A couple weeks ago, I did something I had been yearning to do for a good year: I quit my job. This was the job that prompted me to move to New England, the job that had seemed so perfect from the outside. Just out of college, I was excited to be doing work for an issue that was (and still is) close to my heart; it was something that mattered and helped me feel that I mattered. But then…reality slowly and subtly creeped in. I was forced to acknowledge that I was working in a toxic and abusive environment, one that was making me increasingly depressed and apathetic.
Maybe you, too, are in an occupation that’s both inspiring yet draining. Possessing a deep and abiding connection to one’s work makes it that much more difficult to leave. Not only is there a self-induced guilt for leaving something that feels urgent and important, but there is also a concern that without that sense of purpose, one’s life will be devoid of meaning. It sounds glib, but there’s truly no livelihood in the world that is worth sacrificing your happiness and sanity. If the following ring true for you, it might be time to explore other employment options.
1. Your free time is spent recovering.
How you spent your week nights and weekends is indicative of how much your job is affecting your personal life. Over the past few months, my evenings and weekends mostly consisted of watching Netflix in bed. I had no energy to talk to my roommates, let alone my partner, and television served as an easy way to unwind after four-hour meetings or getting yelled at on the telephone. If you find yourself in constant need of recovery time, you’re probably expending way too much energy at the office.
2. Your body is trying to tell you something.
Have you missed your period? Is your face breaking out? Have you gained or lost weight? All of these bodily changes are known to be correlated with increased stress levels. Although it can be hard to pinpoint exactly one cause (and indeed, there is rarely just one perpetrator), pay attention to your body and notice any changes. About a year into my job, I noticed that my shoulders and neck were extremely tight, and I realized that my constant anxiety was causing me to draw my shoulders toward my ears. I’m still working to fix this one with stretches for neck and shoulders.
3. You’re constantly complaining.
Everyone is entitled to a little venting about work–after all, no job is ever perfect. But there is a fine line between spouting off a few choice words about your boss at happy hour and spending hours complaining to your friends, co-workers, partner, parents, etc. I’m a firm believer that work is work, and that we should all designate time to recreational activities that have nothing to do with your office life. Since beginning my new job, it feels as though a huge weight has been lifted and I haven’t complained once!
4. The only reason you’re still there is because you care.
There has to be more incentive to a position than simply passion for the work. Believe me, this was a hard thing for me to accept. But managerial issues, low (or nonexistent) morale, unfriendly co-workers, low salary, poor benefits, etc., are all factors that I could not ignore. If you’re only driven by commitment, it’s only a matter of time before you’re worn out and–ironically–feel disillusioned with the very work about which you were so passionate.
In the end, making the decision to leave my job was pretty heartbreaking. After two years, I had met some wonderful people and learned a lot. But my love for my work was not enough to stifle the many fundamental problems that I encountered, and so I finally admitted to myself that my happiness and well-being was not worth sacrificing. I now feel lighter, happier, and more optimistic about the future.
Have you ever left a difficult job that your otherwise loved? Any tips for those in a similar situation?
Related: How to Deal with Toxic People
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