A jobless life.
Call it retirement or simply quitting a job and not getting another one, the question is the same.
Is it time for me to quit?
For most of us, the job consumes the best hours of our days and much of our energy during any given week. We can soon see that the job will chew up most of the prime years of our lives. I think I could safely say that it is a pretty important activity in the life of most people.
The job not only gives us the money we need to live the life we have but also it's likely a key source of life satisfaction and sense of self worth. For Americans anyhow, the job tends to define who we are more than in other places in the world. "Hi, I'm Bob. I'm an accountant at XYZ." "My name is Mary and I'm the sales manager at ABC company."
It also seems true that most people look forward to the day they don't have to go to that very same job. These two notions seem incompatible somehow. It's as if we wished the job that means so much to us didn't.
But, the fact is it is important. It not only provided for our practical needs for income and related benefits (think health insurance or retirement contributions) but also our emotional needs, such as sense of purpose, relevance, prestige perhaps and that sense that we make a difference in the world.
These are BIG things, even core things, for each of us so giving them up by quitting should be carefully considered.
I was talking with my neighbor a couple of weeks ago on this very topic. Let's call him Tom. He works in maintenance and apparently works in a union environment. He's a guy in his early 50s, married, with a younger working wife and two young kids.
Tom announces to me that he'd just completed the necessary years of work to be eligible to retire with full pension. While he said he'd probably still work another few years to pay off the house, he indicated he really couldn't wait to retire.
I asked him if he was concerned about what he would do with all his available time once he retired. Without a hesitation, he said no. It seems he thinks it will be bliss and his life will have reached his ultimate goal - to not work. I hope so.
I know a bit about Tom's lifestyle. Aside from the kids, who will all be in school soon, he appears to have few non-work activities or interests. He's not a handyman or hobbyist. Not active in local organizations or a sports junkie. He's not one for mental work such as researching or writing, or even reading from what I can tell.
To me this looks like a guy, like so many, who yearns his whole work life to quit the job only to have nothing awaiting him when he finally does quit.
This is not an unusual outcome. What at first feels exhilarating can turn into depressing as the new independence with the free time to do whatever you want drifts into a season of boredom, lack of purpose and even loneliness.
Not exactly what we saw in our dreams for this season of life.
Who Should Quit the Job
One of my former university colleagues and I have talked a number of times about quitting work. We're about the same age, so this is a topic of mutual interest. While I chose to quit a couple of years ago, he continues to work.
There are a number of reasons to keep working as a university professor, such as the pay you've gotten accustomed to, the relatively flexible lifestyle it affords, the built-in social interactions it provides and the low physical demands of the job. Hard to find a better job out there.
For me though, the bottom-line was whether I wanted to keep doing this over doing something else. After all, life is getting shorter for me so if I had something else I wanted to be doing, I'd better get to it.
For me it had been clear for some time, I didn't want to keep doing this.
And that is the essence of what I tell people who are wrestling with the question of whether or not to quit.
If you have nothing else you REALLY want to do, then I wouldn't rush out and quit the job.
Waking up to nothingness each day can turn into a pretty deep, dark experience rather quickly.
However, if you really don't want to do what you're doing any longer, then I say get to it.
In fact, if you want to specifically be doing something else while you still can, that's an even better reason.
All this assumes you can afford to do so. Let's face it, if you need the job because you need the money, then you better keep working and leave The Big Quit in the hallways of your mind.
For me, I always felt that a university professor's job was the best job in the world, but it still was a job. And I really chafe at jobs. So, I quit in 2021 as I just wanted to not do that any more.
It has turned out well for me. I enjoy my life; not so much because of what I'm now doing is so different from what I did before, but because of what I'm not doing anymore.
I enjoy the freedom my jobless life has allowed me to have.