Quitting My Job Saved My Life

I worked at a major regional bank in Pittsburgh for over four years before I had to call it quits at the age of 30. I was having chest pains, was 40 pounds overweight and at the end of my physical and emotional rope. I quit five months ago, completely of my own volition and for no other reason than I honestly believed I was dying. Walking away from a high-paying job with no college education in a depressed economy seems like the stupidest thing I could have done, but it saved my life. The ramifications have been largely positive, and my only regret is that I didn't make this change sooner.

I cashed out my 401(k) and pension. I used those funds to pay my bills while I pondered my next move. My first instincts were to apply for more positions in the self-same field I had left, and despised: customer service, the voice on the other end of the phone when the bank's customers called with complaints. After listening to filthy language and being verbally abused for so long, I was caught in the quandary of not wanting another job in that world, yet needing to produce income. I sent out resumes by the bucket-load and interviewed at a few call centers. After each of those meetings, I left the facility filled with more anxiety and fear, just from being in that environment again.

The longer this went on, the more I realized that my call-center days were behind me. The thought of putting on a headset and waiting for the disgusting, abusive screaming to begin again made me feel horrible. I had worked in call centers for over 11 years, all told. I just couldn't go back. I was also approaching being too old to work in call centers at age 30, as the job is seen as an entry level position (in Pittsburgh, at least) in all but supervisory positions.

My friends' and family's reactions ranged from supportive to downright accusatory. An acquaintance asked if I planned to apply for welfare, while another asked how I planned to finance my life without work. Another person even postulated I was lazy. While these comments were hurtful, it helped to know who my true friends are. Most people were aware of how high stress the customer-service field is and supported my decision to take my life in a new direction, no matter what direction I decided to choose.

It was my life-long passion for writing that led me to looking for online writing opportunities. I had heard that some people get paid to write for the web, but had never believed such tales. After exhaustive research, I found a site that rated well and was not accused of scamming. I submitted a single article. When it sold for just a few dollars, I was gobsmacked. This emboldened me to try more online work. Before I knew it, I had racked up three genuine online gigs, all on an independent-contractor basis.

Still technically unemployed, the money started to trickle in. My love of writing blossomed as I saw all of the positive impacts my life-changing decision had made on my life. Twenty-five pounds melted away as I stopped eating for comfort and began eating only because I was hungry. I saw my relationships flourish as I no longer lashed out due to overwork, stress and anxiety. Working on my own schedule has allowed me to rest as much as I need to, eat properly, socialize and exercise.

A typical day now sees me rising without the use of an alarm clock. I shower and dress in comfortable clothes, cook two meals, then work in long bursts throughout the day. I use free software to complete my assignments and write about everything and anything. I go to bed when I am tired, no matter the time. Little disrupts my routine, as I handle most of my life online by using instant messengers, bill pay and email. I alone decide when I want to go out, or if I want to go out, where and with whom.

My advice to anyone who is unemployed is to play to your strengths. It sounds so simple, but I see people every day who despise their job and would do anything to escape it. If you like to write, write. If you enjoy working on computers, launch a small business from home. Almost any passion can be turned into work if you are motivated to make it so.

If you are adamant about finding and maintaining outside employment, don't work a job you hate. All it will do is ruin your work history. With 11 years of call center experience, I hold no illusions of ever finding another brick-and-mortar job that doesn't involve call centers or, worse, wearing my name on my shirt and asking if the client would care for fries. Don't paint yourself into a career corner like I did.

Walking away from my panic-attack inducing, cubicle-slavery job was the best move I have ever made in my life. Being unemployed isn't as awful or permanent as you may think, and your passions can lead you to find your true niche in the world. Find where that passion leads you, and you may find you are happier, healthier and far more stable than you ever could have imagined.

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Thanks! I needed that article right now. I'm in a rut. I love my job but it is far too much work for far too little pay. I have no benefits and medical costs are killing me. I'm worried that if I quit, I'll think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and once I get there, it will actually be drier. The problem is that I work so many hours, I don't have the time to pursue something else. My passion is singing, but I don't know if I can make ends meet with that. Ugh! Trying not to fall into a depression. There's hope, I just need a plan.

April 28 2013 at 5:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Last post being November of 2010, and it is now September of 2011....almost a year. Here's my take.
It's really on someone's circumstance. NO ONE should be deemed irresponsible for their own decisions because everyone has their own reasons to justify their means. If you have a family and you have to support your family, then quitting your job may not be wise, as much as you hate it without another job lined up. If you are on your own, and you are the only one responsible for yourself, who's to say you're being irresponsible with your life? Irresponsibility can't be measured based on external stimuli, whether it be the recession or personal reasons.

I find it really sad that people who have commented on the writer's article be so flabbergasted at her own actions because they are doing life completely differently from her. If she failed to mention that her house was paid off, she has no kids, etc; it's not not a one size fits all everybody. Her solutions may not work for yours. Keep that in mind before making assumptions.

When all's said and done, if your job is ruining your health, what's the bloody point? It's better to be called "irresponsible" than deceased or sick. We weigh our options, plan, execute, and move forward when things are heavy. Sometimes, one needs to move on to find their well-being which applies to all aspects of life. Let's be honest here, if there was another way to go about acquiring income and doing something less stressful, no matter where you are in life, wouldn't you take it? I am guessing that most people that have posted negative things about the author, and even at their own circumstance feel stuck in their own way. If you had kids to take care of and a family to support, how are you going to support them when you're sick all because of your tiresome job? How are you going to support them then? Wouldn't that be irresponsible too? There's no such thing as right and wrong here, because health comes with a hefty price tag that no job can reimburse.

If you're not doing what you love, you're wasting away. One life, no second chances, so take risks, don't be afraid to hinder those who whisper behind closed doors. Do life the best way you know how without dropping all common sense. Plan, strategize, and execute. Always plan, especially if you are also responsible for the well-being of others around you.

September 14 2011 at 11:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow, there is a lot of discontent out there and rightfully so. I have been self-employed forever and love it. I am now taking it one step further to develop residual income. I have openings for people who are willing to work hard to do it once and keep getting paid. E-mail if you are interested.

November 07 2010 at 11:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sorry guys, I went to high school with Christina, and SHE is an awesome person who is, I assure you, very very real. Even back in the day, she would often do crazy, ground-breaking things, taking chances at every turn. And more often than not, succeeded.

October 07 2010 at 2:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can relate Christina. I quit/resigned from my Pittsburgh bank job in 2001 mainly due to boredom and frustration--and my phone range only about 2x week! I had nobody to work with or talk shop with and the internal job posting system was very frustrating. At the time my decision felt logical, but if I knew 9-11 was coming along with the recession etc. I probably would have stayed longer. I am an IC also working 70 hours weekly, but have much more freedom and control over my work. I do miss the vacations, bonus, benefits and prestige though. Do you have a sister named Carol in Pittsburgh, a PT?

September 30 2010 at 12:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


September 29 2010 at 7:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I worked at a medical center, where the phone never stopped, I was on it 8 hours a day, and the people were nasty, and mean. I couldnt get any other work done. The negative remarks, and screaming, drove me nuts. I started to have panic attacks, and just hated to get up and go to that job that was hurting my health. My heart would flutter, couldnt breath. I stuck it out another 8 months before I totally just flipped out and quit. I asked them for help but they said no. I was making good money, but it wasnt worth it. The day I walked out, I felt like a huge weight was lifted. I sat and looked at the phone ringing, and the light flashing with messages, and just could not do it anymore. It was the best thing I could have done. I miss the money, but I am taking a break from working. To quit a job with the economy we have now may not be wise. I am lucky I am able to stay home for awhile. Phone work is not for me. I worked other jobs, but this was the worst ever. Sometimes we dont have a choice, when bills have to be paid, and the children need things. I have been there and stuck it out, but not anymore. I am free from that nightmare......

September 29 2010 at 4:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

O.k. So you are a real freelance writer, submitting articles around the web. Fine, but it is highly irresponsible to urge people to just quit jobs that they hate to pursue their life's passion, using your experience as an example. You never mentioned in your article that your situation was unique. Who else do you know at age 30 who has their house paid off? From the new article that you have just published on another site under your maiden name, it seems that you were exceptionally good at your call-center job, despite hating it, and stayed with it in a very determined way until you had accumulated a solid financial foundation, including especially a paid-off house, to support your leap into freelance writing. A more responsibly written article would have urged readers to follow this, more responsible approach to pursuing their passions in life, rather than telling them that unemployment is not permanent and does not have to be so terrifying. Perhaps you never imagined that some readers might be encouraged by your writing to simply quit their jobs without a solid financial base, but, as you can see from many of the laudatory comments on your article, this is exactly what too many readers seem intent on doing, seeing in you an inspiring example of how success can come by throwing caution to the winds. In fact, you did nothing of the sort; you prepared for your career change with extreme prudence, beyond the means of most people your age. These details, omitted from this article, should have been included in some way, so that readers of lesser means would think, yes, I can do this too, but not yet, maybe in another five or ten years, if I lay the same solid foundation that Ms. Peterson did.

September 29 2010 at 1:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"After exhaustive research, I found a site that rated well and was not accused of scamming." - which site?

September 29 2010 at 8:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Christina, I love your story. I am in the same " Funk" right now, trying to decide whether or not to get an on-line degree so I can be more hireable, and leave the so called career that I feel that I'm "stuck" in. I've been working as an Outside Salesman in the Automotive field for many years. It does not matter if you you deal with people on the phone or face to face, it's the same thing. Customers will tear your soul out, and it's no fault of your own. An abusive boss, (which I had for 18 years) until I moved to another state due to family issues. Self centered co-workers that think they are God's gift to the business, and just plain stupidity in the workplace, can make you very sick. No matter what anyone says about your career change, you did the right thing for your "head". Hopefully this was the best move for you and I am going to follow in your footsteps to save my own sanity. Sure times are bad right now, jobs are hard to find, but you are no use to anybody if you stick with a job that is ruining your life. I will never sit on my ass and wait for something better to come along. Unemployment, Welfare, and other "freebees" are not in my plan, and I will be a survivor in this lousy economy. Best of luck to you, and I hope that you keep everyone informed of your progress. Mitch

September 29 2010 at 6:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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