No one expected me to quit my job. Especially not one which paid me a five-figure monthly salary and attractive benefits. Usually, I was the one always advising friends to take charge of their career, to have another job lined up before quitting, or to climb the corporate ladder.
I was the sensible one, the proactive and dependable one, the one who was always able to get things done in the office. Bosses praised me. Staff loved me – I trained, developed and empowered them.
They put me on a pedestal as if I was the perfect boss.
After eighteen years of working in the financial industry, I was a senior manager in a multi-national company. I had lots of experience, and my job enabled me to have a comfortable lifestyle. I travelled a lot, which spurred my interest in writing and blogging. Everything seemed to be progressing well.
However, during the last five years of my corporate career, I grew uninspired.
Work wasn’t mentally stimulating, yes-men bored me to death, and management did not believe and practise employee engagement and diversity.
I was tired of the office politics. I could never play the game well enough to further climb the corporate ladder. Also, I dreaded going to the office where people were constantly defensive and angry.
By November 2016, I was hopelessly jaded with work. It made me think hard about what I really wanted to do with my career.
At the time I was already writing and blogging about my travels, and dabbled a bit in freelance travel-writing for clients. I thought since I love writing and travelling, why not make a career out of it?
Ordinarily, I would have done my due diligence and researched what it was like being a freelancer. But I was so desperate to leave the office environment, I threw caution to the wind and resigned without much thought.
Risky? Indeed. But what I did next was riskier, and some might even call it stupid.
I announced my resignation to the office, told them I wanted to work on my travel and freelance writing and quit my job – with only six months worth of emergency savings.
You might think, well, I’ve worked for eighteen years, therefore I’d have a sizeable amount saved up. But the reality is, most of my savings are locked in retirement and investment schemes. I can’t withdraw them until I’m fifty-five years old, and that’s a long wait.
The open declaration and small pool of savings were to ensure that I worked hard on this freelancing career. I had to make it work, no matter what. Was I crazy? Probably. But I did all of that because I didn’t want to return to the corporate lifestyle.
But what if my freelance writing career fails? Yes, that could happen. If that happens, I’d return to the corporate world with my tail between my legs. But at least I know that I’ve tried my best to make my freelancing successful.
My last working day in the office was 16th May 2017. Has it been easy? No, it hasn’t. There were days when I woke up feeling petrified that I wouldn’t have enough money for the month. But I pushed on because I knew that worrying was not going to get me anywhere – I just had to continue to write, network, and pitch for projects.
As if worrying about that wasn’t enough, I had two health scares – I discovered lumps in my breast and thyroid glands.
Both discoveries involved a series of ultrasound tests. Thankfully, they turned out to be benign, although the thyroid lump had to be removed for a biopsy. At the time, I was leaving for Nepal, so the surgeon waited until after my return to do the biopsy.
Perhaps lady luck was smiling on me because when I returned, the tests showed that I didn’t need the biopsy after all. My surgeon joked, “What did you do in Nepal? Were you hiking, at what altitude?” I replied, “Nothing, I was travelling at low altitude throughout the trip.”
That’s when he told me the words which encouraged me to this day. “You know what, go ahead and travel. Go out there and enjoy life.”
I couldn’t agree more.
As of now, my health is fine – touch wood – although I still go for check-ups every six months, just to be safe. Since I quit my job, I’ve travelled to Nepal, Central Vietnam, Portugal, Ireland, and India.
My travelling style is different – I spend time reading about the history of the destination, meeting locals, learning about their cultures, and documenting my experiences for future articles and blogs. I’ve never felt so free in spirit during my travels.
Fortunately, after several months of ad-hoc projects, I’ve begun to secure long-term projects, which means a more stable income. Ever since that conversation with the surgeon, I’ve not looked back on my decision to quit my job.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t a steep learning curve. Yes, there were moments when I questioned myself on whether I made the right decision to give up a stable monthly income and fully paid healthcare. I’ll admit, quitting one’s job for a passion or due to a boring job or less-than-inspiring office environment is not recommended for everyone, as each person’s circumstances are different.
However, for me, I’ve never felt so right about my decision to quit. Although I’ve had to learn new skills and methods in a new industry – in a way, starting all over again like a fresh grad – I’m much happier and healthier now. I’m enjoying the flexibility and freedom to work on projects which I love, which is writing and travelling.
Kathleen writes on her travel blog at https://www.katpegimana.com/. What would you do if you could quit your job? Tell us in the comments below!