Requiem for a Job: A Corporate Exodus

by Keith Savage · 46 comments


Requiem for a Job: A Corporate Exodus

It was a cold day in March. The feeble late-winter sun had sent crusts of snow retreating to the edges of things. I remember staring out my office window at a fly on the ledge. Gusting drafts buffeted the poor bugger as it struggled to hang on, its ephemeral wings flickered by a force that couldn’t touch me behind the industrial glass. It moved periodically in what seemed like an affirmation that it still held the spark of life.

I paused, sipped some green tea, and turned back to my monitors as a warm, dull ache suffused my organs. I wanted to laugh, but the shockingly obvious allegory had me closer to tears.

In this strangely unremarkable moment, some dark, recessed part of me knew that my job satisfaction had permanently drifted beyond grasp. It was lost in a tea-inflected sigh. But I am literally of two minds and the bright, crackling, conscious part of my brain continued on as if that little earthquake had never happened. I continued to work through the seasons, into spring and through summer, around to autumn and back toward winter. And life was good. There was nothing that I could legitimately complain about, especially in the scope of worldwide livelihood, but humans are terrible at acting according to that type of comparison.

Interlude

One of my great flaws is my inability to compartmentalize. If something is off the rails in one part of my life it affects all other aspects. For example, I could be on vacation in Disney World or immersed in the cultural jewels of some far-off place, and if there was a particular thorny project at work traveling with me would be akin to traveling with a ghost. My mind continuously drifts back to the problem – despite the beauty or fun about me – even though I have no power to act on it. This is an awful neurosis, as it usually means I need to have everything in order before I can fully enjoy my surroundings.

In the dark recesses of my mind, the realization I’d had pushed against the boundaries of my willfully oblivious lobes. And it was seeping into the rest of my life.

The First 6.5 Years

Coming out of school with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and psychology, it was a great job, a lucky job, to land. Technical writer was by no means my definition of a dream career, but I still can’t define that to this day. I didn’t need to relocate and the people, corporate philosophy, and campus hit on all cylinders. I ascended the corporate ladder fairly quickly, managing a team of more than 20 writers by my three year anniversary. There were moments when I was on top of the world. Looking back today, my first workday after leaving the job, I see that it was an accomplishment high. It was never from the work.

As the years went by Sarah and I traveled more. Each return to the office was harder. I started to feel malaise, lifeless, dull. The rungs on the ladder ran out. I was conscious of the difference in myself from when I started at the job: eyes gleaming, loquacious, wrestling challenges with ease born from a curious confidence. Those things had blown away with the March wind.

I opted for a role change within the company, hoping that a change of scenery and duties would inject me with some life. Leaving would be harder. The new position was higher stress, higher pressure, and closer to the sun. I swiftly realized that far from locking away that pesky realization, the role change threw open the doors to its cell. A larger change would be required, one that would shoot fault lines beneath our comfortable, happy suburban life.

I vividly recall the feeling of being trapped. I wanted something else, but it was an undefined sensation more than an actionable plan. I shot down every idea Sarah or I came up with. Not realistic, not feasible, I don’t have the skills, too risky, etc. I laboriously built my own cell. Finally, one night over Belgian beers, an idea stuck. Sarah said, “What about travel writing?” It wasn’t the first time I’d considered it, but in the midst of a buzz the idea bloomed. She lavished my writing with praise, and it is her belief in my talents that ultimately resulted in my belief in them too.

A week later I started Traveling Savage. I knew nothing about running a blog, but I’m the type of person who just needs to jump into things to get it going. We hashed out travel ideas, forecasted budgets, crafted savings plans, and changed our lifestyle. The rest is documented here on this blog.

Exodus

This past Friday, I quit my job. The great, lucky job to land. Many people would scoff at the irresponsibility, the thanklessness of my decision. Many would kill for the job I gave up. But I am neither thankless nor irresponsible. I owe the opportunity to pursue the Traveling Savage project to my previous job, but also to my own planning, determination, and talents. My irresponsibility ended when I stopped ignoring that realization hanging on like a half-frozen fly in the dark, recessed part of my mind.

This is a requiem for a wonderful job at a wonderful company. This is just my story, a small tale of self-actualization and dream catching.

Listening to: Emancipator

Original photo by macloo via Flickr under Creative Commons


NorbertNo Gravatar November 1, 2010 at 4:39 PM

Congratulations now that you start a new journey. Like you say, it is not irresponsible or selfish to act for yourself and look for the things you love and that give you a purpose in life, even if it means leaving that dream job. When you feel inspired in what you’re doing you get to accomplish more, and in turn, receive more.

A bright road ahead… :)

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 1, 2010 at 10:13 PM

Thanks Norbert. I believe that doing inspired work will always get you farther in life. Now I’ve that aligned myself and eliminated the dissonance, I’m eager to see what happens.

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Brooke vs. the WorldNo Gravatar November 1, 2010 at 5:16 PM

I always wonder how people who hate their jobs manage to stay there for years and years and years. They must be able to compartmentalize bc, like you, I have difficulty feeling happy if one thing is “off” — especially when that thing is your job… the thing that you spend more time with during the week than with people you love.

Good for you for giving it a go & seeking out something you will enjoy ;)

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 1, 2010 at 9:53 PM

Unfortunately, I think it’s pretty easy to get stuck in a job routine, especially if there isn’t something particular driving you away. Thanks for the kind words, Brooke!

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GrayNo Gravatar November 1, 2010 at 5:41 PM

I admire your courage, Keith. It’s not easy walking away from a good-paying job once you’re ensconsed in that life, especially for something with less certainty. After reading your writing for much of the year, though, I have no doubt you’ll be successful. Kudos!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 1, 2010 at 10:23 PM

That’s very kind of you to say – thanks Gray!!

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AliNo Gravatar November 1, 2010 at 10:12 PM

Traveling is the one time/place/activity that allows me to turn off the nagging pressures of work. I can easily spend 99.9% of my vacation completely oblivious to the fact that my job even exists, until the end when I fear having to go back. And like you said, it does get harder to go back every time. It’s really inspiring to watch people like you actually do something daring like quit your job in order to follow a dream. I’ll work my way out of my trap soon hopefully. Good luck in Argentina. I’ve said it before, but I’m really looking forward to reading about your journeys.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 1, 2010 at 10:34 PM

Hey Ali. To be honest, I was surprised at my own perseverance. It all clicked into place once I found a goal to believe in. Sounds like you’ve already found yours. Good luck, and I’m glad to have you reading.

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CandiceNo Gravatar November 1, 2010 at 10:48 PM

Woot, congrats!! Ain’t tech writing a bitch? Glad you’re out of there, too. ;)

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 9:57 AM

Technical writing is a good job, and it taught me to think in new ways, but I need to have more space to flex my creative muscles. Thanks Candice!

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MitchNo Gravatar November 1, 2010 at 11:03 PM

Congrats on making the move! I look forward to reading more about your journeys and hope that I will find more of my own opportunities to travel the way I want to! Best of luck to you.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 10:09 AM

Thanks Mitch. Keep drawing up plans to make your desires a reality.

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Christy @ Ordinary TravelerNo Gravatar November 1, 2010 at 11:50 PM

I know the feeling of being trapped all too well. I’ve felt that way many times in a job that I don’t love. I’m lucky I have a job now that allows me freedom while saving money. I will never go back to 9-5! Good for you for breaking away!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 10:11 AM

Hey Christy, thanks. What do you do now and how did you get there?

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Zablon MukubaNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 2:02 AM

big up on leaving your unsatisfying job to find a job that will truly make you happy. its a good thing you know you are good at what you do and you can put your skills to something you really love. you will be very successful

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 10:13 AM

Well, it’s a continual struggle as far as “knowing I’m good at what I do.” I’ve always assumed that most creative types question whether their work is up to snuff, and I’m no different. Thanks Zablon.

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Adventurous KateNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 2:03 AM

Congratulations and welcome to this new and exciting world! I’ve been in your position for about six weeks, and I love it. :-) Once the stress starts to disappear — which I think will happen once you arrive in Argentina — you will feel so amazingly awesome. Can’t wait to read your posts.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 10:18 AM

Thanks for the wise words, Kate. It looks like you’ve found your footing in Southeast Asia now!

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EricaNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 2:51 AM

Congrats Keith! I am excited for the adventures you are about to embark upon! I cannot wait to continue reading your thoughtful posts while abroad.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 10:25 AM

Thanks Erica, I appreciate the support!

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Michelle BloreNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 3:33 AM

It’s almost 10 years since I quit my job and headed for the horizon; not to travel specifically but to live in another country and try a different way of life. My partner and I had no distinct plans and things just evolved over time. Think of it not as giving up your job, but taking responsibility for your own lifetime. It takes a while to shake off your perceptions about what you must have and do, the image you’ve created of yourself in conforming to expectations, but in doing so you will truly free your soul.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 10:26 AM

Michelle, thank you for this way of looking at things. I can already feel the difficulty of shedding old work routines. Over time they’ll slough off. It’s an exciting time for sure.

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Nomadic ChickNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 3:15 PM

A beautiful swan song for the years you spent there. Now you can breathe, and pursue this project to its full potential. Looking forward to reading more. And to think, I was one of the first to interview The Savage, it’s been a wild journey!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 4:10 PM

Thanks Jeannie – I’m eager to direct myself 100% to Traveling Savage. I thought it was very cool when you asked to interview me. Thanks for doing that so long ago! :)

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Nomadic ChickNo Gravatar November 3, 2010 at 5:30 AM

I’d do it again. In fact, a year from now we might need to do retrospective. Hmmm.. (the wheels turn in my head). :)

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 3, 2010 at 11:06 AM

I’m in :)

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SuzyNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 5:26 PM

Congratulations on pursuing your seemingly hidden passion until just a few months ago. It’s nice to gain a little bit more insight into how you got here. Love the fly comparison.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 5:35 PM

Thanks Suzy. Travel writing always sounded magnificent to me. Back when I first thought of it, blogs really hadn’t made a dent on the scene, and, more importantly, social media was not as sophisticated as it is today. These tools have matured to the point where I can pursue this dream with a modicum of assurance that it’s a feasible plan. I suppose the message would be that some things need time to develop.

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AmandaNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 5:44 PM

Congrats, Keith! I’m so happy for you, and the wide world of adventure that’s now at your doorstep.

It’s one thing to feel stuck in a good job that pays well, I think. It’s another to feel stuck in a job that DOESN’T pay well. It makes it so much harder to get out when you have no money… That’s where I’m at right now. I don’t hate my job, but I don’t love it, either. I’m doing my best though, and hopefully will have something different to look forward to next year!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 7:25 PM

Thanks Amanda. That’s true that having a low-paying job makes this a difficult decision from the other end of the spectrum. Basically the inverse. The battle changes from one of mental justification to resource acquisition. Keep at it, you’ll find a way!

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AndiNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 7:28 PM

I love that “dream catching.” Congrats on following your heart, may your wildest dreams come true!!!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 7:35 PM

Thanks Andi, wish our paths would have intersected while in Argentina.

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MikeachimNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 7:38 PM

Lovely bittersweet work, this. Too often we look back and rewrite it all in shades of Bad, when we’re turning over onto a new chapter of our lives. I’ve done that a few times, summing up years of personal development with a shrug and a “well, we all make mistakes”. But there are no really bad mistakes if we’re ending up doing what we love doing to any degree at all…

But that doesn’t make it any easier at the time, or even in hindsight.

Yet it was all worthwhile. Because here you are, about to do the most amazing thing.

It’ll be a real pleasure following you on your travels, Keith. :)

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2010 at 10:12 PM

It’s true that when you leave on a bad note it’s very easy to overlook redeeming qualities. However, I feel I left on a high note and this gives me some perspective on the preceding years. Good to have you reading, Mike.

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MikeachimNo Gravatar November 3, 2010 at 5:14 AM

Definitely a high note. Leaving on your own terms is a real kick in the pants. :) Wild applause.

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MikeachimNo Gravatar November 3, 2010 at 5:25 AM

No, wait. You guys over there have the different, negative version of kick in the pants. I meant it as in “a real blast”. Ghagh. This Anglo-American language barrier thing can be a….real kick in the pants. ;)

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 3, 2010 at 11:05 AM

I usually associate a kick in the pants with a sudden and voluminous feeling of nausea :)

Kent @ No Vacation RequiredNo Gravatar November 6, 2010 at 8:29 AM

What an inspiring post. Your willingness to confront major change is admirable and will, no doubt, give others the needed “push” to do the same. Awesome.

I especially like how you say: “I vividly recall the feeling of being trapped. I wanted something else, but it was an undefined sensation more than an actionable plan.” I believe that many people experience that same sort of moment (over and over!) and will find great hope in the fact that you forged ahead.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 6, 2010 at 4:26 PM

Kent – I sure hope people find some hope in this post, but also that it gives them the push they need to move from hope to action.

Thanks for the kind words!

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KristinNo Gravatar November 7, 2010 at 11:07 AM

Wonderful heartfelt article – congratulations on taking your big leap…I’ll be following.
K

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 7, 2010 at 11:58 AM

Thanks Kristin!

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Jeff TiteliusNo Gravatar November 9, 2010 at 2:32 PM

Another wonderfully written story…i can see why your wife lavishes about your talents…truly remarkable. I am living vicariously through your tales so keep them coming my friend and keep inspiring the world!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 10, 2010 at 9:55 AM

Thanks Jeff, really appreciate the kind words. Hope to write some great stuff coming out of Argentina.

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