Two things happened recently that I thought related nicely to each other.
- A friend of mine just emailed me to tell me he had just “Pulled a Respectable Chuck” (more on that in a minute) and quit his job. He decided that the ambiguity of having no employment is more bearable than the job that unambiguously kills him a little each day.
- I read with interest an article written by Alison Doyle of About.com called “Good Reasons to Quit Your Job” and wanted to tell everyone I know to read it.
Dumping a job seems like heresy in this day of hard-to-get employment, at first glance. At second glance, it reminds me of all the bad crap that snowballs on your sorry ass when fear rules the day, your decisions, and your life.
When I worked as a store designer at a major retailer, I had a coworker, Chuck, who was an enormously talented designer. Our cubicles were next to each other. He had a somewhat downtrodden and quiet demeanor, I suspect, because he knew that every vision of better store design he came up with would end up praised for its originality and politely kicked aside, to be replaced with a slightly elevated standard of mediocrity that ruled the day. Every day he came in early and did his job. Every day I wondered what the hell he was doing there. Every day, at some point near the end of the day, I’d hear a single sigh eminating from the direction of his cubicle before he left.
One morning I was working at some new store drawings, putting standard casework into a standard palette with standard tables and chairs. Chuck came in, same as usual, but this time he stopped cold before his cubicle. “I can’t do this,” he muttered to himself. He picked up his box of Prismacolor pencils, turned around and walked out.
At first I didn’t make anything of it, figuring Chuck was just being Chuck. Then through the day other coworkers asked me where he was, had he come in, did he say when he was coming back, did you know he missed our meeting, and so on. Later in the day I realized that what I had witnessed was Chuck having a flash epiphany, a design vision of his own that was NOT going to be diluted and trammeled, and there was not another moment to be wasted. It was an impulse of brilliance and clarity.
He didn’t come back. He couldn’t be reached. No one heard from him for months, until he reappeared working for a design firm somewhere else in town. He never spoke of it to anyone I knew.
Those of us still there who admired the finality of what he did henceforth referred to this as “Pulling a Chuck.” We longed for the courage to recognize our own need to do this and… do this.
I turned in my own two weeks notice a few months later. Those two weeks were filled with an odd combination of hysteria and indifference directed at me. Every day I wished that I had Pulled a Chuck, but I realized I didn’t have the kind of clarity he did. Whereas he knew what he wanted and that this wasn’t it, I only knew that this wasn’t it but I didn’t know what was.