The Joys & Sorrows of Work

By | July 6, 2017

I recently quit my job after 6 years.

It’s been one week now and time to reflect on the change after all the good-byes are said, farewell hangover has worn off and the honeymoon is almost over.

I got comments from lot of colleagues when I informed about my plans to leave. Almost all were positive, wishing me good luck and asking about next plans.

Here are few comments, from standard good bye to some very interesting ones.

  • Enjoy your freedom
  • Respect! I always wanted to do this, but could never take that first step
  • What kind of Portfolio do you have? It got to be a big jackpot, otherwise nobody can take this kind of step
  • I feel happy for you. I wish I could do that
  • It’s okay to take a break & re-think the priorities. You should be able to return back if you want to
  • So sad to see you go. Good luck
  • This was a surprise, at least to me. I hope all is well. You will be fine wherever you decide to go
  • What’s the plan? Where next?
  • It was fun working with you all these years. I wish you all the best
  • Too many good people are leaving. And I know why. Good luck and I hope our paths cross in future
  • We will miss you around here

I believe it is necessary to work. For paying the bills and for enjoying the basic luxuries of life. Work helps pay for what the government has promised the retirees. And to pay for the roads, the bridges, the telecommunication systems, for space exploration, for fighting the wars.  Every able-bodied person should work. But not for the sake of it. And one should never sell their soul for their work.

Quitting is hard. People spend more time at work than what they spend actively engaged with their families. So coworkers do feel like family, whether you like them or not. That’s when the joys and sorrows of work start to define our life.

During my  time at work, I have encountered three kinds of coworkers:

  • Highly motivated and fully engaged; they feel their work defines them and they define the company. They are management darlings and rise up until the Dilbert principle catches up with them (‘in a company you eventually end up in a role where you can do the least damage’). But their numbers are small
  • Worker bees; they are programmed to do their job without much fuss. They are reliable, easy to manage, and handle pretty much all the work on ground until they are given more responsibility; that’s when they leave or decide not to grow anymore; they are the punching bag for upper management & build the ladder for them to grow
  • Ride-it-out crowd; mostly those who have no choice but to stick around to pay the bills and build a good cushion to retire; pretty much everyone ends up in this camp later or sooner, until the the meaninglessness of the daily grind dawns on them

Most people will not be in any of these positions without rebelling, if given a choice. There are circumstances beyond anyone’s control that ‘motivate’ people to chug along. And these start very early in their life.

  • Structured Debt: it is surprising how much student loans an average new-hire has; and this cuts both ways: some  of it will be paid over next several years preventing them from saving; and some of it is paid by the parents draining their life long savings
  • Non-structured Debt: the quest to acquire the latest and greatest items out there. I found it impressive how many new-hires buy brand new cars (very often luxury brands) & how often they replace them. There is no parking available on Saturdays and Sundays in the mall next to my house. Portland is a great place for outdoors, but notice the gear people wear. Try next time on a hike: It’s branded, expensive & rarely old.
  • Next-generation’s Debt: most people have kids & they are expensive: (1) childcare costs are high; (2) families end up with only one income as one parent stays with kids; this erodes their current and future income; (3) you need to save a lot for their future. For summer camps, for large family vacations and for college tuition.
  • Mortgage Debt: a typical family pays double the amount what their house if worth, over 30 years. The great American dream of owning a home forces people to put down their roots and never re-locate. And the employer knows that, using it against them.
  • The Impending Health-crisis Debt: If there is one reason why people have to keep working, it’s health insurance. The US system of health insurance through employees forces people into jobs they don’t want to do. And as you grow older, the bills and premiums grow, making it even harder to leave.

I am not immune to any of these but have carefully avoided the ones I could. And that has helped me step out and say goodbye. What next? That still needs to be answered.


4 thoughts on “The Joys & Sorrows of Work

    1. akumar38 Post author

      Good point Eric! But very difficult to focus on something of your own unless you really take the plunge. You managed to run the business with a job, I tried for two years without much progress. That’s why the decision.

  1. Puja Gandhi

    Anil, I commend you for taking the leap. It takes a ton of courage to quit, especially in a culture where quitting is frowned upon (if I ever have kids, I will encourage them to quit or at least be supportive of the decision). I quit being a process engineer a month or so ago (moved to strategic planning at the same company) and I am so much happier and finally have time to reflect on what I really want to do with life. I agree, this may be more of a ‘for pay and benefits gig’, bit at least it affords me enough balance to pursue hobbies and interests which my previous gig failed to do.

    In the end, I think it is important to think not in terms of quitting but in terms of opportunity cost. For every minute I am slaving away working in a job that I am miserable at in a toxic environment I could be happy partaking in meaningful work and feeling joy. Kudos to you and good luck in your future endeavors!

    1. akumar38 Post author

      Thanks Puja for such supportive words! There is so much more outside work which we never got to see. I hope you are exploring some of that now, with the extra time you get.


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