We try to rationalize everything before making a decision. However, that is where we get stuck. We weigh the pros and cons. But how much weight are we willing to give to those shivers down the spine?
My rational deliberation on whether or not to try and pursue a life outside the business world was probably completed years before the action was taken. To just keep going made no more sense. Arguments abounded. But there was that fear… Fear of what exactly? Of things I could not think of yet, of course. Otherwise, they would have already been rationalized. I wanted to migrate to a situation where the pieces seemed more likely to fall into their places. Nevertheless, even in that corporate arrangement, full of obligations as it was, I could find some kind of coziness. The coziness of not having to own up to my decisions. Autonomy is sometimes scary.
In that world where everything feels like impositions, there is at least a structure one can complain about. Go with the flow. It is more convenient when you’re too tired to think of an alternative. To wash your hands of it. It is easier to follow the beaten path than to cut a new one open with a machete. For one who is lost, the corporate way may be attractive in its limited room for manoeuvring. Obviously, decisions will always have to be made: which projects more energy should be devoted to, how to deal with difficult people? To know when it is time to look for another company. You may even have to find a way to add creativity to your job, or, in other words, to leave your mark and thus become less replaceable. In any case, all that comes within a general framework that is to a large extent familiar. The works. The coveted positions are kind of already there. As well as the outlook for wages, the workload or the job location are relatively well known. It is somewhat comforting.
The comfort of a Procrustes’ bed, though. Because success will come only to those whose legs’ size fit in the organization. If on the one hand the structure provides the guidelines for a career, on the other hand it demands that its members suit to it. Double edged sword. Those who are more productive during the evening have a conference call at 8:00 am. Those who prefer to work in silence need to hear discussions about Strictly Come Dancing. On ice.
But if it is indeed all that bad, why do those “people grinders” (a term I borrowed from my psychoanalyst) still live on? Money in the bank at the end of every month, the lower chance of collective failure when compared to individual failure (or at least the avoidance of lonely suffering in case of failure): risk reduction. It is something in the lines of what economists call bad equilibrium. It doesn’t make sense to leave, although it doesn’t feel right to stay on. Fear, incomprehensible, paralyzes.
I resigned. But when I started to search for a still distant meaning, the first thing I saw was the void. Among the nothings I faced in the first weeks, there was the absence of the crutches my job used to provide me with, the scape goat it was for whatever woe of life. If the professional structure I adhered to demanded from me more than I could give, I at least had an excuse for not being good enough in any other parts of life that would not go well. I don’t have as much fun with my friends as I would like to because I have to wake up way too early. It is hard to keep up with a relationship when I travel all that much. I don’t read the books I want because I’m too tired for that on the weekends. Conversely, if it is now all about my choices, I have to stand up for myself.
I feel freer. However, now all the other issues in my life should no longer be hypocritically postponed. Notwithstanding, they are likely to be solved in a smoother fashion. Paraphrasing Spiderman’s uncle, with great pleasures come great responsibilities. When I commented the situation with a psychiatrist friend of mine, he promptly commented: “the world hasn’t changed a tad. It is just that you left your job”.
Reason may speak louder. But it can’t think the fear of quitting. Because it is irrational. You got to feel it to explain it. Make it rational? Then it ceases to scare. Only by experimenting.