You Left a Six Figure Job to Do What? Are You Nuts?

FamilyCareers

  • Author Patrick W Byrne
  • Published April 12, 2023
  • Word count 1,832

Everyone thinks I’m nuts. I’m 47 years old, recently quit my six figure job and have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do next. No, really, I have absolutely no idea. I have dreams of grandeur of course, all of which involve day trading, becoming a famous author or starting my own company (doing what, you ask? Once again, no clue). So how did I get here? What made me quit a job at a company where I spent 25 years, had developed what I consider to be a pretty good reputation, while allowing me and my family to live a very comfortable life? I’m hopeful it’s not a mid-life crisis, that would be too simple, I truly think it’s more than that.

Let’s explore the potential insanity of how we got here. I can whittle this decision down to 3 things:

Stress and general dislike of my job

A “life is too short” mentality

An incredibly supportive partner

Stress, stress and more stress

We’ll start with the first one since this is probably the reason most people would leave a job. I didn’t work 80 hour weeks and rarely worked weekends, so what’s the problem? Stress to me could certainly include long hours; however, I’ve had many positions where I’ve had to work on Saturdays or Sunday mornings and had zero problem doing it. There have also been times where I’ve been away for the entire week traveling due to meetings I needed to attend. I’ll hold my comments on this one as this has more to do with work/life balance later, but none of these particularly stressed me to the point of being unhappy. Sometimes you simply have a job that sucks, and you don’t like it. There’s a myriad of reasons for this, but mine boiled down to the tasks necessitated to get the job done, the fact there was zero empathy within the group and company I worked for and a general lack of human decency for the people I was asked to manage. This became extremely clear during the Covid year of 2021.

It started as a “hey, we’ll most likely need to work from home for awhile” and turned into a year and a half, working from home and away from the office. Generally speaking, you would think this has a huge upside and in some ways it did; however, there were other ways where it became a detriment. If you’re already home, 8am or 8pm meetings become the norm. Asking people to stay late or asking me, as the manager, to enact Saturday work to keep up with demand, was a normal occurrence. The number of people I had to counsel due to nervous breakdowns and over the phone crying I can count on both hands. Not great when you have a team of 10 . Corporate America is littered with overworked and underpaid professionals, scraping by to eke out a living. This most certainly wasn’t me, I do feel I was compensated fairly for the work we were asked to do, to a point. I say this because no amount of compensation can justify my missing dinner 3 out of 5 weeknights with my family because I have to attend a 6-8pm call. You can give me another 5% in bonus money and I’ll thank you for it at the end of the year, but the stress this caused both myself and my wife can not be quantified in a dollar amount. We were already dealing with a pandemic situation and this didn’t help. I’m attempting not to complain here since I realize there are literally thousands if not millions of people who worked harder than I did and even had (or still have) to hold down 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. I’m simply stating the work wasn’t for me and, in the end, it’s my life and that’s enough for me to conclude that this is totally ok.

Life is Way Too Short

Fast forward to today. All employees were asked to come back into the office on a hybrid schedule, working from home 2 days and in the office the other 3. Normally I’d be fine with this; however, you get used to your life the way it was when you had more flexibility at home. You can take your kids to school in the morning or actually make their soccer practice on a Tuesday night, let alone helping your spouse make dinner every once in a while. Once the Covid craziness died down, I was able to work from home for about 6-8 months in a more normal working environment. I still didn’t love the job, but the ability to do it at home was a huge plus to stay put for a bit longer, riding it out to see where it would go. I also never traveled over the course of the 18 months to two years when I was at home. Although travel wasn’t a huge part of my job, I did have to go out of town at least 3-4 times per year. When you have kids, and you love your wife, this is not only an inconvenience it’s painful to be away from them. Missing out on any part of my children’s childhood because I have to sit in a meeting for 3 days became unacceptable to me.

My father died at the age of 64. He worked for the same company for 30+ years and, according to my mother, hated every minute of it. I swore when I was younger that I’d never turn out like my father, whoops, I became exactly what I was attempting to avoid. When you work somewhere so long, it becomes a part of who you are, it’s truly your identity in so many ways. You’re proud of it, you wear it around like a badge of honor. That’s great, but if you hate it, what does that badge truly represent? Your misery? I think so, and if that’s the case, what’s the purpose of continuing to wear it with pride. If anything, it’s time to take it off, hang it on the shelf and move on to the next adventure.

I already established earlier that I’m 47 years old. I’m quite a bit healthier than my father ever was, having never gotten into the habit of drinking a 12 pack of Natty LIghts followed by a Dinty Moore Stew late night chaser. But, you never know what’s going to happen, what if I did take after my father and only had 17 years left to live? Would I want to spend it chained to my desk on conference calls all day or would I want to spend it living with my family? Pretty sure anyone can answer that question pretty easily. I made what many would consider a hard choice, but to me, it was pretty simple. There’s no reason to deny ourselves true happiness. Not at the expense of others mind you, but why be miserable doing something day in and day out if you don’t have to? This brings me to my third reason for quitting, a reliable and supportive partner.

It Takes Two to Tango

Not everyone has what my wife and I have, although I wish they did. She’s supportive of me, I'm supportive of her and we’re both proud of each other's accomplishments. She wants nothing more than for me to be happy, even if that means she will be the breadwinner for the foreseeable future. We’ve spent countless days and nights discussing my unhappiness, and although she probably wanted to throw me off a bridge more than once, she stayed patient and provided advice and guidance when I needed it. It also helps she was able to move out of a contract position and into a full time role with her company. She now has all the benefits a white collar office job provides (401K, bonus potential, pension, health care, etc). This has allowed us to make this decision as a team. That’s right, as a team.

Decisions like this shouldn’t be made alone. You were in the emotional battles together over the years, why would you shy away from taking this to the finish line together? The team concept is essential to making something like this work. As of this writing, I still have another week of work left to go. This means the real test hasn’t yet begun. What will I do all day? Will my wife resent me for not working? Will she judge me if I simply read a book, for the entire day, followed by a dip in the hot tub? Are all of these things ok? The answer is, I’m not 100% sure yet, but I do know we will discuss any and all animosity when it may present itself. I’m not an expert in the human condition, but it will most definitely present itself.

When my wife has a particularly stressful day while I’ve been sunning myself on the back deck, well, I think you can see how this may cause issues. The key is, talk about it, while also being helpful around the house and with the kids. Food shopping needs to be done? No problem, on it. Laundry piling up? Got it, don’t worry about it. You can also see the whole gender role things go away, this has to be the case. We don’t live in 1950s America anymore. It’s not my wife’s job to cook, clean and go to work while I sit at home and do nothing. I need to put aside my male ego and do what’s necessary to keep the house running, this includes taking my daughter to dance recitals and even Saturday afternoon birthday parties, college football watching be damned.

My plan is not to retire fully, just to take time off to think and catch my breath, a much needed respite in what has thus far been a moderately fulfilling work life. I don’t feel the need to apologize for this or explain myself to anyone, this is simply what must be, the rest of my life and where it goes from here depends on it.

So, there you have it. A work life that once consumed much of my time, effort and focus will now be steered in other directions as of yet unknown. The good news is, if you’re reading this, one of my dreams of grandeur would’ve already come true, I’ll be a published author! Sure, it’s not a novel or perhaps even a best seller, but everyone has to start somewhere. Now, if I can only make that day trading idea work out, we may be onto something.

Patrick Byrne lives in Tega Cay, South Carolina with his wife and two kids. With 25 years of marketing experience in financial services, he recently resigned to pursue a career as a writer full time.

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