So I quit.
By Casey Dexter
It was right down to the exact day after I turned 25 that I felt it. Timed, almost laughably, to the cliché of the mid-quarter life crisis. I didn't feel my familiar pep. I felt uncomfortable. Anxious and overwhelmingly bored at the same time. When was the last time I belly-laughed? Who was the last person I liked? What activities brought me joy? More importantly, why did I care about all of this so much, and all of a sudden?
These questions sat in my brain and eventually ignited the year that would mark the most change my life had ever known.
Not in this order:
I questioned how I spent my time.
Who I spent it with. Where I spent it.
I reassessed my hobbies, my relationships, my career.
I trimmed unhealthy people from my life. Saw more of some friends, and less of others.
I quit my job.
But it wasn’t just a job.
I had worked so hard to earn my place there.
I had so many friends there.
I was actually quite good at it.
I quit without another offer.
The last thing I'd quit cold turkey was the cello in 4th grade.
I didn't mean for it to happen that way.
I thought I could tough it out.
I’d spent the better part of a year convincing myself it was still my dream job.
I'd also spent 6 months of that time interviewing elsewhere.
I had interviewed to work at a celebrity's film company. I had interviewed to be a Late Night TV Host's assistant. I'd even interviewed as the only female in an all-male production company.
I didn't get any of those jobs.
I did accept a new job offer three days after I quit, though.
I never felt more lonely, nor had more friends.
I would go from seeing three different groups of friends in one weekend to crying over how I was eating Sunday dinner by myself.
I wanted a boyfriend, and I wanted to be alone.
I felt like no one understood me, even though my friends were incredibly close.
I learned "I don't know" does not mean he likes you.
It doesn't even mean he may like you.
I learned him paying for your drinks all night does not mean he's a gentleman.
I learned if you guys talk but he never asks to hang out, he doesn't want to hang out.
A modest banker is the same thing as a skinny chef-- can't be trusted.
Your friends will ask about who you're dating before they ask about your new job, or your family, or your stomach problems.
Your real friends will pick you up from all your stomach-related medical procedures.
I learned colonoscopies are not just for people in their 50's!
I was fat. I was thin.
I suffered terrible stomach pain (no doubt induced by my stressful past work environment), and became doctor-mandated gluten-free. For someone who already had a weird relationship with food, this wasn't welcome.
I realize only later I was never really that fat or thin. I was the same, average weight. I just couldn't see it.
My guy friends wanted to hook up with me. I hated them for it.
My guy friends didn't want to hook up with me. I hated them for it.
I realized certain friends caused me much more social stress than others.
I took a long break from some of them to figure out why.
I felt smart handling life on my own, catching mice in my apartment, and paying my own rent.
I felt dumb googling "Roth IRA."
I felt smart among family at holiday dinners, who admired my cultural awareness.
I felt dumb at work when out-of-touch and insecure bosses snipped at me.
I felt smart for telling boys no.
I felt dumb for telling boys yes.
I hated saving money. I hated spending money. I hated having to talk about money.
I hated when my parents gave me money.
I HATED when my parents gave me money.
And I hated when I needed it.
I stopped picking fights with my Mom. Well, I tried to stop picking fights with her.
She answered every call. No matter how badly the last one had ended. Never knowing which side of me she'd find on the other end.
I cried to her the most. She let me, always listening patiently.
She knew I wouldn't let myself cry like that to anyone else.
I finally found solace in the distance between me and my sister. She had moved to London three years ago, and it took me three years to forgive her for it.
She's still my best friend. We've promised to always have plans to see each other again before we part. I realized there could be worse ways to visit her than galivanting across Europe.
I finally understood my Dad had offered all that he could when I was growing up.
It wasn't his fault he always wasn't there, even if he was physically present.
It took me 25 years to realize this, fight through the hidden resentment, and find admiration in the fact that he held himself together as long as he did, without any of the right treatments.
He's one of my favorite people on the planet.
He still can't name more than three of my friends.
I felt invisible at a corporation where HR promised to listen to everyone.
I felt invisible at bars when guys wouldn't come up to me.
I felt invisible on the subway when an old man sneezed on me.
I felt invisible every time my phone didn't light up when I wanted it to.
I felt seen as the foreperson on a grand jury.
I felt loved when my best friend asked me to be her maid of honor.
I felt refreshed when I went back to visit my favorite city in Spain.
I felt empowered when I remembered the Spanish verbs I had spent 8 years learning.
I felt proud and weepy as I had a long coffee with my former homestay Madre, as she patted my arm and we spoke in Spanish together for hours.
And cried when we had to say goodbye.
I cried more at 25 than I did my entire life.
I cried the most because of work. Creative jobs do that to you, because they are so intertwined with your inner psyche.
I cried the second-most because I felt lonely.
I cried over boys, but realized it didn't change anything.
I cried over money, friends, clothes, my weight, muscle pains, the line at Trader Joe's being too long, the washing machine eating my laundry card, my plans to create my own comedy show falling flat.
One time I ran into a friend as I was walking down the street and she was coming up from the subway. Just the sight of her made me cry.
We joke about this now. We could not be more different, but our friendship is so honest. I try to replicate that more in my other relationships.
We became friends because she has a tattoo of Conan O'Brien's hair. I love that.
I had always divided up my life. Like a pie chart.
It's shifted as my priorities shifted, or as I succeeded or failed in a certain area.
Friends was 20%, Family was 30%, Work was 40%, Health was 10%.
Now, I've divided it differently.
Friends 15%, Family 35%, Work 20%, Health 30%.
I'm sure it will change again.
There were plenty of happy times.
I think the majority of people surrounding me never suspected anything was off.
Maybe I seemed a little tired.
I should have prefaced this by saying 25 was the worst year of my life because of direct actions I took and several, deep-rooted self-realizations. No one died, no one filed for bankruptcy, no family secret came to light that changed everything for us all.
Not one dramatic change happened suddenly.
But rather, hundreds of small to medium changes happened.
Maybe that's why it was so hard.
It wasn't one large wound that needed to be stitched together for me to feel better.
It was hundreds of small cuts. All happening at different times.
I didn’t have enough band-aids.
Few are sympathetic to the white girl in her 20's living in NYC-- who's poor but somehow still manages to have Class Pass and attend brunch with her state school friends.
I get it.
I feel that too, even though I am that girl.
But you can't deny emotions. And the stigma we may feel towards change. And how finally getting what you want only to find that it's nothing at all that you imagined, sucks.
That feeling lonely sucks.
In this order:
I was depressed, I was sick, I was mentally and physically exhausted.
I quit my job.
I cried all the time.
I rearranged my needs.
I chose to spend time with friends that I felt good around.
I chose to spend more time with family.
I realized no job is perfect, but my new one allowed me to reset my inner life pie chart and find balance.
I once heard a guest on Conan O'Brien's podcast say, "Desire is a wasted emotion.”
I thought about that for a while.
I still think about it when I can’t get an idea out of my head.
Technically, you don't need anything more than you already have to be happy.
Happiness is simply a state of mind.
Things will happen, I've learned, regardless if you're ready for them or not.
I'm still working on fully living this and believing it for myself.
But I'd like to think it's true.
I'd like to think I’ve learned from that year of my life.
I’d like to think I’ve come out better for muddling through it.
I hope I did, and I hope I'm ready for whatever comes next.