BIRTHDAY KIND OF KNOWLEDGE
It’s my birthday month. The one time of the year where no one faults you for being giddy like a child. It’s the bitter sweetness, but mostly sweetness of getting older and wiser and feeling like “this year, i’m grown” and “This year I have the clearest vision of myself, and of my life that I have ever had.” And of course, every time you say it, it is absolutely true. It’s one of the rare times when you can declare all that you are going to start doing, and banish all that you are going to quit doing. There is something wonderful and sacred in an entire 365 days worth of life lessons completed.
I have the clearest vision of myself and of my life that I have ever had.
Quitting a job for me, has always also contained the kind of magic of a birthday. From the time I was 22 and started working full time, until just past my 33rd birthday I quit 3 jobs. Each one provided me invaluable lessons and tools. I made new contacts, and learned a little bit more about how we use work to express ourselves and who we are. I also learned how employers tend to pin their hopes on us, and in some ways trick us into expressing more of them and less of us as time goes by.
we use work to express ourselves and who we are.
And through it all, it was the quitting that was the most liberating of all. It was me, each time, noticing and directly addressing that I had stopped growing and learning, and needed to “grow up” into, and onto, something different. Sometimes that was a new industry, a new place, a new company, a different set of skills, a different level of responsibility, or a different level of risk and reward.
GROWING INTO A MONEY MINDSET
One thing that always motivated me in changing up jobs was the money. I mean, I started working at 22 and it didn’t take long for me to say phooey to my college philosophies about capitalism and for profit business being the devil (I still hold onto some of this for sure) and realize, that if I wanted to put gas in my car, and get groceries, I needed to get paid. This making a living is only fun, when you can live on what you make. And when I didn’t extend my Americorps (QuitDay 1) contract I knew, that I could command more, and deserved more, even with the little experience I had. Those early years were hard.
if I wanted to put gas in my car, and get groceries, I needed to get paid
I can remember being 24 and scraping loose change together with a colleague so we could split an order of garlic knots from the pizzeria on the corner from the job. And still, I learned how to lead at that job, how to run a P&L, how to stretch a budget when it seemed I ran out of money before I ran out of month.
Those were dim times. Times when I realized student loans weren’t going to pay themselves, and sleeping on your sister’s couch cannot be your permanent address, and no you can’t afford to live by yourself, . . in New York . . . at 24. Or 34 for that matter. So much to learn. And I learned it.
JOB HOPPING IS VALIDATION
I remember being excited to leapfrog a full management level when I quit that job (QuitDay 2) and started working at a bigger and broader company. I understood the pride of coming from the outside, and having mysterious knowledge and skills and insight that others wanted to tap into. My ideas and experience held value, and I realized I could take them anywhere. I also discovered that I had completely low balled myself in my salary request, and that no one was going to stand up for what I was worth, except for me. But only if I recognized what I was worth. Those are decisions we live with every day. And I turned 27, and I had my son. And I had all types of new reasons to be brave.
man, this is the challenge I have been waiting for
And when I quit again (QuitDay 3), and found something more cutting edge, more high stakes, more start-uppy, I thought “man, this is the challenge I have been waiting for.” And I slaved away trying to prove to myself that I was good enough to meet that challenge. I pushed, and I dug, and I stretched like never before, until I was so thin and tight I thought I would surely break. And then I didn’t.
Damage done, I learned that when it’s not for you, your work is disposable. . . . or at least you are disposable. . . And then they disposed of me. It was the first time that I had ever been fired. (QuitDay 4). I know it will be the last time.
when it’s not for you, your work is disposable. . . . or at least you are disposable
In every instance, each shift, each transition, the locus of control in my journey was with me. I decided when I learned enough, gave enough, made enough, risked enough. That’s the power of quitting a job – whether verbally or emotionally. The control you have over your 365 days (or more) of learning rests with you.
And when you ignore that voice in you telling you to move on, you are only dangling the carrot in front of someone else to move you out of the way. We aren’t supposed to stagnate. No one can freeze time. Not even those 40 somethings who swear they are still 30 somethings. It’s part of nature, and part of life to grow, to age, to mature. There’s pride in that. There’s wisdom in that.
TIME FOR SECONDS
When I got fired it, it was like a second birthday. An invigorating reminder of all that I have done and learned, and all that I have still yet to do and learn. When you say “I quit” what you are really saying is “I’m ready for the next chapter. It’s time to grow. I’ve matured. I’ve outgrown you.” That is agency. And definitely deserving of some cake.
Happy Birthday to me.