We are quitting our jobs in record numbers these days. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that we are hitting the highest ever recorded numbers of people quitting since they started tracking this in 2000. This past November alone 4.5 million people quit and in the first half of 2021 the estimate is about 25 million people. The reasons are many and complex in this new landscape we find ourselves in. I know from experience what quitting, leaving and starting over looks like. I have had about six careers thus far in my work tenure and I don’t know how many jobs. I am a serial flat leaver. For those who are unfamiliar with that childhood moniker it means someone stopped wanting to play with you, for the afternoon or maybe forever and they just left. That is me all over. Only now I am a pro at flat leaving and moving down the road to my new next.
I am a curious girl by nature and I love to learn, so these traits have been fuel for many of the career jumps I have taken. I worked in media for a film producer, the night manager at Electric Lady Studios. I moved on to Tech working at Apple and Sun Microsystem as Readiness Engineer, Business Manager, lots of different things. I was in tech for about 15 years and very successful financially and career wise but not so much in balance, happiness and fulfillment. I was 90 pounds overweight, having debilitating migraines every other week and having problems getting out of bed. Just because I was good at something didn’t make it interesting or engaging. I wanted to be paid for something I liked. Something that mattered to me. So, I blew up my life at 40 ran away and started over.
After my stint in tech, I took some time to figure out what I wanted, what would make me happy. Happy? I had no idea what would make me happy, that was fiction to me. I was however very clear what was making me unhappy so by removing those things I started to buoy. I moved from a negative place to a neutral one where I could access my curiosity which led to better choices. This eventually led me to happy, to balance, to ownership of the quality of my life.
While trying to figure all this out I took a job as a Special Investigator for a Federal Contractor, this was right after 9/11. Oh wait, 9/11 yes add trauma to the mix. Trauma peels back the layers of what is not important. Sound familiar COVID world community? As a Special Investigator I did background checks for folks applying for Federal jobs. I liked the freedom of working from home, the work was interesting, and my nosy self got to see the inside of stranger’s homes. I loved it but it was not a forever thing and over time even that fabulous badge was not worth the bureaucratic nonsense of government double speak.
I got my master’s in counseling and slid into K-12 education as a school counselor, which I loved until a move back to CA blocked that option in 2008. Oh wait, a financial crash, more trauma, more adapting, more change, more transition. In scrambling for what next, I started coaching.
A long time ago a new client asked what exactly I do? I thought about it a minute and told her this fable I had heard that explains it best:
A man falls down a hole and yells to passerby’s for help. The first person who stops is his doctor. The man yells to the doctor that he fell down a hole and can’t get out can the doctor help? The doctor says “of course,” writes a prescription and throws it down the hole and moves on. The man looks at the slip of paper and shakes his head and continues to yell for help. His clergyman stops by and he says, “Father I am stuck down this hole and can’t get out, can you help me?” The priest says, “Yes of course my son” and begins to pray over the hole, finishes and moves on. This happens all day with the mayor, his boss, everyone. Finally, close to dark his friend Tom comes along. “Tom,” the man says, “I am stuck down this hole and need help getting out.” Tom says “no problem” then jumps down the hole. The man is furious. “What are you doing, now we are both trapped down here!” Tom smiles at him and says “Nope, I have been down here before let me show you how to get out.” That is what I do. I have been down many holes in life including the unknown, the career jump, not knowing what would make me happy, the move to a new town, and going back to school later in life. While my hand holes and foot holes to climb out won’t be exactly the same as anyone else’s, the process is.
Eventually, I added working at a Non-profit located at San Diego State University to my coaching work. Which lead me to teaching and working in Career Services as a STEM Career Counselor until COVID.
Leaving, searching, making mistakes, getting better at something and then looking at what’s next is just growth: leaving what no longer serves and finding that next spot in the road. It’s not easy, pretty, or orderly but it’s hugely rewarding. Life is nothing but a series of transitions and subsequently growth, right? Joseph Campbell’s work around the Hero’s Journey is the plot to endless movies, books and our lives. Understanding we are each our own hero in our life, and the struggle and triumphs belong to us.
There is a difference between running from and running to. I learned with each career change what my transferable skills were. I was not starting again; I was stepping into a new arena and I was clear what I was bringing to each organization that I worked for. I learned who I was, what was important to me and where I wanted to make a difference. I curated my careers and my life to fit me. Quitting, taking another job, taking a break, having a breakdown are all things I have done. All of these stress filled little lumpy gifts from the universe made me stronger, happier and resilient. We get choice, and by the way, not choosing is a choice too. Staying still, suffering and being paralyzed happen but they should not be our long-term plan and a way of life.
Taking back my power, saying I quit, I am done, I am moving… is not about giving up in tough times. It is about accessing where I am after a period of time, after trying to adjust and tweak before coming to the conclusion that I am not happy, engaged and have outgrown where I am. It is not flighty, capricious or cowardly to leave, to quit and find something better. It is brave, full of vulnerability and nerve wracking. It is also liberating as well until the fear and the uncertainty kicks in, and that is where courage and faith come in handy. Trusting myself that at each turn in the road I have had the skills to figure out what I need to be successful and happy. Remembering I have figured it out before over and over so I will again….and so will you when your turn comes.
To read more of my work or subscribe to this blog go to quirkandcircumstances.com
To learn more about my Coaching practice and book a free sample session go to trueroadtraveler.com