When Quitting Isn’t a Career Decision

for Anxy Magazine

It wasn’t just a job. That’s what the people who tried so hard to pull me out of my angst didn’t realize.

When I started working at the Library I was just a few months out of rehab, sober, and no idea who the fuck I was. I didn’t have a long-term goal: I needed to pay rent and figure out if and how I was going to put my life back together.

But then I fell in love with it. I started a weekly creative writing workshop for high school kids, remembering the after-school creative writing class that I’d signed up for on a whim my sophomore year of high school and that had changed the trajectory of my life. I got to know many of the local students, and a surprising number came to class every week, or sought me out to talk about books or life. They became a central part of my world.

 

For the first time I could remember, I was creating instead of destroying. I’d found something I was good at. They trusted me and, miraculously, I had become someone who was worthy of that trust. I loved the job because it fueled me, it didn’t just give me purpose, it showed me what purpose looked like.

I loved it on the day I quit, too — but love, as they say, isn’t always enough.There were challenges behind the scenes. Passion for what I was doing blinded me to many things, including the nuances of office politics. I pissed some very important people off, sometimes because of my own arrogance and stubbornness, other times for no discernable reasonBut it was a union job, and I couldn’t be fired just because I had strong opinions. Little by little, the things I loved most were stripped away or squashed in the hopes that I would leave voluntarily. I had seen it happen to other people and I slowly realized it was happening to me.

The 18 months when I knew the teenagers wanted me in the job but the administration didn’t were some of the worst of my life. I tried so hard to cling to what was rewarding about the job that I was utterly unequipped to deal with almost anything else in my life. My post-work routine was to climb into the bathtub and sob while my dog pawed anxiously at the bathroom door. I knew I had to leave but I didn’t know how. What would I do if I could not do the only thing I’d ever done well? Who would I be without my teens and the weekly creative writing class and the hours recommending books I hoped would instill in these students a lifelong love of the written word.

So, like I’d done with alcohol, I let go of one of the things I loved most in the world without any idea of what would happen next, or who I would be without it. It wasn’t noble: I only let go when it hurt too much to hold on. It wasn’t a career decision, it was a life decision. Because to me, it was never just a job.

 
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