This post was inspired by a great post over at Money Smart Life called Life’s Too Short for a Crappy Job; I left a comment there, but I felt like I should repost and expand what I talked about there. I’ve been a victim of the keep-your-job-at-any-cost mentality. This is what happened to me.
I vividly remember about 12 years ago working at a consulting firm I hated. The hours were ridiculous. During the busiest part of the year 80-90 per week was standard. I broke the magic 100 one time; I’ll save you the math and point out that’s 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. In at 8 or 9 am, out at 11 pm or so.. The pay was pathetic (on an hourly basis less than minimum wage, since I didn’t get overtime). I worked so much that my girlfriend at the time dumped me after one too many cancelled dates. And worst of all, my hatred for the job and exhaustion started to cause me to make mistakes, which made me work even longer hours to fix them. But worse problems loomed.
In the story at Money Smart Life, a few of the people sticking out their terrible jobs develop tooth-grinding conditions that require dental care and maybe even surgery. And here’s what killed me about that: someone develops a teeth-grinding condition and doesn’t realize their job is killing them? They complain about their job, they suffer terrible illnesses, and don’t DO something about it? Like quit, right away?
I thought “that’s ridiculous” and then I remembered that close to the end of my awful consulting job I developed an ulcer and threw up blood a few times…. and didn’t quit. I was throwing up before and after work and thought it was just because I was stressed. Think about that and wonder why I’m not crazy. Or why I am.
What finally made me quit was this: I was getting ready to go to work one morning. I had a cold and was feeling a bit woozy, but it was a big meeting. As I put on my tie, I fell down on the floor and passed out for a few minutes. When I got up, I STILL went to work (not the hospital). I waited until after the meeting to go to my doctor, who informed me that I didn’t have a cold – I had pneumonia AND bronchitis. And that I would probably be dead in six months if I didn’t address my health.
Really – he said that. Dead in six months. He wasn’t kidding. He said it in a very doctor-ish tone, so I knew he was serious.
It took that to make me quit. And I was single and didn’t have a mortgage or car payments or anything that really tied me to that job, other than the idea that this was MY JOB (in all caps). I had destiny, and the Protestant work ethic, and I would NOT QUIT (again, in all caps). There was no reason I couldn’t quit, though, except that I was career driven. I’m not in that line of work anymore, by the way. What a waste.
I look back on it and wish I could go back and punch myself in the head and tell myself “life’s too short for a crappy job.” Completely true. Well worth remembering here, close to the start of a new year. If you’re having health problems because you hate your job that much – don’t kid yourself. It’s not you… it’s the job. Quit.