Quitting can be right and necessary when your best efforts are constantly met with criticism or failure.
It felt like the bites of 100,000 mosquitoes, and I had no bug spray.
That’s how I describe an awful job that left me emotionally, physically and spiritually drained. Just as 100,000 mosquitoes would do, it sucked away nearly every drop of strength I had and menacingly buzzed around my family.
I had no choice.
I had to open up a giant can of (fill in the blank).
The swarm begins
Give me some credit. I was tempted, but I never opened up the proverbial can of righteous indignation. However, I did behave in a way that is greatly out of character – I quit.
My mosquito problem began at a communications agency. (Factoid: Only a few bloodsuckers are created within the marketing and advertising arms of communications agencies. The bulk are birthed by political parties.) They had signed a contract with a non-profit organization that needed some communications help during a transitional phase. I was added to the team and quickly learned the client’s “transitional phase” involved an incomplete public relations campaign, turf wars among members of management, exorbitant executive salaries, and a round of layoffs due to “financial difficulties.” Within a few weeks of my addition, another round of layoffs occurred, and many more employees were let go in the name of “right-sizing.” To add insult to injury, many of the job duties performed by jettisoned employees were taken over by consulting agencies and other outside vendors.
The entire situation was unsettling. Maybe I’m too sensitive, but I wrestled with receiving a paycheck based on others’ misfortune. I disliked hearing the consultants tell the remaining employees what to do and how to do it. I hated seeing the look in their eyes as they waited for the other shoe to drop.
Things weren’t much better on my end. Expectations were often unclear or unrealistic, plans were constantly changing, and our original employee contacts were eliminated during the second round of layoffs. I lost count of the number of times my supervisor threw me under the bus, but the client or my co-workers may have kept a running tally. When the work day was over, I was absolutely exhausted and had no energy or patience for my family. My daughter fell into an emotional funk, and my son, who was facing some learning difficulties, was giving up on school.
I endured the environment for three months, but a cold and rainy afternoon pushed me to my breaking point. After yet another bus throwing, I managed to leave early enough to pick my son up from school. He had taken a practice version of our state’s end-of-year exam earlier in the day and seemed upset when he got into the car. “I’m too stupid to pass the test,” he tearfully sobbed.
That was it. No more.
I sent my supervisor an email tendering my immediate resignation. It was met with an accusatory response about how unprofessional and uncaring I was. I felt scared, betrayed, helpless and angry. I sacrificed my time, energy and focus for this project at the expense of my family and well-being, and they had the nerve to accuse me of being dishonorable?
I was tempted to gloriously go-off* on a few folks, but I knew the act would destroy my professional standing and Christian witness. In its place, I chose the less-public option of constantly doubting myself and frequent crying.
It was not a good decision.
An infusion of reassurance
Shortly after my resignation, a college friend shared a blog post from Christian author and speaker Jen Hatmaker. In her post, “When is it time to walk away,” Jen explained why quitting can be a right and necessary action when a situation turns toxic. She got my attention with the line, “Girl, sometimes the juice ain’t worth the squeeze.” I instantly realized I had rotten lemons that were never going to be lemonade, and no amount of squeezing or sugar would ever change it.
Hatmaker wrote, “There is a tipping point when the work becomes exhausting beyond measure, useless. You can’t pour antidote into a vat of poison forever and expect it to transform into something safe, something healthy. In some cases, poison is poison, and the only sane answer is to move on.”
Her words gave me reassurance and peace about my actions.
After a good bit of prayer, I was inspired to start a blog — largely as a therapeutic measure. It was a way to recapture my creativity, keep my writing skills sharp and indulge my sense of humor. My first readers were friends and family. Five months later, those friends and family members helped make my blog go viral. I went from telling myself, “Sob, I can’t do anything right,” to “Wow, a few folks like how I write.”
God put me where He wanted me to be and used it all to open new and wonderful doors.
The positive side of quitting
As the great philosopher and chicken entrepreneur Kenny Rogers once said, “You gotta know when to hold ’em; know when to fold ’em.”
Ugh, I didn’t know.
I missed God’s instruction and voice and got stuck in a losing game thanks to my own stubbornness, fear of failure, and misplaced feelings of obligation.
God doesn’t want us to squeeze rotten lemons for someone else’s juice; He wants us to press fresh grapes for His wine.
* For readers unfamiliar with Southern idioms, “go-off” means to give another person a piece of your mind, usually done in an assertive manner.