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Covid has caused millions of people to quit their jobs.  Many probably should have stayed a little longer.

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Covid has caused millions of people to quit their jobs. Many probably should have stayed a little longer.

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When I read that the Department of Labor reported that a record 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November, I immediately thought back to my early retirement in 2017 at age 49. Many different factors lead someone to choose to leave a job, but during what became known as the “Great Resignation”, the eagerness to find happiness, purpose, better health and work-life balance personal seems to be at the top of the list.

I couldn’t wait to start my new life – a feeling that I’m sure many of the millions who have recently quit have felt.

Desperate to escape a demanding position that aggravated my chronic illness, I fled the workplace for the same reason. After the initial feeling of euphoria, reality hit in a way that made me realize that quitting a good job abruptly just out of frustration can lead to problems you don’t see coming.

” It’ll be OK ? my 12-year-old boss asked as I packed up the last of my belongings — my framed college diploma, a clay paperweight my son made as a kid, and a silly pen with a polyester flower that gave me colleagues – in a box. I’m not sure, but he may have been referring to my finances and possibly my emotional well-being. But that day, I was just dazed and didn’t look back.

“Oh, yes,” I said, hugging him hastily, along with the circle of well-wishers who stood after my farewell party.

“Let’s get out of here,” I whispered to my fiancé, JP, who had already pulled the “getaway” car into the traffic circle outside my building. Once inside the vehicle, we pulled out of the parking lot, I rolled down the window and shouted “Hallelujah!” for everyone to hear. I couldn’t wait to start my new life – a feeling that I’m sure many of the millions who have recently quit have felt.

It was May 2017, and retiring before 50 with a small pension and comprehensive health insurance felt like stealing fire from the gods. After my long battle with multiple sclerosis, the constant delays from every job during a nearly 25-year career in marketing and communications had nearly destroyed my health and my life.

In my most recent role as senior admissions counselor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I felt like I was responsible for the lives of the 40,000 young people who apply for admission each year because I handled daily mass communication with each of them. The constant demands – working through lunch and often on weekends – made my fatigue and leg weakness worse. The straw that finally broke the camel’s back was my boss’ directive that I revise and reprint 11,000 brochures to accommodate a last-minute change that I believed we had already agreed not to make.

The first weeks of life after retirement were heavenly. Sleeping past 8 a.m. was an indulgence I rarely allowed myself before. I would have time, I believed, to take better care of myself with leisurely breakfasts and moments of relaxation. I could also plan a wedding with JP, who had supported me through a difficult divorce and consoled me with sonnets he had written himself.

We exchanged our vows shortly after in a small ceremony on the deck of our unfinished home. JP was a retired artist who also lived on a budget, and we decided to do a lot of the final work ourselves to save money. It became my new life, following him with a tape measure and a broom as he framed doors and installed second-hand appliances we had purchased together. But with my lack of building know-how, I quickly got in the way, so I read and re-read my favorite books, planted a garden, made raspberry jam, and taught myself how to sew. curtains.

I first relished the quiet life, but eventually loneliness and boredom set in after so many years of daily interaction with others. To fill my hours and feel productive, I spontaneously volunteered to lead my church’s missions committee, a role that would coordinate the work of five subcommittees, a much-needed new position. As another first, I decided to design and produce our very first newsletter. And when one of the women in our community needed emergency after-school care for her daughters as she finished nursing school, I filled that gap too, even though it required frequent accommodations. last minute for his schedule.

Juggling all these new activities, I learned that I had underestimated the scope of my “comprehensive” health insurance. Less than a year after retiring, I found myself owing money for leftovers from my colonoscopy and updated MRIs required by my neurologist for monthly infusions of a drug that helped minimize exacerbations. of my multiple sclerosis.

Once you retire or leave one job to look for another, it may take some time for you to find a balance between staying engaged in life and taking care of yourself.

Now I panicked. To pay my bills without dipping into my emergency savings, I applied for teaching gigs at a community college and nonprofit literary organization. This led to several freelance publishing assignments that covered my medical expenses when combined with my teaching. However, I was now surrounded by competing deadlines from all sides – my church board, the children I cared for, and now my new students and their jobs. Ironically, my husband installed a nice thrift store tub at that time, but I was too busy to have time for a luxurious bath, only quick showers. Unfortunately, I had more “me time” in my previous job because there was only one position, not three.

“Do you miss working? texted a friend from my old admissions job.

“Not at all,” I lied, too proud to admit that I never really quit.

I also held on to a bigger truth, the sinking realization that I had retired too soon. If I had shared more about the stress of my admissions work, I’m sure my managers would have worked with me to reduce the load or make other changes – especially since I learned that they had shared my responsibilities between two people after my departure. . I had worked there long enough to have the power to at least ask. But I allowed my frustration at a trivial incident – the reprinting of these pamphlets – to cloud my better judgment. If only this professional communicator had, ahem, communicated more and endured just two more years, I would have been entitled to a bigger pension, more than enough to get by.

I made another mistake by taking on too much service work too soon. I had never really done volunteer work in my life and had misjudged the number of hours these responsibilities would take. I realize now that I should have gone a lot slower, and I recognize that just because I led a committee doesn’t mean I had to do all the work myself.

The recent wave of job leavers may be running away from their workplaces for all sorts of reasons, but for those of you who are considering hustling your job, I advise you to think very carefully about what makes you feel that.

In my case, it was exactly what I thought I hated: recurring delays and staff meetings. And, of course, the one thing I thought I could do without: a full paycheck. And just like me, once you retire or leave one job to look for another, it may take some time for you to find the balance between staying engaged in life and taking care of yourself.

Although the pandemic has brought a wave of unwelcome tragedy to our world, the need to remove myself from certain public interactions has allowed me to reevaluate priorities in my life and make necessary adjustments. Zoom teaching means I can schedule homework at my convenience, and since I’m no longer commuting, I save time I was spending traveling. I also began to delegate more responsibility to my fellow church board members, and when they offered to help me with the newsletter, I gratefully accepted.

“What is that?” asked JP, who recently found me soaking in a soapy tub while leafing through a magazine. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you here.”

“Get used to it,” I told him, laughing. “It’s the new me. I’m retired, remember?

Covid has caused millions of people to quit their jobs. Many probably should have stayed a little longer.

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