It’s Time to Quit the Job You Hate and Figure Out What Really Matters

I might lose my job. Might. For the most part the decision is up to me.

I took a risk and accepted a nine-month limited term position with a governmental organization for a huge pay raise, amazing benefits, and “experience.” It’s flexible, and there are a lot of young professionals (outside my department) that have become my friends. BUT. But. The job blows. Blows so hard it’s making me re-think my career choice in general. It’s nothing like the job description I interviewed for. Plus the management is awful (awful!), there’s a big language barrier and potential for the project I’m working on to fail (due to unrealistic timeframe on the consultant side). I have little work to do and most is secretarial. I’m a little distracted, maybe unmotivated, and tired. The position is coming to an end and I’m not sure how much I want to fight for it. After speaking with HR, it appears that management is looking to me for an answer but it needs to be more than just a “yea, sure… staying sounds good.” I have two months left.

In addition, my mom is … dying. The pancreatic cancer she’s been battling for the last 18 months is closing in for the win. It would be extremely difficult to live on unemployment, but I’d have time. So much time. For her. For my Dad. For family. And friends. And rest. And fitness. And volunteering. All the things I’ve put on hold for the last 18 months while I adjusted to this new job (which included a move) and visited my mom and dad as much as possible (they live about an hour away). My mom’s life is coming to an end and I’m at a crossroads. I’ve thought of moving in with my dad, but for the near future it’s not really an option. I need space for mental stability (cancer is the worst roommate ever). Plus, the job opportunities in my area are much better.

So what would you do? Fight for a job you hate, but has financial stability and coworkers you love? Or walk away and struggle financially, but have time for family and self-care?


A Deer in Headlights

Walk away. Walk away from the job you hate, the job that blows, and walk yourself all the way back home to spend some time with your mom. There will be other jobs, other times to get your career and finances back on track. You only have one mother, and one window of time to be with her. Leave the job you hate behind and go be with your mom and your dad and your friends, and also use the time for yourself to regroup and figure out what you want to do next.

A few years ago, a friend of mine discovered that his mother was dying of cancer, and when he learned that she only had about a year to live, he quit his job so he could be with her. The job he quit was his dream job — one he worked really hard for many years to get. But he gave up that job, and his nice apartment, and said goodbye to the friends he made in the city he loved to go be with his mother in the final year of her life. He took her out for dinners and to see the sun set. When she no longer had the energy to get out of the house, he stayed in and made her the best meals he could, and rented movies, and looked through photo albums, and remembered all the good times. And when she no longer had the energy to eat, he told her that he loved her, every day, until she passed away.

There were no regrets.

After she passed, he took some time to be with his dad and his siblings, and they traveled the world, charged things on their credit cards, remembered the woman who meant so much to them, and tried to live the way she would have wanted them to live: joyfully, with a reason to get up every day. My friend eventually found another job, and then another, and is now doing well for himself. He’s also debt-free.

You will find a way to make it work. Work odd jobs. Find a part-time retail job while you’re back at home and need the money to get by. Lean on credit cards if you have to. It’s just money. You have the rest of your life to work out your finances. You only have this time now to be with your mom.

You will figure it out. You will find another job, hopefully one you won’t hate. After your mom passes, you will figure out how to live again, and how to get your finances back on track. And you will have the memories of your mother in her final days. There will be no regrets.

Update: Sept. 2014

I wanted to provide an update and share that I took your advice. I did walk away.

I gave myself permission to leave a good paying government job, rack up copious amounts of debt, and cash out a retirement account. I was trying to prepare myself for falling off a cliff. But you can’t. Just like you can’t prepare yourself for the loss of a parent.

My mother passed away six days after this column was posted. I was the last person to hold my mother’s hand when she was alive. My voice was the last she heard. I was there to plan her funeral, pack up the medical supplies, pick up the pieces, and hug my Dad a 1,000 times a day.

It’s been about 14 months total and I spent nine of them unemployed. I ended up with around $8,000 in credit card debt (at zero percent interest). I put my student loan and car payment on hold for a few months and became (temporarily) vegetarian to save on grocery bills. I paid out of pocket for therapy. I had to cash out a small retirement account to cover a major car repair. It was extremely challenging to balance much needed nourishment and living expenses. Feelings of panic and deprivation were common, but so were feelings of gratitude and joy — I had all this time and space to heal.

I filled my lungs with fresh air and lost 15 pounds of grief weight (resulting from months of grief treats). I slowly came back to life. I thought a lot about what I wanted to do with my career, what was important to me professionally, and what I’ve always gravitated toward. I couldn’t return to a job that I didn’t believe in. And in the end a really amazing job found me.

I discovered that I wasn’t on the wrong path, I wasn’t even in the wrong field, I was just sad. My heart was slowly breaking for the goodbye that was getting closer. One day I will be debt-free like the friend you spoke of — not today and probably not tomorrow, but one day. No regrets. It really is just money.

Thanks for the advice. Thanks for the Billfold.

Photo: Don McCoullough

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