A while back I wrote about trying to figure out whether or not I was having a mid-life crisis. I was going through the usual growing pains of turning 40 – saggy cheeks (of both varieties), confusion over the terms “woke” and “bae,” finding myself leaving the radio on the classic and soft rock stations more and more. But I didn’t feel I was quite there yet. How could I be sure?
Well, one way is to quit your job of 13 years with no backup plan other than a blog that hasn’t been used in almost a year and lofty goals of baking bread every day to save on groceries.
Will this plan work for you? Not sure. But I can tell you that for me, it worked like a charm. I am now sure I’m deep in the middle of mid-life crisis. Like saggy-cheeks-deep.
How does one get to this point in their lives? Well, again, I’m not sure about you, but I for me, it started with “Days of Our Lives.”
Way back in 1994, I picked journalism as a career because I wanted to be like Jennifer Horton on “Days of Our Lives.” Not because I had a passion for journalism or ambitions of winning a Pulitzer Prize. No, I wanted my life to be like a soap opera. Seriously. That’s it.
And it sort of worked. For nearly 20 years, I fooled people into believing I was a journalist. I even fooled myself for a bit. And while my life in the newspaper business certainly was no soap opera, it was a job I was fairly good at. I even won a few awards.
As time wore on, though, it began to feel less and less like a world I belonged in and more like an less sexy version of Ernesto’s Cruise of Deception. I was apathetic and bored. I would spend an afternoon stewing over the fact that someone decided to bake a goddamn potato in the microwave for lunch, tying up the microwave for a whole six minutes! The highlight of my day was usually the Egg McMuffin I talked myself into buying. And that was before I even got to work.
Quitting was always in the back of my mind, but didn’t have the courage (or money) to actually do it. I convinced myself I needed the job. I’m not sure what changed exactly. Maybe it was the goddamn potato in the microwave. But it became clear that my job wasn’t working any more. My husband and I agreed we needed to find a way for me to make a change. We started budgeting a little better, started to pay down some lingering bills, and tried to change our relationship with money. I started to ask myself “Is having money for this dumb Egg McMuffin worth being unhappy?” Sometimes the answer was yes, because, honestly, Egg McMuffins are delicious. But more and more, the answer became no.
Then, four weeks ago, after yet another Monday when I came home practically in tears because I was so unhappy, my husband and I decided it was time to just do it. It didn’t matter that I had no job lined up or no real plan in place. It was worth it to both of us to take the risk.
The most surprising part of all of this was that telling my boss I was quitting wasn’t nearly as gratifying as I thought it would be. I spent years dreaming about marching into my office, quitting in a “Voshell out!” mic drop sort of way, and then marching right back out while Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” played me out.
It didn’t really happen that way. In fact, I felt like I was going to throw up. It was my career for almost two decades, after all. And the question “What do I do now?” still lingered.
I’m two weeks into my “early retirement” and I’m still not sure I have that all figured out. But I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be … for now. And I’m hoping returning to my first real love – the dashing and witty Jack Deveraux – um, I mean, writing will help me find my way.