January 31, 2012

How To Quit Your Job

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What is the issue?

Don’t think about how your current desk, in your current office, is the only place in the world where you can get anything done, how you come in on the weekends sometimes to do homework or file your taxes. Don’t obsess about whether or not your dentist will be covered under your new insurance; that is not the kind of issue upon which major life decisions hinge.

Don’t think about your work husband, who got a stress nosebleed shortly after you delivered the news of your imminent departure. Definitely don’t think about how he’s going to have to do everything he always does, plus everything you do, plus all of the extra stuff you both have been doing since your boss left a year ago, all by himself when you abandon him. Don’t think about anything that might give you a guilt ulcer, or you won’t make it out that door.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all of the projects being discussed in team meetings sound fun and engaging. You know better than this. You know they will be migraine-inducing hellathons, and that any spark with which you try to endow them will be stomped out long before it has the chance to catch fire. You know this because you have danced this dance before, a thousand times, which is at least a few hundred times too many.

Don’t think about how much of your identity is tied up with being the go-to person, the old hand. There will be other copy machines to conquer, other institutional lore to assimilate, other crazy people to learn how to flatter and manipulate in order to get things done.

Stop referring to yourself and your company as “we”. You can’t form a “we” with an entity that only exists on paper. You owe loyalty only to corporeal beings, not limited liability corporations. Save your hand-wringing and concern for things with heartbeats. Like yourself.

Clean out your desk drawers, little by little. Leave room for plausible deniability of what you’re doing. Notice that the New Yorker cartoons and magnets and neon-hued Post-Its you’ve acquired during your tenure don’t actually have any significance to you, and that you don’t care about any of it, at all. Tell yourself firmly that however old you are, it’s too old for green and purple ink of any kind. Throw out everything that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful–and then throw out most of the “useful” stuff, too. There will be plenty of high-quality thumbtacks where you’re headed.

Ponder the idea that people who make $34,000 or more per year are in the top 1% of earners worldwide. You spent nearly as much at Trader Joe’s in the last month as the average family in Madagascar earns in a year. Recognize that you are a ridiculously privileged human being, that you live like some kind of pasha and don’t appreciate it. Vow to set aside money for charity each month when you fill out your new payroll forms.

To maintain your exalted position in the world financial hierarchy, resolve to quit looking at everything on the internet except the thesaurus during work hours. But find out if your new company’s network is monitored closely, anyway.

Resist the urge to start giving away your best desk supplies before the news is official; people may worry that you are suicidal.

Draft your letter of resignation. Appreciate how typing it makes your fingers tingle. (With anxiety or ecstasy? It’s hard to tell.) I am resigning my position at ______ effective on __/__/__. Boom. That’s your line. It’s the only one you need. Rehearse it in the mirror while you are patting on concealer to cover the dark circles under your eyes.

Picture yourself in a new outfit, something fashionable yet adult. Add a surprising, whimiscal element–hipster glasses or a purple scarf — and a handsome leather satchel of some sort to this image. Envision walking into an office where no one knows anything about you. You can make almost anything true, with your clean desk and a notebook full of crisp white pages tucked into the crook of your arm. You will show up for a meeting and whip out copies of a concise yet ambitious agenda that makes people sit up and take notice. You will be clear-eyed. You will not pretend to be checking emails on your phone while looking at Facebook in meetings.

You will not be the person who (everyone knows) cries in the ladies room; that’s all behind you, for now.

You will go eight hours without looking at Twitter — you will go nine, ten, the world is your oyster! You will maintain appropriate professional boundaries, but still not be lonely at lunchtime. You will have a social life that is not primarily comprised of complaining about your job. Your lipstick will last all day. There will be straight, single men in the same building as you, and some will think you’re funny and that you have nice breasts. Maybe this new office is where all of the good guys have been hiding.

Now, take a deep breath. Buzz your boss and ask if you can come down for a minute. Re-read your one line and take a fortifying sip of water from a coffee mug you’ll throw away tomorrow. One door is about to open, and then another. Anyone might walk through. You’ve got this. TC mark

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