On Quitting - Part 1

Whenever I quit my job people almost always react the same way. Without fail, immediately after I tell them the news, my coworkers have responded with one of three different responses. Sometimes they say all three.

The first:

Where are you going?

I never really noticed it before, which is kind of shocking considering how many jobs I've had, but it's kind of an interesting question: Where are you going? 

As though the only reason I could be leaving my current job is because there is some other job luring me away. A greener grass. Sometimes people ask why I am leaving but it is almost always more about the where that I am going then the where that I’ve been.

I suppose 'where are you going' is a natural response to 'I'm leaving'. But in some ways it is funny that people's first in inclination is to find out the details. Where? WHERE? As though that would be able to justify in their minds your reason for leaving.

Where are you going?

It's so strange. Where? Where as in will I be able to find you? But hidden in the where is the why. Because where must be the why. The why being that some company offered you something better.

We don't tend to think that some companies can't offer anything better. That what some people need or desire cannot be found within the confines of a corporate office. Sometimes the answer to where is everywhere. As least that’s how I saw the answer.

The second:

We have to have lunch before you go.

Nine times out of ten the lunch never happens. It's not because somebody drops the ball. It’s just that those two weeks before you leave suddenly become crammed with last minute to-dos. Really it's nobody's fault per se, which is to say its kind of everybody's fault. It is a function of working in the corporate environment.

This one makes me the saddest of the three because it speaks to our tendencies, myself specifically included, to take our friends and colleagues for granted until they have an expiration date. Because we are too busy. Because we think we can do it next week. Because we have all the time in the world.

When you see somebody every day you can have lunch with him or her any day. Rarely do we ever take the opportunity make the most of people or places or moments unless there is something very specific telling us to. Something likes dwindling time.

It doesn't happen only in the workplace. It happens when you move, at the end of the school year... It happens when the ever-passing moment gets closer to being passed. It always catches us off guard, like we don't expect it, because we don't.

A body in motion stays in motion, the lives we lead will continue to be like this forever unless changed by some strange or unseen forces. It's really quite a shame. I have done it too, watched people move on with their lives wishing I had gotten more of their minutes, wishing I had shared more of their time.

I have never made the most of any relationship. I have never told people how much I enjoy them enough, made enough of an effort, or been as good a friend as I could be. It scares me to think this might be a permanent trend but my hope is that my gradually increasing awareness will nudge along my constantly lagging actions.

The third:

Oh my god I want to quit so badly.

It doesn't matter how good or successful the company, there are always people who are unhappy, frustrated or flat out miserable.

And somehow, by stating the fact that I am leaving a company I endear myself to those unhappy individuals, become trustworthy, and ultimately, a confidant.

When you tell somebody you are going to quit you are publicly putting on a badge, a badge that many others wear secretly. And by announcing yourself you reveal yourself to those still closeted members.

Even if you never had anything in common before, NOW you are bonded. Now you have something to share. And the secret is safe with you because, well, you're leaving soon. So what harm are you?

It is amazing what you find out about your place of employment and the people around you when you decide to leave a company.

It's like people can't wait to tell you the jobs they've been looking at, the interviews they've had and how they're going to quit.

Oh yea, that's a big one, the how.

Oh man when I quit I'm just not going to come in.

Or

I'm gonna give my two weeks notice and then I'm just gonna burn all my vacation days.

People dream about quitting the way little boys dream about making the last out of the World Series. People obsess over it, fantasize about it and ultimately… just end up sending an email.

When you make the decision to leave a company you become, to others, a black hole of information, somebody incapable of sharing anything.

I know all of this because I've quit a lot of jobs. This is the fifth job I've quit since leaving college and it has been nearly the same every time. That scares me. Five jobs at five extremely different companies with very different kinds of people and yet the same reactions.

The familiarity of it feels very strange to me.

The fact that those three responses happen every single time point to larger issues. Social norms that we choose not to acknowledge or to acknowledge but ignore.

Some people frown when you tell them you're quitting. Some people tell you they knew all along. Some people are so shocked they just spontaneously swear.

Those are kind of the best reactions.

People ask to keep in touch. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. Some friendships exist only inside of the workplace. Some are merely started there.And as I’ve learned time and time again, leaving a job isn’t the end of anything except the beginning.

To be continued…