Or, parallels between breaking up a romance and quitting a job. A guest post by Robyn Hendrix. Moving on from a job that isn't working for you can actually feel a lot like extracting oneself from a tumultuous long term romantic relationship. In fact, I was surprised to find so many tight parallels between my recent experiences with making a career move and ending a three and a half year marriage. Here are some of them.
You are unhappy enough to have a gut feeling that it's time to move on, but years and years of
hard work have you so invested in the
relationship organization/company that it's difficult to
take all the concrete steps needed to escape. You feel like you are in a constant cycle of self-
sabotage, screwing up Skype dates, cover letters, missing job application deadlines, and at the
same time being too depressed/lazy to fix problems so that you can succeed at the work you
are already doing. You find yourself making mountains out of molehills and squashing any hope
You feel resentful at both yourself and the other party for making you feel so dependent.
You also suspect that the underlying issue behind most of the conflict is the fact that you:
-like to be actively involved in solving your own problems
-aren't willing to put up with bullshit
You demonize your current situation, talking to everyone who will listen about all the things that aren't working right: drama and gossip, lack of support or resources or trust (or all three), mixed signals and other confusing communication that leave you feeling under-appreciated and unsure of your standing.
You get really sick of hearing yourself talk about it and wonder why any of your friends are still willing to hang out with you at all.
The 'rents are more worried about you than normal. They start calling you every week, instead
of every other week. You can't seem to break them of this habit even when things are going
okay, so you have a lot of “I don't have anything to tell you that I didn't tell you about last
week” conversations. Your mother puts not-so-subtle hints in emails about “wondering when you're going to find some
Then you have moments of feeling guilty that you've demonized
him the job so much, realizing that
all the people you've vented to have no clue about the parts that you really really
love and will miss terribly when you're gone. (Kind of like when your Aunt gives you a really
hard time because she can't believe how you would ever trust your ex to still temporarily share
a family cell phone plan with you, because nothing you ever told her would make her believe he
might actually still be a decent human being most of the time.)
Perplexed, you think back on the Honeymoon period, when you were deliriously happy to feel
like you were doing something worthwhile with your life that earned you a paycheck. You were
overly ambitious and optimistic, making fancy stuffed zucchini and homemade spaghetti sauce
and were delighted to lift heavy things, sort through boxes and boxes of half wilted donated
vegetables, and reorganize and clean everything even though it would get all messed up one
week later. You wonder where the hell that version of you went, and know deep down you can
no longer be the person you would need to be in order to be happy in that
You reminisce about
ex-lovers past employers (and maybe even fantasize about consider going
back to them as a temporary solution).
There are lots of little, fleeting moments when those parts of the job that you really do love overtake the anger and frustration, leaving you feeling lighter and joyful and at peace. Especially after you finally give notice – you're actually leaving, and suddenly everything seems easier. You find yourself laughing with coworkers and clients, you are more relaxed and organized...and begin to question – AGAIN – whether you've made the right decision. Friends reassure you that the relief you feel is a good sign that you are making the right move.
Then you burn your arm in hot oil and go back to being a curmudgeon who will be glad to be rid of the place.
Just when you are nearly free of the situation, sharp nightmares pop up featuring your
supervisor lurking ominously in the darkness of your apartment for who knows what purpose.
Even though you would really like to take the higher road and calmly explain why the way certain issues were addressed didn't work for you, you are so physically and emotionally exhausted and jaded by the whole thing that you don't have it in you to “be the better person” and the defensive snarkiness just rears its ugly head, over and over.
Thus, you feel like a horrible person.
Everyone has to have moments of being a horrible person. Or so you tell yourself. Maybe you heard that somewhere. It sounds about right.
More self-sabotage: feeling jaded and horrible makes you doubt your ability to be in a happy,
healthy employment relationship ever again. You long for yet fear getting called for a
job interview, worried that the exhaustion and bitterness will prevent you from showing
enthusiasm about this new opportunity and presenting yourself in the best light possible.
Post-quitting: you revel in the freedom when it's all done, making other seemingly random changes to your lifestyle and routine just for the sake of creating as much stark difference as possible between new life and old. You listen to different music, you drive the other way out of the alley, maybe you get a bad haircut, and you definitely long for a complete wardrobe overhaul even though your current financial situation really doesn't allow for that (due to the whole just quit your job thing).
And the bittersweet part of it, the memories, the sudden little things that you didn't know you'd miss? Thoughts of wondering how things are going in the world you left behind? Sudden flashbacks and triggers that threaten to pull you back into that dark, angry place? They sneak up on you when you least expect them. A song on the radio, a certain smell, a broken dish.
So, yeah. Breakups, quitting. Kind of samesies. I've almost lost track of which one I'm writing about.
Robyn Hendrix is an artist and wearer of many hats who wishes no ill will to any of her previous employers. Witnessing an organization go through many transformations and growing pains is an invaluable and rewarding learning experience. Sadly, we don't currently have societal and governmental systems and policies in place that fully support the diverse and expanding needs of our community, so in the non profit social service field, difficult change is complicated and inevitable. Despite many changes that resulted in the difficult decision to break onto a new path, Robyn feels incredibly grateful to have served women and children for five years in a program that she remains very fond of and dedicated to. Find her on Twitter @robynhendrix and check out her Pinterest page on reinventing yourself (responding to a meme's ironic challenge about planning one's divorce on the social media site with a rep for being overrun with brides-to-be).