“You called us a family; we were in love,” I shouted down the halls at Greg: my friend, former colleague, and in this moment, videographer. My slightly loose leather loafers squeaked while I ran away from the recording cell phone. We held back giggles while I tried to maintain the composure of a broken ex being escorted out by office security.
It was the first day of winter in LA, marked by the launch of Spotify Wrapped 2023 (this is definitely how winter works, I don’t make the rules). I left the company in July and had weaseled my way back into the office to make one last social media joke featuring me and Spotify.
After nearly four years, thousands of zoom calls, hundreds of spreadsheets, dozens of projects, and innumerable Slack messages, I developed kinship with the people I worked with. Whether it was operating a sandwich line, serving sushi, working in an office, or closing sales in a fully remote environment, I’ve struggled leaving every role in my career because of the connections developed with colleagues. As my experience developed, the projects I worked on became more aligned with my interests, and letting go of initiatives I brought to life also tugged at my heart. These observations led to exploring how the stages of leaving this work environment—a place of stability, comfort, joy; a place where time and energy have been devoted—felt strikingly similar to a romantic breakup. While my moment screaming down the office halls was a parodic metaphor about breaking up with my former employer, I experienced various stages of a breakup over the four months following my departure… and maybe even participated in some unhealthy post-breakup behavior.
TOXIC MOMENTS (I’m joking. Unless…)
Jokes aside, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional toll and time it would take to process quitting, despite the privilege of making the decision for myself. As I write this, we’re in a market where thousands of employees are getting laid off, and former colleagues are left in the dust of instability and chaos. A few have described scrambling to find themselves a new role to fulfill at the mercy of the competitive hiring pool, almost with indifference to narrowing down roles that would actually be aligned with their personal values or professional interests. Others have admitted guilt and shame around not having any motivation to pursue things at all.
There are people whose responsibilities don’t allow for anything other than securing income immediately. The urgency to find a source of income is totally valid. There are also many folks I’ve spoken to (including myself), who carry a pressure to move onto the next thing, even with the privilege of slowing down, afforded by savings/severance/etc. We’re so prepared to jump into the next thing for work. We’re so scared of the discomfort of not knowing what’s next; feeling like we’ll get left behind and not survive. I pause to think about what I’d say to a friend who recently separated from a partner. It’s more likely to be encouragement to find some time and space to process, rather than to push someone into a new commitment right away. In the world of romance, there are friends who might say, 'the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else,' but this has only ever served me as a short-term band-aid. It offers comfort and stabilizes things in the immediate moment, but jumping into anything unaligned only leads to more unfulfillment down the line, with the wound underneath festering until given air to breathe. How can someone find satisfaction if they don’t take the time to explore what would satisfy them?
I’m inclined to believe that it’s the same with career shifts. So much of myself went into the work and it became a part of my identity. The people I interacted with on a daily basis were an integral part of my life. Processing that loss was unsettling and it took me time to regain my footing in a new routine. It seems obvious to grieve a romance, but conversations around job loss don’t come up as naturally. Exiting a cycle provides an opportunity to realign. Why not take the time to process what was working, and what was not? For anyone who feels lost, exhausted, or disappointed by where they’re at professionally, I hope you can find the grace to give yourself space. Despondency is part of the process. Rest is mandatory. Trust your ability to figure it out. Maybe instead of lamenting a dismal market or accepting whatever comes to you, take the time to find a creative third option.
As a newly “single” girly, I’m exploring independence by doing all of the things I didn’t have the time for while in the corporate relationship. Things like focusing on developing my creative skillset, pursuing creative projects, and prioritizing work projects that inspire me as a freelancer—AKA the “focus on myself” post-breakup strategy. TBD on how it’ll end up, but it’s been pretty solid so far. :)