After working for almost four years in Japan for an American bank at the sickest pace you can imagine, I turned down a promotion (actually, a couple, but one big one) and then quit my job. For a million reasons that I won't go into, it was the right decision. And no matter how long I go without work, it will always have been the right decision.
When I quit I decided that I would not go back to doing the same job (managing groups of branches and other offices) or my previous job (being a branch manager - worst job in the world - when you go into your local bank, be nice to the manager; she's basically on a suicide watch, trust me, and is only smiling at you because someone has a gun to her head, and she's kind of wishing they would pull the trigger), which I did for ten years, unless I really had to. And even then I probably wouldn't. I can't say definitively because I'm not there yet, but I think I would bag groceries before I do that.
My worst-case-scenario when I quit my job was that I would be out of work for maybe two months. I was actually much more worried that I would get a job too quickly and not have time to relax or remember that there is a meal that comes between breakfast and dinner, it's ok to leave the office before 3:00 AM, (at least on Saturdays and Sundays), and when you feel like you need to go to the bathroom, you can take a five minute break and do it. Those were things I'd forgotten while working overseas. I also knew I'd need time to get over the culture shock, which was significant. So I hoped that I would get a minimum of two weeks off before finding a new job.
So I've been out of work since June. I've applied for lots of jobs since then and had lots of interviews. The interviews usually contain questions/comments like this:
- What is the time difference between here and there?
- Like, what time is it right now in Japan?
- I had a cousin who was a foreign exchange student in Singapore.
- I've always wanted to go to Hong Kong.
- Do they speak English there?
- Say something in Japanese.
- I love Chinese food.
- Did you eat lots of sushi?
- Do you still live in Japan? (What? But I have the same area code as you!)
- Now, where is Japan?
And then there's the freedom, the complete, crazy freedom, unlike anything I've ever experienced. There's peace - peace - and quiet. There's perspective and energy and time - things I haven't had for years. At times it's like being the only hamster not rolling around on an exercise wheel. The other guys are busier, but I feel like I'm on the inside of the joke or something. No longer riding on the merry-go-round, I just had to let it go.
I'm thankful I had a chance to save money in Japan - bankers make complete shit, but there's a lot of cash in being an expat - and I'm very grateful for friends and family who refrain from asking questions that have no answers and who measure my worth not by what I do but who I am. I have NO IDEA what happens next. I hope it's something good. I had an excellent interview on Monday, the best yet, but I'm way past getting hopeful about a good interview. I'm determined to make this a transition that I look back on and say, "My God, that was the best thing that ever happened to me." I hope I can do it. I also wouldn't mind if I look back and say, "I'm so glad I told those assholes where they could put that promotion." I think I will.