I quit my job six months ago.
It still seems crazy. My hands shook a bit when I typed that out. Millions of people are out of work right now, not by choice, but because the economy is still in the shitter. And I quit a job that was really good and paid me some great money. That job let us buy this house, paid for a lot of opportunities we've had, sent us to Hawaii a couple of years ago. That job was a gift that let me send my husband to school, that taught me a lot of things about business and relating to people, it made me brave enough to have my daughter.
It was also killing me.
I am so grateful that I could quit. I was lucky to have that job and even luckier to be able to leave it on my terms. I am a better mother having left that job. A better wife for sure. And more myself than I have been able to be in a long time. It is true that it is scary that I make uh around a third of what I did before. That even if everything works out it is unlikely I will make that much again--at least not for a long time. But when I close my eyes I go to sleep almost instantly. The only person who shrieks at me frantically is under three feet tall. I work hard but it isn't my whole life.
My father was absent for big chunks of my childhood. It was never said aloud but perfectly clear that his job was the most important thing in his life. That work came first, no matter what the cost. As an adult I actually know that it was all for my sister and I. That my father was probably desperately afraid and ambition was born of that fear. He missed out. And he didn't miss out because he was flying to the moon or curing cancer or saving lives--he missed out because he was an insurance executive. I can assure you he doesn't think it was worth the trade off.
I feel shame about quitting. I feel as though I have failed at something bigger than just work-life balance. So much of the message that we hear is about how if we just work hard enough we can have it all. I still believe that. I just now believe that sometimes you have to create what that ALL means.
I don't need to feel shame. And I hope that I won't always. I already know that I was right. And lucky. I got to this place out of exhaustion and desperation and sadness. Eighteen year old me is shocked and dismayed by my lack of ambition, small salary and pitiful title. Thirty-one year old me is starting to feel at least something like pride.