TL;DR? Well take this away with you – quitting something that makes you unhappy is brave; don’t be a coward and just do it. Life will get better.
I’ve always lived by the mantra: “If something makes you happy, do it; if it doesn’t, don’t.” I repeat it over and over to people. I never thought I’d deviate from that path, until I found myself very, very unhappy and couldn’t help but sit and wonder ‘how did I get here?’
I had to stop for a second and take a think about why exactly I was so unhappy.
On paper, my job was ideal and it should have made me glow with joy every day, but it didn’t – it was quite the adverse effect. It took a lot of bravery at first to admit that to myself, but when I realised that I was so very unhappy I had the inevitable realisation that everything making me unhappy was either work, or related to work. I couldn’t help but sit and think about how easily changeable that was. Why didn’t I just quit and move back up north? Well, that’s a lot of change and upheaval so obviously that thought was closely followed by a million counterarguments including things people have said like “so many people would kill for your job” and “you don’t realise how good you’ve got it”. Yet, this only led to these thoughts…
Everyone I work alongside is unhappy but soldiers on through, so if I decide to bite instead of bark and actually move – does that mean that I’ve failed? Does that mean that my bully of a boss gets his way? Would I be the hamster that stuck out the least time on the wheel, bailed first and lost the race, or is it just what work is? Or have you got to just hate it because it’s work; you’ve got to be spoken to like you’re dirt, get paid bare minimum for what you do, and it’s normal to have to take 5 in the morning to mentally prepare yourself to go into a building for a day of being miserable?
In short – that’s not how it has to be.
I knew if I stayed on that wheel and didn’t get off, I’d end up with depression or have a nervous breakdown, but why was everyone else still on it? Well – it’s pretty simple, really…
Now, let’s just talk for a sec about that ‘zone of comfort’. Well all know it well. It’s a sneaky blighter that we do tend to struggle to break through and pop the bubble that we’re so happy chilling inside of. When we poke that bubble or even try and break it, it can snap back with bolts of self-doubt and all the things we tell ourselves: “What if what’s out there is worse?”, “What if it’s so much harder out there than in here?”, “I know what’s required of me here, what if I fail out there?”, “would I be making the right decision?”, “am I overreacting?” so of course we can eventually stop trying to break it and just accept things as they are, we know them, we know what they’re about and the risks seem much less great.
Saying that, surely hanging up your hat and striding out of the bubble of known and into the wilderness of the unknown is for the brave? We look at those who break through that barrier with such awe; so why can it feel very un-brave and like a defeat?
Natural selection for one, if you’re a group of neanderthals running away from a bear, the one that gives up first shall be known to the bear as dinner. Or, a more modern example, constantly hearing insufferable people preach about how they always finish books or “never quit until you’ve reached your goal!”. Sometimes you’ve got to come back with: “Good for you, but I’m not against moving my goal posts to different destinations when I realise that my current goal isn’t what I want anymore – why continue running in that direction when you realise what you want is not there?”
But with that comes the niggle of failure. Failing has never been something I’ve done; I’ve never failed at anything, really. As horrendously egotistical as it sounds, everything I’ve turned my attention to, I’ve managed to succeed at. I got good grades all through high school and University, went to the Uni I wanted, never been to a job interview and haven’t got the job, done well in work, and when I’ve taken up a hobby, I’ve worked at it until I end up with a pretty good degree of competency at it.
So when I was faced with a situation that involved part of my mind saying: “Hey – this makes you unhappy, give it up now. It’s time to quit” and the other part of my mind kicked back with: “This isn’t what we do! We soldier on until we’ve succeeded!” It quickly turned into the question: “If I quit, does that mean that I’ve failed?” followed by a plague of self-doubt and shame.
In short I did quit. I realised that life is short and precious. Far too short and precious to consciously stay unhappy. If you know what it is that’s making you miserable and you can change it – why are you wasting your life staying in that situation? You don’t know what’s out there, but if you’re as unhappy as I was… it can’t be much worse.
It’s taken months for me to accept that quitting isn’t shameful at all. I’ve moved on and I’m happier in my career than I ever thought I’d be. That ‘unknown’ was home to a world of work-based opportunity, new friends, old friends, family, hobbies. My only regret is not quitting sooner. I’m no longer ill from stress and having to take a few moments in my car at the end of every day to try not to cry. I took a huge risk and it paid off. It was the bravest thing I’ve ever done and the best thing I’ve ever done.
If you’ve read to the end of this and you’re thinking: ‘I need to just quit whatever’s making me unhappy’- I urge you to do it, do it now. You’ll never, ever look back.