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It was in August 2018, while I was on vacation and in the middle of a trip that and thinking about my life, that I concluded that it was time to resign. There were several reasons why I made this decision, and the process began much earlier. But it was there, not entirely understanding why that the feeling that it was time to leave took the shape of a decision.

man looking to the water as if in vacation

I was talking to a friend I had made a few days ago during the trip. In the middle of an unrelated conversation, I said that on the same day and month, next year, I would probably no longer be at my current job. I did not know which day I would communicate my willingness to leave. When I would leave the company or how I would do it. What I would do next was not even a thought also. Nonetheless, the decision seemed pretty clear.

My work was my only income source, and I didn't know how I would make money in the future, but I was sure it was time to quit. Little did I know that between the decision of that day and my last day at work, I would face a six months’ time frame. Exciting six months, I might say.

Where to Start?

I came back from vacation and started doing the math and see how I would put my decision into practice. I also began to adapt my routine to an experience closer to where I wanted to be. I wanted to explore a new world. Getting another formal job was not in the plans, and I needed to see how I would live like this.

One thing that helped me is that since I started working, I've always had the habit of saving a fair amount of my income. I viewed these savings not only as financial face value but also as time.

I would look at my monthly cost and look at how much money I had saved. So, I knew how much time I had saved for the future.

The longer I had, the more freedom and options I saw in front of me, and the current job was just one of the ways I could take.

Knowing the amount of time, I needed to know two more things:

  • What would I most like to do with time?
  • Would I be disciplined enough to do whatever was necessary without anyone demanding me anything? Without any external pressure?

The last drawer dreams

Front of a old drawer

You know the many things we want to do and always leave it for later, saying you don't have time for them now? Those dreams that lose all priority among daily routine. I started looking at each one of them and trying to figure out which ones were real, and which weren't. I also thought about what things and abilities I would like to gather. Some of them I had never thought of before.

One of the things I am most grateful for is learning to speak my mind in English, almost as I can do in Portuguese. All the grammar mistakes that I still make don't keep me from saying that the language has opened a world of experiences and opportunities to me. I can't imagine what my life would be like if I didn't know how to speak English. I once heard a phrase that said that every language you speak represents a different life. I can only agree. Thus, a priority set was to maintain constant language learning.

I also always felt great when I met a new place and new people. I started traveling as an adult and flew by plane the first time when I was 19, thanks to my brother. From the very first time, I felt I wanted to do that a lot more times. It seemed like every new place allowed me to learn something about me that I didn't know. Not surprisingly, I decided to leave work in the middle of a trip.

These wishes were more on the surface, but I raised a bunch of others. A list that I still update to this day. It has things as simple as learning to whistle with the help of your fingers or as complex as knowing everything it takes to build and maintain a website – from scratch and without the help of tools like Wordpress.

The required discipline

One thing I knew, based on my experience, was that I didn't have much discipline to motivate myself without the help of outside pressures. After leaving college, I knew it would be challenging for me to study and pass an exam for any position in the public sector, for example. I live in Brazil's capital and become a state employee is a dream for a lot of people.

I had a hard time studying to graduate. I was always responsible for my commitment to others, but I couldn't invest heavily in anything without a clear outcome for myself. I started to think that I could not be that disciplined. If I wanted to quit, it was time to prove otherwise.

Anyone who saw me from enough distance could find it different. I always had a good discipline to do what I thought was important and what I liked. My biggest problem was getting the same energy to do something I didn't like.

I have the same behavior as everybody else. I enjoy imagining the outcome, but I avoided the pain of getting there.

What I decided to do was to introduce enough activities out of my working hours. Some things would make me happy to do and, and others would make me feel miserable. I wanted to squeeze my eight-hour journey through as many activities as possible. And yes, the weekend would have to be a working day.

I wanted to overcome two markers. Leaving the situation uncomfortable enough to realize that if I worked fewer hours, I would be yielding more. And I wanted to know if I got to the point where I was doing it long enough to indicate that this was not a passing behavior. The good news is that by the end of September, I was already feeling steady.

The quitting bonus program

I still didn't know when I would leave the company, and then I get an email from the human resources area. The company would be encouraging employees who had more than five years in the company. Those who opted for the program would receive a pretty generous bonus. I would get a lot more extra time than if I decided to quit with regular terms.

The proposal would still have to pass yet another approval, but by the time it reached the email point, it was usually because the discussion had already happened. The adhesions would start in November, and people would begin to leave from February 2019. I soon thought that if it weren't now, it would never be. February would be my last month, and it was time to move my plan to the next step and something more concrete.

That's when the good news became a problem. The company realized that the proposal would generate the interest of people who were not targeted by the program. They gave up the whole thing then. I still had some hope because of some uncertainty until a short time before I left work, though.

However, it helped me realize that I was using the good news as an excuse. And that it made no sense for me to cling to that to make my decision. After all, the extra money would give me more time, but in fact, it would make no significant difference to any results I could achieve after leaving my job. I would succeed or fail, with or without the incentive.

So, if I had any doubt, the supposed drawback gave me all the certainty I needed. I made the decision once and for all. My last month of work would be February 2019 at the most.

It is time to put the cards on the table

A table with two cups of coffee and hands of two people. They seem to be together and talking.

I felt prepared and already knew when I wanted to leave the company. It was time to stop keeping the secret and start telling friends and family. I wanted to know their reaction and hear arguments that might make me rethink my path.

It may not seem like it, but the doubts and the cold feet feeling were a daily company. In a way, still is.

I started talking to very close friends and my brother. The reception, as I expected, was very well. Support from those you like is great for changes like these. The questions they made also helped me.

Before talking to my father, on a friend's birthday, I met him and his wife, also my friend. I told them o ask all the questions they had in mind. As she was pregnant, I knew it would be a good simulation for me to prepare for my dad's doubts. The questions were great, and when I eventually spoke with my dad, he didn't even ask 10% of the things I had to answer in my practice moment. Thank you, my friends.

After talking with close people, it was time to share my thoughts at work. I hoped it was supposed to be more comfortable. That's when the game changed.

Going back to my previous team

I was working on a unique project and a separate team. This project had a delivery date set for December 15, 2018. I had decided that in order not to generate further uncertainty in a project that was already chaos, I would report my intentions one day after the 15th. So, they could replace me in a better scenario.

What I didn't know was that on December 12, they would tell me that I would leave the project and go back to my previous team. The one that I had left about a year and a half ago. I knew my boss wasn't thrilled with my performance on the project, but I didn't expect the change.

The news had an upside and downside. I would go back to the team that hired me, welcomed with open arms — surrounded by several longtime friends. On the other hand, how was I going to say to my new old boss that I wanted to resign without resembling retaliation for the change? How to leave in the middle of this without anyone thinking I was upset, dissatisfied, or something worse? I was very grateful for everything that the company gave me, and I didn't want anyone to think otherwise.

The downside was just in my head

I knew the team was already planning the following year with my contribution in mind. It was hard to see that happening and not say anything. I like everybody so much, and I was unfair. I had to do the right thing, not what would make me more comfortable.

Of course, a lot of people who don't know me could come up with a thousand theories of why I was leaving. However, what relevance would this have in practice? It was then that on my first working day of 2019 — precisely at 10 am on January 7 — I invited my two bosses for a decisive chat.

I said I was pleased to be back because I would spend my last days working with the people who welcomed me to work at that company. However, I would like them to understand that it was time for me to go to places that the company could not take me.

That's when I started to work as a person who has quit, as I say today. I worked for another two months, until March 1, 2019. But this is to be told in another post, which I think you might expect to be smaller than this one.

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Bruno Barros