Monday, February 06, 2006

Just Walk Away

Wow, I really admire people who can just walk away and quit the profession that they spent a good part of their life preparing for--I wish I had. I used to be one of those people who would persevere through anything, despite the unhappiness it caused me. Since my heart attack six years ago, I have cut down my private practice to one day a week--and those cases I take must really interest me in some way or give me a sense that I am making a difference for an individual or society. In my profession, I find it rare to feel that fulfilled. Many courts, agencies, attorneys etc. have an agenda or underlying objective for why they want a forensic evaluation--and it does not always mesh with the truth. For this reason and for many others, I rarely practice my field.

Have you ever dreamed of just quitting your day job, staying home to read your favorite books, write or just spend your time blogging? You know, you see all those ads that tell you how to be a full time blogger--anyone out there succeeding at this or wish they could?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

In high school I dreamed every day of just not arriving in class but taking the road passing the bulding to wherever it led. I never gave in to that temptation, unfortunately. I should have.

9:48 AM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Spring said...

I gave up my Air Force career so I could stay ome with my kids. My husband was in the Marines as well so it was quite possible that he would be on one continent, I would be on another and our daughter back home with one of our parents. Haven't regretted a minute of it. I've just started a sewing business but that's never going to make me rich and famous. It does keep us in piano lessons.

I have a good friend who gave up her law career because she was sick and tired of watching despicable people get off scott free. The one that did it was a so-called mother with munchausen by proxy syndrome.

My friend said it was all she could do to keep from leaping over the table and strangling the woman with her bare hands.

Too much stress, she had to give it up. She's much happier now.

10:56 AM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I would love to make a living writing. So far, I seem to be best at writing articles/columns. Writing a book doesn't seem to be my forte.

Maybe someday.

10:57 AM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Nick said...

I haven't quit a profession, but I did quit my field. After getting a master's in French (I wanted to profess originally) I decided to just get a job.

It was hard at first, but I am now really happy. I can see now that sitting and talking about existentialism, authorial intent, etc., is a poor subsititute for living, making things happen, or actually being the author that people would want to read. And I was trying to make myself fit into a spot where I didn't belong.

I mourned that identity for a couple of years but I can't imagine myself back in that situation again and have found a much better fit.

11:04 AM, February 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I taught for a couple of years and realized I didn't have the patience. Also, I love to learn and was depressed that so many kids didn't give a damn if they knew anything or not just as long as they got what they thought they deserved.

I drifted into library work which I enjoy. I've also started teaching again part time at the college level. There are still a few in every class who don't
belong there, but I can cope them better now.

11:10 AM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Jerub-Baal said...

It was probably easier for me than for you, as what I quit was a job pattern, not really a career (at least I never viewed it as one). I spent fifteen years in sales and was good at what I did, but not stellar. When the last place reorganized their sales and marketing department and let me go, it felt so good to be done with the place that I decided never to look back. It was good enough work to feed the family, but nothing more than that, and the stress was amazingly high. Now I am a painter, something I always wanted to be.

Now, I can't claim to be making gobs of moolah as an artist. But the time with family, and the greater mental health are more than worth the financial sacrifices. Serendipity has helped to fill in for some of the money concerns, and I know a number of people who would claim that is a result of God's blessing, or making good karmic choices et cetera. I'm not sure the world really works that way but I am thankful for the blessing. I can only hope that others who make such a leap can get the breaks that I have.

11:23 AM, February 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I quit medical practice after five miserable years (six years ago at age 32). I discovered that the profession did not suit me, though I had the aptitude for it. For paid employment, I intermittently work menial jobs while I pursue my dream of learning to write good fiction.

I use my blog as a forum to blurt my thoughts; I also use it to "diamond prospect" for like minds out there in the 'verse. While I enjoy blogging, I don't think I could be a "professional" blogger--I sort of shudder when I think of what would be necessary to make my site a "mainstream" revenue enhancing device.

12:13 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Nick said...

I thought about it for a time when I was in a job where my boss was making my life a living hell. The software industry at the time was very bad (right after the dot com bust), and so find a new job in my field was hard.

Then I was laid off. 5 weeks of severence followed by another 4 months of unemployment. I wasn't blogging at the time either... but suddenly the reality of being without a good steady paycheck, and not being in an industry where I do actually enjoy working was a lot worse than the fantasy I had while my boss was berating me on a daily basis.

The grass is always greener as they say.

12:41 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Henry Cate said...

"What Color is Your Parachute" by Richard Nelson Bolles is one of the best books on finding a job. Richard Bolles makes the point that there are two types of job changes.

One is finding another job doing what you have been doing. You've been flipping hamburgers at Wendy's so you find another job flipping hamburgers at Burger King.

The second type of job change is changing to a new type of job. You've been at Wendy's and you start feeding the animals at the zoo. (OK maybe that isn't a big change.)

About a third of the book is on how to find your passion. Richard Bolles helps the reader through a set of exercises to discover passions.

You might want to check the book out. It sounds like you are ready for a major job change. So far everyone I've encouraged to read it has felt it was very worthwhile.

Good luck.

1:25 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Ice Scribe,

You are the one who inspired me to write this post but I lost the URL to your post about quitting medical practice. Could you email me or get me the URL for your post?


1:34 PM, February 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've done it twice.

In 1984 I walked away from pretty decent marketing jobs dating back to 1972 due to all the corporate politics. It was eating my insides.

I picked up a hammer and worked as a self employed carpenter – which I had learned working for my father’s contracting business in college and for 2 years after college. I did mostly smaller jobs that bigger contractors didn’t want to do. I did alright fulfilling that niche. Only problem was that, by about 1996, my back was pretty beat up – mostly from sheetrocking ceilings.

Luckily I had learned computer graphics in my spare time, doing a little pro work starting about 1993. I’ve got a pretty good eye for design, again learned from my father; an engineer who designed some pretty fancy structures. As a carpenter I gat to redesign he entrances to a few churches, as well as numerous interiors for homes. By 1996 the web had hit pretty good and I could make about $1000 a day designing sites. I could get the bucks because of my 12 years of corporate marketing experience. Even got paid by one of the big software outfits to write on proper web design – using their apps - for delivery over the common dialup connections of the time.

Web design, as opposed to fancy website engineering, became unprofitable after a time, but print design has retained its profitability. I’ve done pretty well with this stuff – a lot of it due to my past marketing experience. My accounts range from little 2 person outfits to multinationals. It’s quite fascinating to open up the NY Times and see ads that you’ve created, or to get a catalog in the mail and see the work that you did. For the past 3 years I’ve designed programs for one of the big pro sports outfits.

As long as you enjoy always learning new things, and applying them to actual practice, changing careers can be fascinating. I was always somewhat frugal and carried little debt, so I had the money to live while shifting around. That’s important, because it takes time to become profitable in any new venture. My wife also left the corporate world in 1992 to open her own shop - in the same field.

One thing I’d never do is go back to being an employee. I’d mow lawns before doing that. To me, it’s far more satisfying to live by my own wits.

2:00 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Carolyn B. said...

You might also want to scroll through the archives at -- she supports her family on her blog alone. Wish I could remember when she posted that, but it's been within the past 6 months. She's also famous for being fired from a job in 2002 because of her blog; check her Wikipedia entry.

2:16 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Nancy said...

I left a pretty good career in the fashion industry to go into journalism. Even went to j-school. Fashion attracts a lot of shallow folks. Anyway, that change happened in the midst of meeting my husband and starting a family, so I changed again to stay home with the kids. The first one will be in public school next year. It won't be long until I make another change--to go back into the workforce. Seems like with family, for me at least, life and career are in constant change.

I think I'd be pretty good at literary non-fiction, or helping someone with their book before I write my own. Until then, maybe I can get a job at a local paper.

2:18 PM, February 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, let's see... I was a nurse and left that to go into computers where I am very happy. I haven't even gotten close to where I want to be with this profession so I still have goals.

Blogging as a job is too nebulous for me. I need clearer goals... although it's fun, it's too undirected for me to want to pursue it as a job to earn money. Basically it's the same problem I have with being a writer. I would LOVE to be able to write fiction... I just can't do it - I'm far too "left brained" to create in that manner - so I am always in awe of people who write for a living.

3:18 PM, February 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spend my time fearing I will be laid off and fearing won't be. I am a lifelong quitter. I quit geometry, then I quit first year of college, then I quit the first year after I went back, then I quit the first year of law school to try J school, then after going back to law school and graduating I quit my practice after a year even though it was going great. I'm just a weenie with stress, and it wasn't really bad stress either.

So I've stayed in the same job for 11 years now, writing proposals and playing corporate atty for a software company. I don't trust my urge to quit. I give up everything I lay my hands on. The only thing I stayed with was playing drums in bands for 30+ years.

There's just too much freedom out there.

4:21 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger KCFleming said...

Thee are many, many things I would rather be doing. Seeing 3 to 6 chronic pain patients a week can suck the very life out of you.

I trudge along, because I must, however. One in college, one more in college next year, one entering high school, and a stay-at-home mom all look to me for economic security. I consider it my duty, and that gets me through most days. Just one of Burke's "little platoons", I guess.

Were I single, I'd have cut back, moved, and limited the unsavory parts of practice long, long ago.

4:23 PM, February 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True Story with a Moral:

I wanted to study art & design - maybe architecture - but my parents jumped on me. No prospects! Who will marry a guy with no career! etc.

They pushed me into engineering school. I hated almost every minute of it.

After working my lackluster way through various fields related to mechanical engineering - from air-conditioning design to bridges and tunnels - I wound up in hi-tech. Specifically, in the marketing division. Even more specifically, in Marketing Communications - that is, I put together the glossy brochures, exhibition booths, promotional films - basically I spend my day translating engineering speak into the language of art and design. I regularly sit across the table from graphic designers, artists, architects, photographers.

So you eventually come back around to what you want to do. And generally you want to do things for which you have some aptitude.

I am tickled pink by all the talk about people having several careers in their lifetimes - not scared by this prospect at all. I have so many interests, I am looking forward to constantly trying new things.

Of course, it does help to pare back one's material expectations - but that is good advice in any case: divorce your notions of happiness and success from anything smacking of material acheivement or competitive, externally driven status.

4:38 PM, February 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Pogo.

Most of us (predominantly men) are the financial sustenance for other people. Maybe not just spouse and kids, but also for parents or other extended family. For us, 'quitting' is just a pipe dream, as selfish an act as going out and buying a shiney new sports car. Not everybody is in their mid to late 30s, single and childless.

5:01 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Nancy said...

teresa said: I need clearer goals... although it's fun, it's too undirected for me to want to pursue it as a job to earn money.

I feel that way too! That's likely why I haven't written a book, though people keep telling me I should.

pogo: I feel for you, and I think about the burden my husband carries supporting me and the two kids. It's part of why I can't wait to get back to work! The other night - Saturday, I think it was - around 10 PM, the president of his company said to him, "Ya see - this is how we get a product out!" My poor husband, working a weekend and his third of five late nights that week due to management's bad planning, wanted to quit right then and there, but didn't because of us.

anonymous 4:38: So you eventually come back around to what you want to do.

True in my case. I have a passion for writing, which I stamped down years ago and finally came back to. But what about my real dream - nightclub singing! Sigh. Will I ever give it a try...

5:46 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Lee J. Cockrell said...

I quit my job two weeks ago because of hostile and condescending treatment, and an ultimatum they gave me. Fortunately I'm in a financial position where I don't have to find a job immediately. I'm less stressed out, have fewer headaches (I had them ALL the time), can catch up on things I've been meaning to do. I've been talking to some people about other jobs, and have offers, but I just don't need to right away. So I won't.

I think a month or two off every couple years would do wonders for people. It's too bad America has attachments to antiquated standards like 40 hours a week, 2 weeks of vacation a year, etc. More emphasis should be placed on what you can get done, not how long you're on the clock. My next job I'll probably contract so I can take vacation whenever I want, and any work I do, be it 20 or 60 hours a week, would be billable.

Additionally, I think 3-4 weeks of vacation a year would be an inexpensive but lucrative enticement for companies to offer above and beyond salary.

6:18 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger reader_iam said...

"Blogging full time," despite all of its personal rewards, strikes me as an impractical goal, pe se, for most (although hats off to Dooce)! But blogging as a piece of a broader writing/editing career? Or even as a component of a jigsaw-puzzle work life? There may be real possibilities in those contexts.

I spend a good chunk of time blogging these days, but not because I expect it to some day pay off directly, financially speaking (although that would be great). To do so strikes me as impractical, for almost everyone. However, if you're serious about blogging daily, you end up building and sharpening skills and discipline. In my case, with a formal background in writing/editing fields, it's been a great way to get myself back to writing, which--with a few "utility writing" exceptions--I had given up. I dearly love my freelance editing gig (of five years, for a quarterly foreign-policy journal), but to move forward I must go back to writing, as well.

Blogging has gotten me past the inexplicable "freeze" in which I found myself with regard to writing (despite an actual professional background in journalism, full time and freelance). So it's a means, as well as an end.

Now the trick is to make it an "end" as well, along with a kaleidoscope of other endeavors--and to weave them into some type of unified and balanced whole.

As for trying new things, or just having one career: I've always just had to do the former, and I long ago rejected the latter.

It turns out that I was a bit ahead of my time!

; )

8:04 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Sissy Willis said...

'Spent most of the last 20 or so years getting further education, including an MLA from Hahvad -- my dear-departed mother always wanted her daughter to get a Harvard education. Then I stopped, looked around and there came my nineteenth nervous breakdown. When I came up for air, the blogosphere was my lifeline.

8:20 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Sissy Willis said...

You know how you are. You get people to open up perhaps more than they meant to.

8:22 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Dr. Sanity said...

I wish I could!

Dr. Sanity

10:13 AM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger Jeff Faria said...

I am attempting to work out a way to make blogging work as a full-time endeavor. I am the support of some people as well, but life is too short not to go after your own goals. What I will probably do is downscale (drastically) my way of life. I am also looking at tie-ins to make blogging pay.

AdSense can provide a bare-bones living, but only at a much-higher rate of traffic. The question is, can that be achieved? By me, I mean, not your husband. The answer is "Maybe". I am also pitching a book to publishers via an agent.

None of these things gives one much (if anything) by way of disposable income. However it could keep one in the game of ideas, and that I think is the real key at this point.

I am sorry about the forced curtailing of your private practice but glad that you seem to find blogging satisfying. As one commenter noted, almost anything is better than being a (usually) misreated employee.

10:32 AM, February 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm..there seems to be something Romantic and unserious about all this. When I think of my poor father, chained to a desk at the phone company until age 65 and going crazy (I found his diary after he died), then his wife dies..well, he seems like a Man and the guy who chucks it all to open a fishing resort in Alaska or whatever seems like a kid.

And all the people who fancy themselves writers...geezus grow up people.

11:10 AM, February 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, like me, you're probably not good at taking your own advice. I bet a good part of what you tell your patients is that they need to do something, some action, and not just sit around and just do an 'Oh Woe is me".

Reading all the comments here, it seems like the people who have escaped have all done something, anything, to take them on their way. Doesn't matter if it's related to what they really want to do or not, just doing something different makes you feel better. If you feel better, you're more likely to continue new things.

I've been in the same field for a long time, computer performance consulting for a software company, and though I really used to enjoy the adrenaline rush of having to diagnose and fix problems yesterday, it's gotten pretty old. And since I had people who depended on me to maintain their lifestyle, I stuck with it and just followed other interests I had on the side. Those dependents have gotten older and on their own now, and I just need the courage to take the first step. I know all I have to do is close my eyes and leap...


11:33 AM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger Nick said...

Here's an interesting place to look for opinions... Ask Slashdot recently asked the question: Would You Take A Paycut for More Interesting Work? All Ask Slashdots get loads of comments... some of them are pretty interesting.

11:33 AM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger Obernai said...

I had toyed with the idea of a change in careers for a few years, taking night classes at a local college, but was too hesitant (chicken?) to actually do anyting substantial. Well, I did have a wife and two very young children at home. But then the company I worked for was bought out and the whole egineering staff was laid off. So after many late night discussions with my wife, I went for it and enrolled in grad school 4 states to the west. Six years and two more kids later, we are almost there. And it hasn't been easy. (money money money....)

BUT, I know I would have been bored to death and never been really satisfied with my job as an engineer.

It was a tough decision, but well worth it in the end. As one of my professors said to me when I was bitching about the time it takes to get there: "Those years will pass by anyway, might as well make them count for something." Thanks Dr. Kerr, you gave me the push I needed.

11:35 PM, February 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My experience is not so different from those of nick or anonymous 11:10 AM. I got my PhD in American Literature and tried to pursue the academic path, until I realized that doing so came at a cost I no longer wanted to pay. So I moved into another field and have built a new career for myself. This is not my dream career or dream job, and if I could, I would rather do something very different, still I think that the move outside of academia has been a good thing for me, and I think that if I ever were to try to return to teaching, I'd have a much better perspective than I did after years of being intensely devoted to formal education.

So now I've got a job which is satisfying in some ways and boring in others, but which allows me to have free weekends and to build a life in a region of the country I spent much of my adulthood dreaming of. The life-building is coming along slowly, but it's still coming along. I've got different priorities now. And while my priorities may change again in a few years, for the time being, I'm content with the kinds of changes I'm seeing and that I'm able to make in my life.

12:59 AM, February 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I quit grad school and the dream I had of being a phd level research scientist after 5 years of grad school. I'd been preparing for it for the prior 21 years.

I wouldn't call my experience one of someone who could "just walk away." It would have killed me. It made me deeply, truly unhappy, and I wasn't going to succeed at it anyway. My health, my relationships, my well being, my hobbies, my family would all have had to be sacrificed for it. Even after quitting, the gaping hole of "everything I've ever wanted I've failed at" didn't just go away. That I'm not bright enough/capable enough/stable enough/talented enough to succeed at what I want is a thought I still have all the time.

So, then I decided to go to work--to bring home a paycheck, to *do something* for the first time in my life that wasn't school. To get out of my internal head so much. And doing that helped. At least I was doing something for some other goal than "who am I, and what do I want."

I tried to find something that was vaguely fulfilling, but I was just trying to find a way to do SOMETHING so that I could succeed even at the low bar I'd set for myself. What was fulfilling was working on creating some technologies that help certain people. In this case, our soldiers. At least I can be proud I'm contributing somehow.

re: fulfillment: I don't know if I'll find it in any career per se. I know now that I would never have found it in academia, so I still made the right choice (and should have made it sooner.)

Some days, I would love to quit my day job, stay home and read or blog or paint. my husband thinks I should do just that, but I work because for now, bringing home a paycheck and contributing to my family is a kind of fulfillment, and some of my work is fulfilling.

I'm beginning to believe that that level of self-absorption would be bad for me. I'd betting I'd be more fulfilled doing something charitable for someone else. Perhaps that's what will be truly fulfilling for me.

1:01 AM, February 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I imagine Glenn has the most popular blog, so you could look to see how profitable he is.

5:27 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


5:39 AM, March 14, 2009  
Blogger K said...

i feel really unsatisfied with my job, being a lab technician. it sounds good to work as a scientist but it s really a very boring job. Day in day out i do the same things, working like crazy to make up the target and manager/supervior just give me an ungrateful look. They dont care if i work 110 % or not. It s only matter if i dont do overtime and finish the work in the system! I m tired of going to work everyday knowing there will be problems. should i just walk away this job in this finacial crisis thing ?

6:14 AM, April 06, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:29 PM, June 07, 2009  

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