Usually people tell this story a long time after they have had this experience but in my case, I quit my job on Friday and today is Monday. In February 2019, I started my first job ever at a small film agency in Johannesburg where I was assigned to the Monitoring and Evaluation department.
I cannot say that I was excited on my first day, I wanted to get a feel for the place and the people. The boss was nice and sweet but my colleagues were not having the same experience. I quickly learnt that the place was toxic and there was no growth potential. Around April, I was starting to get really frustrated with the place and I thought it would be better to do law school and forget all about the place.
I had one of the hardest conversations with my line manager where I was very candid and not at all discreet, I mentioned names and completely embarrassed myself. I avoided him the next morning and watched the Homecoming movie while I counted the hours to catching my flight home for the long weekend.
On two other occasions, I had the conversation with my boss about leaving to focus on my studies. However, every time I went in to have that conversation, I would be very nervous and anxious and he would always change my mind. Around August, I had decided that I would stay with him and see where things go. With the South African job market being what it is, I thought it best to hold onto my job. I started applying myself to the work and getting to know the work. I was doing well at the job but it felt like my anxiety was always on high and a deep secret I was keeping. I pushed through because I was also busy with school so I didn’t have much time to think about it but I knew that I wasn’t thriving, I was surviving. I was just making it through the day and I wasn’t actually living. Every time that I would try to talk to my parents about it, their mentality would be “you’re lucky to have a job so stop complaining” but they would never ask me about if I enjoy the work or how I feel when I’m at work.
As black people we are programmed to just be grateful but for me after five years of studying and dedicating myself to obtaining one of the most prestigious degrees in the country, this wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t going to settle for good enough. Meanwhile at work, I was doing well and my boss was leaning on me more. I was so connected with the work that I started to envision myself going off the law path and staying with the company. I spoke to my boss about my idea to become a permanent addition to the company but because the company was tied to government, he explained that what I wanted would take at least two years so I knew that I had to move on. I was proud of myself for having the guts to have that conversation and I knew where we stood.
My boss would travel a lot or take time off for school so he’d be at work for a week then gone for a week. The nature of that workplace was that if your boss isn’t there and he hasn’t left work for you, then you’ll have to figure out the best shows to fill your day. It was the most frustrating thing but I had school to focus on so that made it a little easier. However there was one Friday where my boss was away and I was writing an exam the next day so I decided to leave work an hour earlier. The human resources lady called me twice and it irritated me to no end. On Monday morning I was told that she wanted to see me so I had a chat with my boss first. He begged me to be nice but my irritation was that the company wasn’t interested in giving me work but as soon as I leave, they suddenly pay attention. I was prepared to leave that morning. Talking to the HR lady only made things worse because she informed me that I was always unavailable at work, always sick and that my boss was supposed to talk to me about this. I was incensed and ready to walk out of the door but my boss begged me to stay.
I decided to stay and I went away for two weeks a few weeks later but I knew that I would just finish off the year and then leave. My boss was so emotional when I got back and I felt very nervous about telling him my decision. The first time I tried to talk to hm, he started singing a song about how I deserted him for two weeks so I changed my mind but later on that day I was able to tell him my decision. He was hurt about it and it turned into me staying a month longer than planned.
He started having long discussions with me about life and career. He has always been someone easy to talk to and our personalities got on very well. There was a time where I sat in his office for two hours and I was sweating from being in the same position for so long. He was hoping that I would change my mind about leaving. I also thought that I would change my mind. For the second work week, he wasn’t at work and on the third week we started catching up again. One day after a long chat, I think he believed that I had changed my mind but I sent him an email asking him to make a list of things he wanted me to do before I go. from that moment, our relationship changed.
I do not believe that it was intentional but it happened. Our relationship has always been straightforward, however, after that email I could feel the tension and distance. He asked me to compile a handover letter, which was odd because I was an intern but I did it. He was away during my last week and what I expected to be a very anxiety-producing and emotional week was actually very calm and I just knew that I had made the right decision for my life. I was at peace with my decision and I knew that I was leaving something that wasn’t meant for me.
The last day was a rollercoaster because some of my colleagues were mad at me and sad to see me leave but mostly because my boss wasn’t there. He had flown in from Amsterdam the day before and he had said that he would be there on the last day. He showed up at 11h30 and we were knocking off at 13h00 so I had imagined that we’d have more time to talk. Usually when he would get to work late, he would call me to let me know that he was around but he didn’t do that that morning. He was giving me the cold shoulder but I eventually called him so we could have a meeting.
In the meeting, he told me that I looked like I was having second thoughts and I think that he wanted me to change my mind. He was the sweetest boss in the world but I think that knowing that the work relationship is over changes things and it makes things quite awkward. I don’t think it matters how well the working relationship is, when it ends things are not easy. One of the ladies who worked in the next office was also not happy with me and I felt like I was disappointing them. I say this all to say that quitting your job is not easy, especially if there is no other job waiting in the wings, and people can make you feel terrible about your decision. However, it is important to stand firm in your decision and do what you know is best for you. When its time for you to quit your job, you’ll know it in your heart.
The fear will dissipate and you’ll be at peace with your decision. When it is the right decision for you, your mind cannot be changed and you’ll be resolute. You will have watched all the YouTube channels, talked about it to death and done all the quizzes so you’ll know.