When I Knew I Had To Quit My Life

I’m 40 years old (turning 41 in two weeks) and eight months ago I quit my life. In all respects I had a great life. I lived in Kuwait and worked for a large bank for almost eleven years and had reached a very good management position with a great six figure salary. Yet for the longest time I wasn’t happy. It’s not a unique unhappiness, I think it’s one that all of us have experienced at one time or another. But in my case it had been persistent and building for several years (five exactly).

I woke up to the realization that the life I’ve been living meant very little to me. I was a workaholic who worked hard to avoid some basic truths about myself (a topic I might discuss some day in the future). I used work as a crutch to avoid living a meaningful life, chasing all the things that we’re taught by society to chase: money, prestige and respectability.

I had this epiphany five years prior to quitting. Yet I didn’t act on it. I did what everyone else does who isn’t happy with their life. I soldiered on, I kept my head down and forced myself to keep going through the motions. I dreaded waking up in the morning, lying in bed with knots in my stomach knowing that I had to go into work. My mind constantly running though what was wrong with my life. Even with this deep sense of discontent, I didn’t have the courage to make the changes that I needed to make.

My only escape were my vacations. Every year I’d take one (two if I was lucky) to some place new. I’m a solo traveler and that’s how I like it. The ultimate freedom is to get up in the morning and go discover a new city or town. Where no one knows you and you know no one. Vacations were my high, my addiction. Dreaming and wanting to be somewhere else, other than my job and my daily life.

So how did I finally find the courage to quit?  Short answer, a vacation and my boss. A little background on my work.

The job that I had, that I used to love, changed. Over the course of a couple years there were several restructurings and downsizings that occurred and new executive management were ushered in. This new blood showed little care or consideration for its employees; the work schedule became grueling, everyone was replaceable and life became miserable. Worse my (new) direct manager was a boss from hell. In all my life I’d never met a person who was so verbally and emotionally abusive to his employees, and someone who was so comfortable with telling lies to accommodate his needs given the moment that he was in. While he did not cross the line with me, it was extremely difficult watching him berate my colleagues or people who reported to me and not be able to effectively stop him. HR and the executives were aware of his behavior but were indifferent to it. Even though people hated him and wanted to quit they stayed. They stayed because they had to. They had debts, families and responsibilities, they had to put up with it.

Just before I quit I went on a long vacation (four weeks). I went to Morocco and Spain. It was one of the greatest vacations that I’d ever taken. I left Kuwait stressed out, miserable and burnt out. As I traveled through Marrakesh, Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Cordoba and Granada I felt the life force return to me. I had an awakening of what my life could be like. I don’t know how to explain it, but it was like I was being healed.

I came back to Kuwait feeling 100% energized and great. The first day in the office I did nothing. I just enjoyed the after vacation glow (and it helped that my boss was not there). Second day my boss came back into the office. I didn’t deal with him that day, but since my office was next to his I watched him “work”. Which basically meant watching him scream and abuse the people around him. When I left the office I felt like there was a bomb inside of me. All the unhappiness and discontent came rushing back. I literally felt like I was going to have a heart attack if I stayed in the office for one more day. For the first time I was able to ask myself:  Is this worth it?  What am I going to do about it?   Third day I walked into the office and quit. As simple as that.

It was one of the greatest feeling I’ve ever had. Of course after the euphoria passed, doubt and fear creeped into my mind. What did I do? How can I quit with no plan in place? How can I throw away eleven years of my life just like that? Eventually the fear subsided and I decided to do what I’ve always wanted to do. Take an extended period off and travel.

So I am writing this post mid way through my sabbatical. I just came back from Europe spending 3 months in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Croatia and Czech Republic. I’m in Jordan right now taking care of some family business and then I plan to continue to the next part of my trip that will hopefully take me to Asia.

Below is a favorite video of mine that expresses my feelings about finally being able to quit my job and being free to explore possibilities in life.