When We Leave Crap Jobs It’s The Uncertainty, Not The Loss, We Grieve

I’ve recently had a falling out with a girlfriend. We weren’t best friends, but she was one of my girlfriends in a city I can count all my girlfriends on one hand. And she was beautiful, knew me from my hometown and was more intelligent than me about most things not involving academia. But she was also someone you socialised with on her terms. Plans made in advance would change to accommodate other plans you weren’t aware of, parties were visited for the connections and prestige rather than fun, and tantrums regularly stirred at normal occurrences normal people have to deal with.
Joan Didion’s passage on self respect has been on my mind lately, particularly the line:
“We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give.”
The Famous Alan Statham Recorder Dance from Green Wing
I suppose I got sick of this delusion in myself, like I could maintain the friendship by being so easy going. I am an easy going person, but I’m not a groveler for friendship and attention. So after yet another set of plans changed during our night out, to accommodate other plans I wasn’t aware of, I decided not to pursue the friendship anymore.
This was a couple of months ago and I still feel sad over it. I miss that friendship – somewhat. But mostly I wonder whether I was too petty, whether I should have tried harder. I regret not having a huge incident to peg my decision to, the accumulation of small annoyances seems like such a cop out when I try to justify my actions. 
Because it’s a loss of such a personal nature, of course I take it more to heart. But I have experienced very similar severing of ties with crappy jobs. And what I have linked between this personal loss, and the quitting of a crappy job is: We aren’t grieving the loss itself. We knew it was crap most of the time and weren’t really invested for the long haul. But we are grieving the uncertainty of whether we made the right decision at the right time. Unfortunately not every situation has an Alan Statham handy to announce the official time to depart.
It’s just like Gretchen Rubin’s question “will one coin make a man rich?”
“If ten coins are not enough to make a man rich, what if you add one coin? What if you add another? Finally, you will have to say that no one can be rich unless one coin can make him so.”
Where is the line? When is one crappy occurrence on the heap of crappy occurrences enough to decide it really is a pile of crap you are comfortable leaving?
I can never tell. But I do know when I take action to leave that pile of crap, that I don’t really want to reverse that action. I don’t even want to reverse that action because it’s a matter of pride. No it’s not pride, it’s self respect that drove me to the decision. And although I may question my timing and method of departure, I will hopefully always cling on to that sense of self respect that keeps me away from big steaming piles of crap I haven’t noticed accumulating around me.
So I guess the point of writing all this was to offer encouragement to people wanting to break a tie but feeling frozen by indecision because Alan Statham isn’t coming to their announcement rescue. I hope  we can all take action to distance ourselves from some crap in our lives as soon as possible. Because the pile of crap has probably been added to since we started to notice it. And even though the departure is hard and we have feelings of doubt afterwards, we can take solace in the fact that it’s not the crap we’re upset about leaving, it’s the fact that there was nothing telling us we were right in doing so.
But that’s up to us, and our self respect, to know for ourselves.
Btw, if you’re wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR – here‘s my explanation.

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  • 9 January 2013