid-day workout, showering at 3 or 4 in the afternoon before my husband came home, eager to share the ups and downs of my day and the funny things the cats did. I was happier than ever and endlessly productive, but I worried incessantly about money, and cursed with competence and the inability to say no, I glided back into steady employment while my passion project became harder and harder to keep center stage.
Two years later, I am tired of business casual. I miss having control over my day and my workflow in a way that a nine-to-five and a workaholic boss don’t accommodate. I find myself once again contemplating quitting my job. A job I never really wanted, but felt compelled to take. A job with a steady paycheck, a desk cluttered with paperwork, an inbox that’s never quiet. This isn’t what I set out to do, the first time around, but somehow I found my way back, like an addict who wakes up on the street days later in an unfamiliar part of town, unsure how they let it happen again.
A part of me still wants to take the safe route. Raised by two well-educated parents who have held down stable corporate jobs since 1980, the uncertainty of contract work and income fluctuations seems foolish. “It would be so great if you could find a job you really wanted to stay in for five years,” my mom tells me one afternoon when I have left the office to preempt a panic attack. My father praises my husband for sticking with a job he hated, because it eventually (and improbably) paid off. I get it, but I also wish they got me. They too had the drive to achieve more than their parents. They too chose to think outside the box they grew up in. I wish they knew how to be proud of me for doing the same.
Where I go next seems bound to factors I can’t plan for: how quickly my business will grow, how the trappings of my life might change, the swing of my own moods and desires. After a year of tragedy and change, I have learned that you can never know what is coming next, but I am also beginning to find that there is always work, if I trust myself and I lean into opportunities. And I am trustworthy, even if quitting my job implies otherwise. I may not know what comes next, but I know what I want my life to look like. I want to be the woman on the plane in jeans and a t-shirt, surrounded by suits but working twice as hard. I want to run meetings from the comfort of my couch. I want to travel and speak and conquer.
I want to be all boss, no bullshit, every damn day.