It is so hard to leave. Until you leave. Then it’s the easiest thing in the world.
— John Green, Paper Towns
Fair warning: This post is going to be a little raw. I haven’t done much editing or anything extra to produce it. I want to dump it out, and time is limited, and that’s that. So it’s going to read a little messier than average.
I’m at my desk on Monday and I’m thinking about what I have to do today, and really the only thing I have to do is quit. Can I go through with it? I don’t know. I’ve been planning for this day for something like 3,960 days or so, not that I’m counting or anything, and now that it’s here I don’t even know how I feel. Relieved? Anxious? Apathetic?
I settle on apathy. Who gives a shit. I can hear the hum of a delivery truck idling outside of my building and somehow the low-pitched constancy of the noise makes me feel like what I’m about to do is no big deal. Because it isn’t. The trucks will keep coming, whether or not I’m here. Office life will continue to happen. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is taking care of this. Treat it like any other high priority item on your task list.
At eleven on the dot, my manager shows up in my cube. I expected this — it’s part of our weekly routine. He has a few meetings with higher ups early in the morning at the beginning of every week. They discuss status on initiatives and outstanding issues. Immediately following what are surely awe-inspiring gatherings, filling him with renewed purpose and reason to draw breath, he will come down to ask me for updates and provide new marching orders for the week.
We talk about a few things and after ten minutes or so, he’s run out of steam. He kind of trails off talking about some longer term project that may or may not happen next year and that’s a signal that he’s about to wrap up the conversation; he typically starts in on the super urgent stuff, meanders over to mid-term tasks, and finally finishes by going on about the direction of the team and the department and my role in making all of this absolutely stupendous stuff happen, new technologies and upgrades and integration points and team expansion and upward and onward, forevermore.
Right when it looks like he’s about to wander off, I ask him if he has some time to speak privately and he’s like, sure. He’d been leaning his entire back against the wall while discussing the weekly logistics and he sort of pushes his eggplant-shaped body up and off with his forearms and palms. It takes a full minute to shuffle over to his office, and neither of us say a word. I find myself wondering if he’s already guessing at the inevitable.
Once the door is closed, I settle into a chair and he asks me what’s up.
Well, you know how I took last week off for family related reasons, right?
Yes, is everything okay?
More or less, yes. But the thing is, a few things became clear to me over the course of the week. My wife and I have agreed that we need to spend more time with our families and less time working.
<<My boss assumes a horrified expression as I say this, his lips pulling to the sides of his face in a full-on grimace. As recently as ten seconds ago, he had a fake smile plastered to his face, but it’s nowhere to be seen now. I find I prefer the grimace. At least it’s authentic. I plow ahead.>>
We’ve essentially decided to re-prioritize our lives and put family first. As a result, I’m providing three weeks’ notice.
<<He’s dumbstruck. Not a word. I’d more or less planned on what I needed to say in advance, and since he’s not trying to interrupt or ask questions, I continue reading from the script in my head. A small part of my brain is shocked that I’m able to do this. To quit. Is it really happening? >>
That makes my final day April 3rd. I should add that this decision was not exactly easy for me. This has been a terrific job, overall. Probably the best of my career. I’ve enjoyed much of my time here. But it’s time for me to move on.
<<He’s still not saying anything. Does he think I have more to say? Well, I don’t. Guess I’ll have to prompt the human vegetable.>>
So what are the next steps? Do I need to talk to HR?
<<Finally something comes unstuck and he starts talking. To my surprise, right as he begins to form words, I feel something in my chest that wasn’t there before, something airy and light that’s trying to bust out of the top like a bubble rising to the surface of the ocean. It’s then that I realize I’m not as apathetic about all of this as I initially thought. That there was a genuine response.>>
Are you sure about this?
Can you talk about what the family commitments are? Is it anything we can help with? You know that we can work with employees to provide more flexible scheduling to work with them through emergencies or crises.
I’d really prefer not to get into the weeds there, to be honest. It’s personal stuff, after all. But what I can say is that it’ll take a lot of hours — the requirements also demand a high degree of schedule flexibility. These are things that I’m not comfortable asking from <employer>. It’s not fair to the organization.
Could this be something that might pass after a while?
Pass? What do you mean?
Might the family stuff get resolved, allowing you to return to work?
It’s possible. But probably not. Oh, and that’s not all — I’m moving to <new town>. We’re listing the house this week. It’s not commutable.
<<Here he immediately punches <new town> into Google Maps and swings his monitor around so we can both see the screen simultaneously.>>
That’s only an hour away. Ten minutes more than me! You can definitely drive that.
No, I can’t do that, it’s not reasonable.
If I can do it, you can too.
<<I stifle an urge to say, “Look, old buddy, old pal — I am not you. I will not live my life like you. Will not waste my life driving, or working in this office having Monday morning meetings to plan out weeks which are roughly the same as every other week. You can do these things for the next thirty years as you strive for whatever it is that you’re striving for, but not me.” Instead, though, what comes out is, thankfully, much more reasonable sounding.>>
<Manager>, I really don’t want to commute for two hours every day. That’s not something I’m willing to do on top of seven or eight hour workdays. I will not be able to support my family and live the life I need to live while doing that.
Maybe I can find ways to allow you to work from home more often.
I’m not sure it would make a difference, to be honest. Because like I said, I need a lot more flexibility for my family in the future. April 3rd will be my last day.
Right, you said that already. Oh, I get it, you said it again because I was going off on a tangent. I do that sometimes. Well. This is really unfortunate. You’ve ruined my week.
<<He laughs unexpectedly in an effort to relieve tension and show me that he was sort of joking, that it’s not really a big deal. Then he goes on gushing about how much he’s valued me as a member of the team and I return the ego-stroking favor by prattling on about how much I’ve enjoyed my time with the company and it’s just a big congratulatory circle-jerk of love and mutual admiration. Although I’m pretty sure he could do this all day, I can only stand these sorts of exchanges for limited period of time before I’m overcome by embarrassment and boredom. After two or three minutes I end it.>>
So about those next steps. You’ll let me know, right? I’m assuming you’ll need a written notice.
Yes, I’ll have HR contact you. Would you mind in the meantime if I also explored other more flexible options available for employment? What if we could give you a sabbatical, for example?
Before coming into the meeting, I had decided that if they offered me a sabbatical, I would take it. So I did. And then I thanked him for his time and booked it out of there before he could come up with any more wonky shit to say.
On the way back to my desk, I took stock of the situation. Did I feel any different? Was I happy with how it went?
Suddenly I’m aware of another delivery truck arriving at the front of the building. The rumble produces so much energy that I feel it right through the floor. And just like I did earlier that day, it brings on a sense of nameless comfort and well being, along with a profound feeling of not-unpleasant apathy. I wonder if I’m just too numbed out to process any of this.
A second later, I decide that things feel exactly the same as they did prior to quitting. How had I waited so long to do this? Why had I put hours and hours of thought and anguish into something that took less than an hour and wasn’t even all that unpleasant? It seems incomprehensible. I’m an adult, and I wanted to quit, and now I’ve done it — given myself what I want. Is it really so odd?
The next thing I know, I’m inexplicably walking past my cube farm and out a side door, down a sidewalk into a small commercial strip. It’s close to lunch time and a few people are already out trying to snag some food. The weather is relatively good for mid-March in New England, overcast and mid-forties, so I spend the next hour on a bench just watching people, looking outward, considering what they were all doing with their lives. Lady with red hair and high heels eating a six inch sub. Legal? Finance? Two twentysomethings strolling along, chatting it up, smiling. Students? A dog without a leash. A stray, or trained to stay in the area?
A bit after one o’clock, instead of going back to my building, I text my manager: Not feeling well. Call cell if you need me.
Then I head home.
That’s all that needs to be said 🙂
I’ve now joined you in the class of 2015, GC. A few days to go, sure, but it’s essentially over. Very cool.
Wow you did it! Congrats! I have so many questions that I know you’ll most likely cover in the future but I’ll throw some out anyways. Are you finishing out your 3 weeks? Did you accept the sabbatical just to stop the conversation? Where are you moving? Have you already purchased the new property?
Thanks for all the transparency you have provided in your blog. You’ve been much of an inspiration. (Now I sound like your circle jerking manager so I’ll stop)
In my free time today I’m hoping to throw together a much less exciting part 2 where I will wrap some of these things up. A little less emotional and internal stuff, more logistics and planning. Thanks for reading FF.
Congratulations on announcing your exit. It’s quite clear that as disconnected and detached as you feel from your work, your manager thinks you’re great. I predict that he will see your decision to go home early as having doubts about your decision, and will probably redouble his efforts to keep you from leaving permanently. Good luck with selling the house!
Yeah, I’m overqualified for my position. I intentionally downsized my career 3 years ago specifically to slow the treadmill down, and one of the results is that I stand out relative to my peers in terms of technical competence. It’s nice. Thanks for the warm wishes on the house, we’re getting it done but dang it’s a lot of work.
I’m so proud of you!
Woot! Congrats Doom!
Hells yeah, Cheddar.
Wow. Momentous day. Congratulations. Glad you weren’t the dog without a leash, sticking around anyway.
Yeah, obvious, clumsy metaphor, but a true part of the story and day. I’m definitely still chewing on the experience, at least partially because it’s not exactly over — meetings with director and HR follow. Luckily the selling-the-house thing is keeping me busy so I don’t obsess on it.
Not so obvious. I wasn’t entirely sure it was intentional. I thought maybe it was subconscious symbolism. I’m definitely curious what they’re going to use to try to lure you back in—telecommuting? You’ve got me yearning for the day that I can type a similar post. I’ve spent the past hour running various money pot models. Hope you had another not unpleasant day today.
unintentional-intentional, came out involuntarily, but as soon as I’d typed it I saw the connection. Interesting the way our minds work.
Aha! It’s official. I am still dreading this talk with my manager. Dreading that they will want me to stay, and dreading that they won’t…..
Congratulations! You are free.
Yep, official. Take heart, G, it’s not so bad. The great thing is that in the end it doesn’t matter whether or not they want you to stay — what matters is whether or not you want to leave. 🙂
Oh wow – congrats on pulling the trigger!
That’s pretty flattering (and frustrating) the way your boss kept trying to find alternatives to get you to stay.
Thanks! Now that the dust is settled, I’m increasingly happy that I was able to follow through. It’s definitely the right time, it felt, for lack of a better descriptor, necessary, aka non-optional.
Beautiful post–beautiful in its rawness, its immediacy, its frankness, its honesty. I will eagerly await your next update!
I had a similar conversation with my then-boss a year ago–and am still working with the company as a contractor. In my case I’m grateful for the opportunity–but in your case it might be detrimental to your life-pan to give too much heed to the siren call to continue to help out. Be honest with yourself, talk it through with your wife, and listen to what your deep heart’s core is telling you.
We are all rooting for you!
Some good advice there, thanks for the comment. My heart is telling me to run the hell away from my industry and lock the experiences in a small dark basement so they’ll never see the light of day again. But that’s all short term-emotion stuff – I doubt I’ll be able to see things clearly until I’ve actually not been working for a couple of months.
That’s awesome, Congrats! I had a similar experience when I changed jobs, my manager was almost the exact clone of yours from the sounds of it. It was great, and I can’t wait until I get to do it for good in a few more years. Can’t wait to read the follow-up posts!
Managers: More similar than they are different.
Glad you’re enjoying these. Looks like it’s going to end up 3 parts, I have one more meeting to go today and things should be, thankfully, settled. Will try to dump it out tonight/tomorrow as time allows.
Congratulations Dr Doom!
Now, I am being selfish, but I would like updates on your blog during FI.
Somewhat similar to my experience. Great to hear this news! Expect to hear from progressively higher levels of management over the next three weeks wanting to know ‘what they can change’ or some such. I actually let them know I was FI and it baffled them. “You are really going to just walk away during your peak earning years? You know you are leaving literally millions on the table?!?” Yep. Two weeks (and three days). HR knows how to find me.
Then they walked me out the door to make sure I didn’t steal a coffee pot on the way out or something else sinister.
Your predictive ability is remarkable. This is exactly what’s been happening. Director Tues, CIO Thurs, President today. The less I say about what I’m doing next or why I’m leaving, the more they want to retain me. I think it’s staggeringly awesome that you told them the bold truth, btw,
Coffee pot comment: perhaps confirms some of my theories about what people think about you when you say you’re retiring. They get suspicious that you’re secretly harboring a bad attitude, even though I’m nearly positive you were not, based on what I know of you. You simply wanted to leave to pursue your own life.
Bravo, good Sir!
I’ve been looking forward to this post for the last couple of days. I’m currently facing a similar situation and this gives me the confidence to execute the plan. Nice work…pun intended.
” Quitters never win, winners never quit…but those who never win or quit are simply fools”.
People who go out on their own terms in order to live life on their own terms have indeed won.
>> I’m currently facing a similar situation and this gives me the confidence to execute the plan.
Terrific. I’m rooting for you!
Congratulations, and I second all the comments on the beauty of this post. Yours is the only early retirement blog that I read the way I read a great novel. We’re all right there along with you, our protagonist, vicariously living your experiences — in this case, after so much build-up, sharing your sense of anticlimax. Don’t ever come back and edit this post; let its rawness stand.
Thanks a lot for the warm remarks. I do occasionally get concerned about the levels of transparency and TMI-ish-ness I’m dropping into the blog but I’m not sure I know how else to write about these things, and if I wait a month and then do them, I fear they’ll come out sterile. “Quitting was great! Yay!” Etc.
At least in my experience it’s awfully hard to ever get too TMI. A lot of folks have told me how much they appreciate my transparency on the blog and forum journal. On the other hand, it’s very easy to be so sterile that your readers can’t connect. My favorite blogs are the ones that, like yours, share a lot of detail.
Nice work preparing for this conversation–anticipating offers to change things, planning to accept a sabbatical, etc. It will be interesting to hear what other options they come up with and also how your work dynamic changes for the last couple of weeks.
Work dynamics. I think you’ve just provided the idea for the next post after this series is done. Thanks, Jared.
Wait a minute here, no superhero graphics?! You really are becoming a slacker, just as The MegaCorp told us You Retirees become. Watch out for senility, incontinence, and an uncontrollable urge to discuss Fox news… Geeze, is it April 1st yet?
Great story, especially how it felt that afternoon. These 3 weeks might be a little sucky, but there could also be some good new material in there (especially now that the cat is out of the bag)!
Thanks for the laugh, awesome. I miss doing the image work but the week has been nuttier than usual, I’m just trying to crank these out while the experiences are hot and accessible.
And if you think this is slacking, you ain’t seen nothing yet. After my last day at work, when I really settle into a good no-pants groove, I plan on issuing posts consisting of no more than 50 words, half of which will be taken up by product placement promos (So I logged into ALLY today!), and half quotes I like from other bloggers.
It’s gonna be great.
I’m so excited to read this! Well served. As others have mentioned let the rawness stand.
I had to close my eyes and look away before hitting publish, as I really no idea how it was going to be received. Seems like it’s fine. Whew!
Awesome – you’re an inspiration – keep up the good “work”- make that the good retirement!
Will do. Thanks!
Hooray!!! Thanks for the inspiration. I feel fear about the actual conversation with my boss that I hope I have the strength to have later this year. My boss is a good guy…everything else about the organization and the union (and I’m a union steward) drives me up the wall.
I understand the concern. My manager really is a decent guy too. One of the best I’ve had. I occasionally feel pangs of guilt for leaving him — I know his life will be temporarily worse, and he’s told me as much, several times, which is kind of heartbreaking — but at the same time, we’ve all got to live our lives. The good news is that not only am I certain the discomfort is totally transient and will pass quickly, it’s far eclipsed by the excitement I feel about the next phase of life.
Especially on the sabbatical. It is remarkable how often otherwise unavailable options open up once you are headed for the door. Not always certainly, but often.
Absolutely. My experience reminded me of the Fientist post on the power of quit. I suspect similarly terrific opportunities will be opened to many of us as we cross the finish line and (try to?) depart our employers.
I have been following your blog for quite some time and was very eager to read a post like this.
This blog, along with Brave New Life have given me the fuel I need to start seriously considering the FIRE life for myself. After reading this today, I left the office at 2 in the afternoon, drove to the state park down the road and went for a run. I ran with no objective other than to enjoy the crisp air and bright sun of the early afternoon. I stopped to admire the beauty of nature and contemplate the future. I explored new trails, and literally kept running until I couldn’t anymore, then walked and savored the feeling of sweat on my brow and the sun on my face and then started running again.
It was very freeing to just run without an agenda, without any strings attached and without needing to be anywhere for anyone.
I thought a lot about the dog with no leash analogy and how that is pretty close to describing me given my current net worth and living expenses.
Blogs like yours make me believe that I’ll be able to make the leap someday soon. Can’t wait!
What a great share, thanks much for this comment – felt like I was running for a moment myself. This is really what I’m looking forward to, the sense of absolute control and freedom that you’ve mentioned. No more “gotta stop doing this fun thing now because I have to go back to work.”
I really admire BNL, btw, one of my favorite ER bloggers. He was my primary inspiration for several years, even above MMM. Particularly I loved his willingness to talk about transition-related aspects, which was, at the time, unique. And a big congrats on being so close yourself!
Not just blowing smoke, but your blog and BNL have been very transformative and extremely timely given what I have going on. I have devoured every word.
I find several parallels with each of you. I’m 37, engineering degree, work in software, love to workout, seek a deeper connection with nature and my family/friends, have saved well for most of my life but didn’t see the FIRE possibility until recently.
You each have a powerful voice that resonates deeply within me and has begun to challenge the very core of what I thought my “life script” was supposed to be. And it has been an exciting wild ride thus far, and I am looking forward to how my own journey will progress from this point onward.
Awesome reading your story and it has inspired me to think about my own situation. I have been with the same company for 25+ years and it is definitely wearing on me this last year or so. I am close to being FI (or maybe I am but can’t pull the trigger). If i was to be told today that I’m no longer needed, I would take it as a blessing.
I know what you mean re: being told. Having to make an active choice (which requires multiple meetings and explanations) can feel like a lot of work. But it’s worth it in the end. Good luck with your own evaluation and planning — it sounds like you’re just about there, very cool.
Your writing is so pure, simple and elegant. A very tough thing to do. If you could write fiction this way you would have another career to retire from–or take a sabbatical from. I’m not really sure what you decided. Nice cliffhanger. Can’t wait for part two.
Thanks for the vote of confidence. It’s hard for me to gauge these things myself.
Congrats! I had been waiting to see this post, and its a great one. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for the psychological/emotional aspects you share. Thanks and congrats again!
Congratulations! Your writing is wonderful. Just found the blog and when I saw how close you were to quitting I plowed through most of the posts in order to get here (you can not start at the back of the book, it ruins it!) Kinda like binge watching a great series. Seriously, congratulations and enjoy your newest purchase… freedom.
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Congratulations! That’s very classy of you. Your boss really wanted you to stay. Enjoy your last few weeks of gainful employment. 🙂