It’s funny, walking away from the thing that has structured your life for about two and a half years. Even if you know, quiet and deep and sad in your bones, that you have to step back – get out or go mad – it still aches a little, saying goodbye. The name you’ve got used to saying becomes just another cluster of letters; “our” and “we” become “their” and “them”.
I left the London job in August. I didn’t last long, I know. Of course I wish I’d stuck it out longer. When it comes to quitting a job, the commonly-held wisdom is that leaving before a year is poor form, ten months at the absolute minimum. Half that is unspeakable – and I do feel like a honking great failure for ducking out so soon. I didn’t decide on the spur of the moment; it was not a flippant thing. I’m not usually a quitter – I’ve stuck out jobs that were far worse for far longer. Perhaps that’s exactly why I didn’t drag it out any longer this time around – I’ve experienced first-hand that sticking at something simply for sticking’s sake isn’t a virtue. St Peter doesn’t meet you at the Pearly Gates and say, “I see in your twenties, you stayed in a job that was making you miserable for nearly two years – good work! Let me show you to the top table – quiet though, Prince has been soloing for the last ninety minutes”. Doing the right thing for your own circumstances is the real virtue; no-one can live your life for you. Though God knows, they will try.
It was the dog that did it. One grey evening in June, I met a miniature Yorkshire terrier on the beach. She was so little, she could barely heave her tiny paws over the pebbles to come and say hello. I bent down to stroke her and she licked my fingers, and I promptly burst into tears. When you’re crying over impossibly small dogs simply because they’re impossibly small, you might just be in need of some rest. Apparently spending between 4 and 5 hours on a train every day isn’t sustainable, especially when it means you’re slightly worse off financially that you were before. And I’m not wholly convinced that Southern Rail’s “service” over the last few months quite justifies their exorbitant ticket prices, but that’s a rant that’s already been had on my Twitter feed, multiple times. It was unlucky that the industrial action kicked off about two weeks after I started my new job, but even without that, if 20 hours of your week is spent just trying to get to and from work, it will start to take its toll. “If you told me I’d be paid to play drums every day, but the caveat was I had to drive for four hours to do it, I probably wouldn’t,” said Drummer Boy, in an attempt to reassure me I wasn’t being totally feeble. I don’t believe him for a moment, as I’ve seen him rehearse til ridiculous o’clock, and drive horrendous distances in order to bang the drums, but I appreciated the sentiment. Kind of.
So at the end of July, I gave in to the constant tiredness and relentless tides of anxiety. I’d needed a change, I’d been offered one, it hadn’t worked out. I tried – and am indeed still trying – to not see this as a catastrophic, world-ending failure on my part. Reasonably bright, ambitious young people who want successful careers aren’t supposed to just quit. We’re especially not supposed to quit if we don’t have a new role to slip into as soon as our current one ends. All I had planned for after my last day at work was a trip to Paris (which was amazing, I might add). A few people looked surprised when I said I’d handed in my notice with nothing to go to, and fewer still said it was “brave” or “bold”, in that way that really means “gosh, that’s a bit foolish, isn’t it? Rather you than me”. My own mother took the biscuit when, on the day after I got back from Paris, she grimaced and said “really, you should have found something else before you left that job” – having spent the previous couple of months telling me “oh, just hand in your notice, you can temp or something, you won’t have any trouble finding work”. Mothers are impossible.
So I had to revisit those hideous post-graduation days of endlessly applying for jobs, endlessly refreshing my email in case of good news, endlessly scouring Indeed and Reed and Charity Job and local job boards for a spark of something promising. It was only marginally less soul-destroying this time than it was three years ago, because at least now I have some demonstrable experience of Being In An Office. But oh, the things I saw out there in the wilderness of recruitment… The number of unpaid internships still hanging around, for a start – I even found a company in Reading advertising for an ADMIN ASSISTANT INTERNSHIP. I shit you not, they were claiming that you needed to intern before you could be a fully-fledged admin assistant. What in the name of arse?!
But again, that’s a rant for another day. After getting to the final round of interviews for my dream role at my dream organisation, and then NOT GETTING THE JOB BUT IT’S FINE ‘CAUSE I’M TOTALLY OVER IT, I spent a few days focusing on roles in Brighton, and something came up. And that’s what I start tomorrow. A twenty-minute walk from the flat; I can be back on the beach by 6pm if I want to be. It may not be permanent, but it’s a start in a new direction.
To quote A.L. Kennedy: onwards.