And the snowflakes, hands on hips, leaned forward and spat at the stoics, “there’s nothing wrong with taking a break for your mental health!” At which the stoics gnashed their teeth and snarled, “This generation has been too coddled and doesn’t know how to deal with the real world!” To which the snowflakes, punctuating words with frantic arm waving, cried, “Ugghh! Taking a break IS dealing with the real world in a HEALTHY and HOLISTIC way!” Upon which the stoics recoiled and hissed, “You gotta work through the bad stuff. The Obstacle is the Way!” And their battle rages to this very day.
Sorry, I’m being facetious. That’s too sassy an introduction isn’t it? Let’s try again.
There’s a yin and a yang to all thing- No, sorry that’s even worse. One more time.
I quit my job just before Christmas and I wonder if I did it because I’m strong enough to know when a situation isn’t working for me and is making things worse or if I’m just too weak to deal with the conflicts in my life.
Yes, that’s the one. Let’s pull at that thread shall we?
Allow me to set the scene. I’m working a management job in a smallish charity that supports a cause I really believe in. I was promoted to this role and it kicked off a lot of things for me, moving to the city, buying a house, getting a cat. All the things. I’m also wearing a lot of hats at work. I need to get good at wearing these hats. It’s exciting, I’m learning, I’m staying late, I’m respected, I’ve stopped cooking as much, I’m making necessary changes in the office culture, I’ve stopped playing the videogames I love, I’ve improved the department so much and I’m getting all the praise, I cried today dunno why, my wedding is coming up and I haven’t booked a venue, the work culture is getting too passive aggressive, my relatives deserted me, my department is doing good but I’m now being asked to do things I didn’t sign up for, I barely blog. I’ve stopped doing my nails. Everyone relies on me. My head’s hit a ceiling and there’s no room for promotion. Where do I go now? And what did I give up to get here? Hang on a minute, I don’t think I’ve been happy in the last 6 months.
“You’ve changed a lot.”
That’s my husband’s voice. It wasn’t wrong and I needed a wake up call. So, I tried to break the cycle I’d found myself in. I started dancing lessons, something I’ve always wanted to do. I also did some sewing and did more cooking. But every Sunday I just felt the dread growing more and more. There was a period of time that all I blogged about was work. That was probably a red flag. This one in particular should have been obvious. Why did none of you tell me?!
Sorry, that’s not on you. That’s on me. I need to recognise when I’m burning out, and when I’ve taken things too far in one direction.
The reason I’m setting the scene is because I didn’t hate my job. I hope that’s clear. Yet, I still became resentful. I liked my manager and my team and the clients we supported. But there was a point at which I was just like, where am I headed with this? Is it serving me? And I was sometimes doing things that I didn’t feel comfortable with. I felt I had outgrown some of my tasks and was suddenly responsible for other tasks that I hadn’t signed up for. It was too much. And it didn’t feel worth all that I was putting into it. It’s complicated, you know? I quit, but I sometimes think, should I have held on?
Did I prioritise my wellbeing or did I give up?
Do I know my boundaries or do I lack resilience?
Am I brave or a coward?
These might just be labels but it’s how I feel. And I like sharing this stuff with you guys because I have no filter. Just kidding. I have a journal where all the truly depressing shit goes. It will be burned upon my death.
I saw a YouTube/Instagram short/TikTok thing (I dunno man, they all bleed together at this point) of a mother. She was responding to her toddler’s request for a cheese string snack and the caption explained this was her method to safeguard against tantrums. In the video she was asking her child very targeted questions. Do you want me to open it? Do you want me to half open it? Do you want it in a bowl? You get the idea. It was poking fun. I thought it was funny. I did a little “hm hm hm” laugh.
I scrolled through the comments. My hope was that some parents would add their own increasingly ridiculous questions and I could ride the wave of randomness.
But the comments were polarised (shock! horror!) Half of the comments were praising the mother for treating her toddler like a person and the other half were of the mind that she was spoiling her child and teaching them that they could always have things their way. I’m not a parent so I don’t know what I think, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts if you’re a parent. There was an argument from the pro side saying that giving toddlers control over these little things makes the bigger things that they have no choice over easier to manage. And I get that. The con side felt that this doesn’t prepare kids for when they don’t get the things they want. Which I also get.
But it’s very important, as with all short-form content, that we recognise we’re only seeing a snippet of a day in an entire life. It lacks context and detail and those gaps leave us open to project our own opinions. I have so many examples of this. I could write a whole post about short-form content. I am endlessly fascinated by the comment sections.
I mention this particular short because the debate did resonate with me. Parents have a challenging job. Do you prepare your kid for the real world by teaching them to tolerate and bear the burdens in order to get through life? Or do you teach them to set their boundaries and safeguard against things that trouble them? I mean, it’s not a binary choice. The challenge is to find the balance. But hooow??
How do we build resilience and how do we recognise when resilience is not enough and you need to remove yourself from a situation? I wonder, could I have held on until I found another job? Because I did try, you know. I did the odd application, even had an interview. But that was 1 interview in that 6-month gap. My creative energy was sapped. My father always tells me it’s good to look for a job while you have a job because you’re more confident. But I feel like I tanked the interview because I was too focused on my current job. Once I quit, I was able to reflect far more on my experience and felt positive and liberated.
I also, you may have noticed, have started writing more. I cook more, I write better applications and I’ve had more interviews and interest. At a certain point, my resilience became stagnant. Stagnation of my mental health and of my creativity. It wasn’t really even true resilience, just denial.
And I think I do know the difference. Resilience is holding on until the storm passes. And for me this occurs on a micro level, not over 6 months. On the bad work days, I would wake up feeling awful dread and sometimes would request working from home just so I didn’t have to face people. But that work day from home was still awful because I felt guilty, tired and lacked focus. I found that on those days of dread, the best thing to do was ride the storm. Once I was in the office and working, I felt okay and was able to get through it. I can practice resilience, but if your work life is 80% resilience, then what are you living for?
And I think that’s the point at which you aren’t being resilient. You aren’t holding on until the storm passes. There is no storm. You’re just drowning.
At that point, I think it’s okay to say, “I need a change.”
Maybe your change is leaving your job. Maybe it’s finally starting that business. Maybe it’s starting dance classes because you’ve always wanted to. I acknowledge my privilege in being able to take a career break for my well being. I’m not presenting it as the sole solution. I’m just telling you what happened. Again, I like to share with you guys. I am much happier now and fingers crossed I find something soon. Had a promising interview last week.
Have you ever had to draw the line? How do you boost your resilience? How’s life in general?
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