Last week I quit my job so I could take another job where I’ll get paid less money to work fewer hours. This was a tough call for two reasons: 1) I attach a lot of my self esteem to the amount of money I’m making - which is a totally mature and healthy thing to do - and 2) The job I’m quitting is the first job I’ve had where I don’t spend every day fantasizing about quitting. It's strange, but I genuinely enjoy spending time around my boss and coworkers, even if the work we do – designing packages for wireless routers – is boring enough to be the sort of fake job a hitman or a secret agent would claim to have as a cover story.
Quitting a job is unfamiliar territory for me – most of the time I’m the guy who gets laid off. And having tried both, I can confidently say that getting laid off is way more fun. When I’m the victim, I get sympathy and free drinks. But when I’m the one who decides to walk away from a job, there’s none of that camaraderie and goodwill – I just sit around thinking, Gee, I hope I didn’t just completely ruin my life with that decision.
The whole reason I’ve stuck with this boring job that is neither creatively challenging nor particularly interesting is because of what a great work environment it is. I spend over two hours a day driving to and from this job because I get to spend my day trading banter with a bunch of smart, lively, quirky people in between relatively short meetings about Best Buy kiosk designs and the finer points of international trademark and copyright law.
I don’t particularly enjoy writing about routers’ features, but since I have to have some sort of job I may as well have one that doesn’t make me miserable. The work I do doesn’t require too much thought or effort, the company cafeteria is superb, and my cubicle is a pleasant enough climate controlled place to fritter away the afternoon reading Rolling Stone articles about drug smugglers and Iraq. Best of all, after the cafeteria closes at 2:00 the cooks put all the leftover pizza out in one of the break rooms, so every day I can usually count on one or two pieces of free, room temperature za to tide me over while I run out the clock until 5:00.
This job has been so comfortable and low-key that I was starting to feel like I could keep doing it forever. And that’s a problem, because I didn’t move to LA to write router boxes – but while I’ve been working this job, router boxes are about the only thing I have been writing. I’m trying to tackle several different projects in my spare time, but between working, commuting, and everything else that happens before I go to sleep I’ve only been able to devote about half an hour a week to each one.
Beyond that, when I have a job I tend to make more stupid spending decisions because I know I’ve got money coming in to make up for them. I should go grocery shopping – nah, I’ll just get takeout every night this week. I’ll pay for it with my never ending stream of Job Money. Thanks to smart financial choices like this, in five months of working at this company I’ve been making almost exactly as much as I’ve been spending.
So I’m commuting hours every day to work at a job that’s pleasant but not stimulating, which takes up lots of time I’d otherwise be spending chasing my dreams, all so I can make just enough money to break even. It took me a long time to put all this together, but once I did I knew it was time to leave this land of friendly people and free pizza behind and find something that worked better for me.
At the job I’m starting next month I’ll be writing event description blurbs for a company that sells discount tickets for concerts and sporting events. It’ll be slightly more creative than my old job – everything I write for a router box is some variation on “Holy shit, this thing is going to make your Internet so fucking fast” – but the real draw is that I’ll be able to work from home every day. As much as I love the office I work in right now, it can't hold a candle to working from home, where there’s no small talk about weekend plans and I can fart whenever the need arises.
Best of all, the new job starts at 30 hours a week. That’s ten extra hours that I won’t be working for The Man, plus another 15 hours a week that I’m not driving to and from working for The Man, which works out to an extra day every week that I get to spend working on things that matter to me. It’ll be less money, but I can make it work if I kick my Baja Fresh addiction.
For my self esteem’s sake I’m not looking at it as a pay cut, but just pretending that I’m using that money to buy myself a bunch of extra time every week. I’ve got my fingers crossed that trading takeout for time will be wind up being a good investment in the long run.