Should I Quit My 9 to 5 Job?

It’s no secret that, three years ago, I quit my regular, full-time, 9-5 job to chase my dream of becoming a writer. I was feeling restless and chaotic at the time, a little trapped and bored, and wondered if there was something better “out there”. Besides, I had wanted to be a writer my whole life.

So I pulled the plug.

quit-your-jobPhoto Credit: Naim Naim, Creative Commons

It was going to be great, I decided. I had visions of myself tucked away in a coffee shop somewhere, gripping a steaming cup of something, committing words to paper as they spontaneously burst into my head. In the movie that played in my head, I was always smiling and sort of looking up toward heaven. It was so nice.

But that dream never came true.

Instead, what I experienced when I quit working for someone else, and began working for myself, was mostly the same stuff: Stress, confusion, chaos, apathy, frustration, even boredom at times.

Except now I was broke. Like really, really broke.

I blew through my savings in the first year, and was living paycheck-to-paycheck after that. There were moments when I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay rent or buy groceries.

After the second year, I had liquidated nearly everything valuable I owned (except my computer, which I needed to keep writing) and, as if that wasn’t enough, I was working double the hours I had been working when I had a normal job. There were a ton of reasons for this, most of which involved my own naivete and error.

But the point is this: Quitting my job didn’t solve my problems.

Lately, things are going much better for me — financially and otherwise. Again, there are a million reasons for this, none of which I have space to explain here.

But it occurred to me the other day that, although I am now successfully self-employed, I have a 9-5.

I wake up early in the morning, make coffee, and get started working about the same time as everyone else. I take a break for lunch, right around noon. Sometimes work into the evenings, or on Saturdays (because I like the work I do) but I usually lay pretty low on the weekends. I even “pay” myself a salary from a savings account at the beginning of each month.

I don’t expect you to care about how often I work, or how I pay myself, but the point is this:

There’s nothing wrong with a 9-5.

There’s so much talk of quitting your job these days, people who know my story often ask me this question: “Should I quit my 9-5?” Up until recently, I’ve had a hard time answering them. I say things like, “Well, it’s not for the faint of heart,” or “It’s not as glamorous as it seems,” or “it won’t solve your problems.”

And those things are all true.

But more recently I realized something I hadn’t thought of before. The problem isn’t our jobs. The problem is the lack of purpose and meaning we feel in our lives.

This is an important realization, because this means two things.

First, it means you might not need to quit your job. You might find your 9-5 to be extremely meaningful and purposeful. You might be wake up everyday excited to go to work and be a part of a team of people who are making an impact on the world.

If that’s the case, count your blessings. You’re among the few.

But, if you hate your job, consider that it might not be about the job itself. By that I mean, perhaps you’ve been showing up for your job everyday for the past weeks, months or years, simply because it pays the rent or buys the groceries. Maybe you are being dutiful and obedient to take care of your family (which is a purpose unto itself).

Or maybe you just want a new car. I don’t know.

What I do know is that, if you haven’t considered the greater impact your work has on you and your community, your job will feel miserable.

If that’s you, ask yourself this question: Why does my job matter? If I stopped doing it, what would happen?

I believe it is possible to find purpose and meaning, no matter what you do. Sometimes we need a change of circumstance, but often what we need is simply a change of perspective.

Meaning takes work to find. But finding it could make all the difference in the world.

10 comments on “Should I Quit My 9 to 5 Job?

  1. I could not agree more! I just wrote a blog post about why I recently took a 9-5 because I felt there was a need to champion the fact that people have to work, and working a traditional 9-5 is not “selling out” or giving up. There are seasons in life for different types of employment. I had a season for working for myself, and now I’m ready to step into a season of working for someone else. The thing that really did make the difference for me was the purpose in the job I just took (which was strong for me) and the factors in my life that add purpose innately and also added fuel to my decision – things like wanting to be able to relocate and working with a team in-person. The past few years have taught me that jobs will come and go, none of them will be perfect, and all require identified purpose. Thanks for this reminder, Ally!

  2. It took me a few years to realize how awesome my job is, and how thankful I am to have it. While there are the seasonal temptations to go off and do something else, the value of the job and the community it gives me is utterly important to my own humanity. Not everybody can say that, and I’m extremely thankful that I am.

  3. Thanks for posting this. It’s easy to believe the hype that quitting your nine to five gives you more freedom and therefore an all-round more glamorous life. The thing is, as long as we’re on this earth, work is going to be a thing, and in my opinion the very nature of work is that it’s not fun or easy 100{9ac618bfda39dd0c8c9a0232963cb9a2adfe54a7367c2d4954ad9e847b2e5305} of the time, even if it’s your dream job.

  4. I know the key is to find the right 9-5 and what fills that time. I know that I will never not work but I want to do work that matters to me.

  5. Love this! I’m in the process of applying and interviewing for a 9-5 job. As I’ve been searching and applying, I’ve asked myself “Is this something I really want to do?” as I read through each job description. Now I’m into the interviewing process, and while I’ll be thankful to have a job, I want to make sure it is one where I can see my purpose and see the value I’m adding, as well as the growth and learning I’m gaining from the job.

  6. I quit my job ten years ago because I hated it and because I wanted to be a writer more than anything. Four years ago I stopped putting off the inevitable (we were struggling to keep a roof over our heads) and I went back to a 9-5 job. Today I am very grateful I have a job.
    i write during gaps in the day and during lunch hours and the upside to this is that I have become more disciplined, more focused…thanks for this great post!

  7. I have come to realize that I like my mundane 9-5 job. My job leaves very little room to be creative (IT purchasing), but it is somehow really helpful for my creative side. I get to spend downtime reading blogs, drawing, and looking out at my 8th floor view daydreaming. I’ve found that it makes me even more creative and productive in my free time. I have an easier time focusing on my creative stuff while still feeling comfortable with a steady paycheck.

  8. My question Ally is: would you be where you are now if you didn’t quit your job? I do understand that we need to pay the bills, but that should not keep us from making leaps of faith.

    Not knowing how to pay your rent this month or buy groceries this week is not being in a state of sin. Many times we have to make that leap of faith and be faithful during that time of “hardship.” It could be a valuable part of the learning experience. It also will help us not take the successful times for granted. Many of our “9-5” jobs are what is keeping us from living meaningful lives.

    Of course we all would agree, we want a 9-5 job…. doing what we are made to do.

    Whatever the course we take, living our dreams is not easy.

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