My quitting fantasy needs a little work.
Here's what I have so far:
It always starts with a list of what I like and what I don't like about my job. I then prune out the bad things I can fix, the bad things I'd list for any job and the bad things that, let's face it, have more to do with me than with the job. Then I eliminate the good things I don't need.
On balance, the list is still tilted towards the bad.
I bring the list to work, discuss it with my colleagues, seek their guidance. Have I forgotten any of the good stuff? Have you figured out how to eliminate any of the bad stuff? Help me. Half of them shun me, offended I'd even think of leaving. The air fills with the smoke of their burning bridges. A quarter confide in me in hushed tones that, yes, they too are thinking of leaving. None of them will, of course. And the other quarter take me seriously, either out of concern for me or out of concern that my departure will be crack that breaks the place apart.
I have to guard carefully against the ones who take me seriously. Some browbeat me, playing the guilt card. Others cajole me, playing the ego card. The savviest denigrate me, playing the self-esteem card. The list is strong protection, though, for it requires them to channel their anger, their flattery and their psychological torture into something constructive, namely: Have I forgotten any of the good stuff? Have you figured out how to eliminate any of the bad stuff? Help me.
After all this, the list is still tilted towards the bad.
I prepare a spreadsheet, a row with different incomes across the top, then rows with income taxes, major fixed expenses and major variable expenses. As my income drops, my income taxes drop much faster. That's good. But my mortgage and property taxes and homeowners' associate fees and private school tuitions don't drop at all. That's bad. I tighten a few belts but conclude that I need a job that pays at least 75% of my current income in order for my family to continue to live in our house and for my kids to continue to attend their private school and for my wife to continue to be a stay-at-home mom.
I search for jobs in this salary range. I find them. Unfortunately they're a lot like my current job because 75% of my current salary is still a lot of money and no one pays a lot of money without expecting a lot in return. Some are definitely worse, some might be better, but it's hard to tell.
So it's back to the spreadsheet. I drastically reduce the top line income numbers. Negative numbers pop up everywhere. It's clear: if I leave my job, we will have to leave our house and our community. My wife and kids will have to leave their friends. My kids will have to leave their schools. A quick survey of local real estate prices reveals that we'd have to move pretty far away. A survey of less-demanding but still-rewarding job opportunities reveals that that they are few and far between, so we might have to move even further away. No more grandma just dropping in. Sorry kids.
Meanwhile things at work are deteriorating, what with half the place having written me off and with my mind being so far away. Now I must leave. I find a lower-paying but still-rewarding job a few hours away and we find a house and for a moment we're excited about starting over but then we actually have to leave our house and community, our friends promise to stay in touch but don't, the kids don't like the new schools as much, and neither do we, my wife misses her mother and my kids miss their grandma, we add money worries to our other concerns and, worst of all, my new job turns out to merit its own list, tilted towards the bad, because it is a job after all, and jobs aren't usually a walk in the park.
It dawns on me that I made a huge mistake. Maybe I'm just one of those people who will never be happy no matter what he does and all I've accomplished here is to drag my family down to my level.
I catch myself dreaming of my old job and think of returning but am ashamed and afraid to ask. I call a few former colleagues, casually ask how things are going, and learn that, of course, they are going just fine without me. We are all, after all, expendable.
And that's it. As I said, my quitting fantasy needs a little work.