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On Quitting a First Job

By Tory Hoen

Despite what many of my friends may tell you, I did not get fired. After spending the past eighteen months in a cubicle, I finally decided to quit my job and, as it turns out, to roam the streets of New York humming the theme to “The Greatest American Hero.” Not a bad way to spend a day.

I’ve quickly learned that unemployment—it’s my eighth day—is a true delight. In fact, I imagine this is what it must feel like to roll around in a field of fruit salad—an experience I hope to have someday soon.

Clearly, I’m not talking about the chronic unemployment that cripples economies and leaves people poverty-stricken. I’m talking about the (hopefully) temporary kind… the kind that says: “You’re 24. It’s ok to feel a little lost. Let’s go get a milkshake! What… why not? It’s not like you have anything better to do.”

To back up a bit, the recently abandoned job was my first out of college. I fell into it completely randomly and stayed for a year and a half. It was a great job and it was a terrible job, and the decision to quit was not easy. A semi-wise person once told me, “It’s better to leave too early than to stay too late.” In trying to decipher whether I was premature in leaving or already well past my prime, I weighed a number of pros and cons.

Things I liked about my job:

  • In general, my boss was cool. One time we were at a dog food company to do a research presentation. I attached my laptop to the projector, only to remember that my wallpaper was a picture of a dog whose jaws were clenching the head of a terrified baby cat. The boardroom of Purina employees didn’t see the humor in this scenario, but my boss thought it was pretty funny.
  • I worked on an op-ed we penned for Wyclef, so now I get to make statements like: “I think I can speak for Wyclef when I say there are no unstylish fanny packs, only unstylish people…”
  • I was once sent to Boston dressed as a superhero to “surprise” a prospective client. I said I would only do it if I could be referred to as “The Instrument.” We didn’t get the business, but I did get a free trip to Boston—and a cape!
  • I had business cards, and with business cards came the right to pretentiously hand them out, unsolicited, to anyone who crossed my path. Ideally, I would wink as I handed the cards over.
  • Things I didn’t like about my job:

    • The work/life balance (or lack thereof). A manager at my company recently said to an entry-level employee: “You’re not thinking about work enough when you’re not at work. Take me, for example. I think about work when I’m in the shower.” Gross.
    • In lieu of normal food, my co-workers used to eat things like egg whites—micro-waved in Styrofoam cups and then doused in Splenda.
    • My boss regularly responded to seemingly reasonable queries with the words: “You can be replaced.”
    • Marketing/office lingo really corrodes the soul. I knew I had to leave my job when I could hear (and sometimes use) the following phrases without flinching: “Buzz building.” “Can I pick your brain for a minute?” “Let’s touch base.”
    • Well, the job was replaceable as well. So I’ve embarked on a new phase: temporary unemployment, followed by temporary homelessness, culminating in an eventual move to Paris within the next two months.

      Some think quitting one job without having another is a huge mistake that only generates angst and a patch of irremediably scorched terrain through the otherwise chronological resume.

      Well, worse mistakes have been made. Serena van der Woodsen killed someone, for crying out loud. Speaking of which, I need to plan the menu for my Gossip Girl-themed dinner party next week. See, unemployment does not come without responsibilities.

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