I Just Quit A Dream Job.
Why would I quit what I describe as a “dream job”? This job allowed me to work from home, in another state, with somewhat flexible hours providing I wasn’t scheduled for a meeting. It paid very well. It was for a company that is doing good things for the planet. I got along well with my co-workers, and felt as though they respected my contribution to the company. So why leave? The fact of the matter is that I was just… just ready.
My “mojo” was gone. I wasn’t learning anything new; I wasn’t enjoying my job; and I was spending my sunny afternoons looking out my office window at the animals instead of working on projects that needed to be done on the farm. So when a small company approached me about a new opportunity, one which would allow me to work only 25 hours per week, I had to take it seriously. I wouldn’t have to turn my computer on until 5pm. I would be learning about a new business model. My ideas could be tested and implemented within hours or days, rather than months or years. And no more meetings to go over the meeting that we’re going to have next week about next months meeting!!! But my salary would be cut by about 30% – GULP.
Really, that last bit is what I wanted to write about. The rest is all – background. Over the last several years, my wife and I (Mrs. Simpleton) have been reducing our expenditures, paying off debts, and simplifying our lives. There are plenty of people out there who are taking it WAY farther than we have (example, example, example, etcetera…) but we are on our own journey, not someone else’s. Still, our journeys are similar in that we recognize that life is about living, not acquiring; That happiness is about spending time with your loved ones and building experiences, not being Mr. or Mrs. Big-Shot in the corporate world; That we live on average for just 35,215,200 minutes, and the clock never stops ticking; That the end goal is happiness and everything else is just the means.
I asked the question: Would you rather make a little bit more than “enough to get by” working 25 hours per week, or double it by working 40 hours per week?
Answers varied, and it was interesting to read everyone’s unique take on it. But one thing I noticed over and over between the blog post answers and the comments on Facebook, was that a lot of people “would” just work 25 hours per week if they “could” but just – “not right now”. The thing is, I didn’t ask how much debt they had. I didn’t ask what their expenses were. I asked them to assume the 25-hour per week job would cover all of that, but not much more. So what’s the problem? Why not right now?
Answers to questions like that are going to be different for everyone. Our situations are never quite the same. But they are often similar. For instance, most of us worry about retirement. Those of us with children, or who plan to have children, often worry about college funds, buying a first car… Some of us have mortgages; others don’t, but had to save to get there. Some of us live in the country; some of us in the city – all of us looking forward to better days. It really is a TOUGH question, and there is no right or wrong answer. The question was so tough, in fact, that I had to ask a bunch of other people just to reassure myself that I was making the right decision.
In the end it didn’t matter. Had every single person said they would rather work full-time and make more money, I still would have made the same decision to “quit my dream job”. Some time within the next few weeks I am going to wake up on a Monday morning, eat breakfast, read a book while drinking a cup of coffee, put on my overalls, and go do one of the hundreds of chores I need to do around this place. I won’t have any meetings to attend, and I won’t feel guilty for doing something outside during business hours. Around 4pm I’ll come in, take a shower, eat dinner, turn on my computer for the first time all day, and work for a few hours. Around 10pm I’ll shut down and give myself an hour to decompress (i.e. read) before going to bed. I will have the entire weekend off to spend REAL leisure (aka ‘quality’) time with my wife, instead of trying to cram everything into the only two days available for farm work. And the next Monday I’ll do it all over again.
Sometime within the next few months I’ll take five days to visit with my family and I won’t be stressed about getting back to work Monday morning.
Sometime next Spring I will spend a week on a farm in Maine learning how to take care of sheep and goats without being concerned about how much “vacation time” I have left.
Some time next month I will be pruning apple trees without wondering if someone has sent me an email that I need to reply to right away.
We have been preparing for this day for several years. We gave up television. We gave up the conveniences of the city. We gave up a lot of “things”. While my peers drove fancy cars and lived in McMansions, we bought cars with cash and lived in bungalows and duplexes. While our neighbors and friends bought gigantic flat-screen televisions, we were happy with our little box and, eventually, no TV stations at all. Yes, for some a bungalow would be heaven, and any car that runs is a good car. I agree! So why do so many people feel the need to go bigger, better, newer, shinier, and more expensive with the more money they make? Why is it that, the more we make, the more we spend? How can a three-person family with a combined income of more than $80,000 a year still be in debt and living paycheck-to-paycheck? I see it all the time. We could have been on our way there ourselves had we bought into the new “American Dream”. But, thankfully, we both realized that enough was enough – and I mean that in the literal sense.
Yes, I fully understand that not everyone has the luxury of making such a decision. I can do this mostly because I am in an industry in which I can work from home, am very good at what I do, and had some good luck along the way. What about the single mother who raises three children on her own? What about the devoted father who had a family early and had to start working on the crew instead of going to college? What about the 50-year-old who didn’t make the best decisions, or didn’t have the best circumstances, and is now facing retirement with zero savings?
I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. I wish things were different. I wish everyone could do what they enjoy – what they’re good at – and make a decent living. I wish both parents in a family didn’t have to work overtime just to make ends meet. But in our rush toward industrialism, convenience, globalism, technology… we somehow went down the wrong track. The train is barreling down these rails with ever-increasing speed, and at the end is a brick wall. We can only work so much. We can only take from the earth so much. We can only go into debt so far. I have been fortunate enough to see a good place from which to jump off this train, and I am taking it. The only advice I can give for anyone else still riding is to shed as much of your luggage as you can because it’s a long drop from aimless progress to simple happiness.