has the last year changed your thinking about what you want to do with your work hours?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’ve been seeing tons of stories lately about the “great resignation,” where people are leaving jobs for a variety of reasons (seeking better pay, or better work/life balance, or getting out of the rat race). I’m thinking about becoming one of these people, but I feel guilty about it. I have a high-paying job working on something I care a lot about, with coworkers who are kind and supportive. But I’m also not using my skills to the best of my ability, and after several years (and many promotions and lots of positive feedback) I am burnt out.

I want to quit to pursue my creative dreams. My partner supports me. We have plenty of savings and no dependents. But I feel like I’m being foolish and selfish or looking at the world through not-quite-post-pandemic rose-colored glasses. Life feels precarious having lived through the last year and losing loved ones and friends to the virus; I don’t want to meet my next milestone birthday and wonder if I could have aimed higher, or just done something differently for me, instead of because it’s what I “should” do professionally.

Are you hearing from other readers who are thinking about these kinds of things? I’d love to read about how they’re making decisions these days.

You definitely aren’t alone. Let’s talk about this! Readers, has the last year made you reevaluate what you want to do with your work hours? If it has, what you are you thinking about doing differently and how will you make it work for your life?

{ 467 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I am likely to write about this topic at some point and may quote from the discussion here, so if you don’t want to be quoted (anonymously, as always), please indicate that when you post. Thank you!

  2. Little Window Seat*

    All I can say is, I’m right there with you thinking about it. Lately I’ve been brainstorming about a 5-6ish year plan to save up, sell my place and move back out to the rural area I grew up in. And, much like you, pursue my more creative/artistic dreams. But more than that, this last year has shown me just how stressed out I really was living where I do, the commute, etc. Life is too short for this rat race!

    1. Former Child*

      I just posted a comment at a different question about how a toxic job can affect you more than you realize, and drain your mental / creative / physical energy. Depending on how much it affects you, it may be good to leave so you can think clearly.
      Whether it’s toxic people or toxic policies, it can take without giving anything good back. They distract you from any joy in the work.

      It’s scary to leave a steady job but it’s thrilling like skydiving or other challenges.

    2. Admininja*

      I basically did this! I had been wanting to move closer to my job, which is in a rural area just east of the rural area where I spent my childhood. The pandemic made that feel very make-or-break as time felt increasingly precious. My long commute became unsustainable (I’m essential personnel & never left the office), my desire to live in a townhouse plummeted, & here we are in the country. No regrets :)

  3. NYC86*

    Yes, absolutely.

    The last year has really opened my eyes to what is really important. I started a new job remotely in February and I am already so bogged down by the conflict and office politics that I’m looking to get out already.

    It’s been such a trying year for everyone personally and I have a hard time rectifying that to these office issues that really don’t seem to matter much to me at all. I’m now much more concerned with seeing my family, being with my dog, and, essentially, being happy.

    Spend as much time as possible being happy. We all have bills to pay but if you can afford it, go for it!

    1. Justin*

      I am also in NYC and born in 86, btw, so, hello.

      I fully agree with what you said. I want my voice and ideas to matter, I want to see my family and (shrinking number that I can trust on racism etc) friends and dog.

        1. Tara*

          I have worked in healthcare for 20 yrs in a variety of roles. After COVID, losing family, friends, co workers being temporarily furloughed early on, I’ve decided that I’m done. I just can’t do this anymore. I just this week accepted part time work doing landscaping. Totally different from what I’ve done in the past. It may just be a temporary break, or I may never work on healthcare again. I dont know. I know I want more time with my family. That’s what’s most important to me.

          1. Former Child*

            Working w/the soil and nature sounds like a really healing break from what you’ve been doing.

          2. Caroline Bowman*


            It may be the start of an incredible new path, it may be a much-needed (productive!) reset, but it’s a great thing to do, however it shakes out. Wishing you the best of good fortune in this exciting new chapter (page? paragrah?) of your life.

          3. Lizzo*

            A while back, I took a two year break from the rat race to work retail and aggressively pursue my (creative) freelance career. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. Not only was I enjoying what I was doing, but I got to hit the reset button on my “full time” career path. I ended up going back to a traditional job due to some family changes, but I’m in a much better place than I was before the break.
            Enjoy the change of pace! May it bring you healing and joy.

    2. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      I’m in a similar situation – started a contract job in October 2020 that turned into permanent in February 2021. I was very happy at the time to get the job as I’d been unemployed/underemployed for 8 months after quitting a different contract position right before Covid hit.

      Unfortunately now that I’m settled in I can see that while my co-workers are lovely and the pay/benefits are great, I just really don’t like the work I’m doing at all. It’s boring, needlessly complicated, and it’s a Fortune 500 company so there’s tons of BS red tape to get anything done. I spent a lot of time in 2020 thinking about what’s important to me and makes me happy (work that helps other people, my family, writing), but financially I had to take this position. Now that the job market has rebounded I’m seriously considering looking for a more meaningful job, but I feel like I at least need to give it a full year before jumping ship.

      1. NYC86*

        I do think there’s going to be so much movement that “gaps” or short stints won’t be as glaring as in the past.

        But perhaps wishful thinking ;)

      2. A Little Bit Alexis*

        I am feeling a similar way. I was laid off in May 2020 and started a new job in January 2021. The pay is great, it’s 100% remote with a lot of flexibility and I genuinely like my coworkers. However, the work is tedious and boring, the office politics can get frustrating, and I don’t see a way forward where I can focus more on what I like doing. The job is very different than what I was led to believe in the interview process. However, I have two very young kids and the stability, flexibility, and pay are priorities right now. I’m planning on sticking it out at least through the next year and then reassessing where things are. I can’t imagine doing this long-term, but I am also really not looking forward to another job search.

        1. coffeeandpearls*

          I recently left my job to start a new position. I work in academia, so having a big change coming into a new semester and back to the office is an additional mental boost. I just needed a change after being in survival mode for so long and applying was absolutely motivated by the last year. It felt really nice to be wanted in the job search process, so I would recommend job searching for anyone having feelings of burnout.

          1. coffeeandpearls*

            I’m sorry! I meant to start my own comment thread, not reply to Alexis!! I did not mean to sound like I was being contrarian. I’m just working on my phone and my fingers didn’t hit the buttons right!

    3. Paige*

      I’m feeling this pretty hard too. I still love my job, but I am just so, so burnt out. I have lost all my energy to go “above and beyond.” This isn’t pushing me to pursue other opportunities – on the contrary, another job would require more effort – but it’s making me rethink how much of myself I want to give my job. If it gives me joy, great, I will lean into that. But I no longer feel compelled to fix all the problems, pursue all the shiny objects, and constantly show how much I care. Nope. In the meantime, I am getting more assertive about blocking off dates from travel so I can enjoy my hobbies more. I’m hoping these changes will bring me peace and contentment, and that I will have more energy eventually.

  4. Sarah*

    I’m in a similar position of debating whether to focus on creativity. I sometimes think it’s foolish to try and be an artist. But isn’t it also foolish to live a life/do stuff that makes you sad / drained, then you eventually die?

    1. Firecat*

      Personally I think this is a gross oversimplification.

      Lots of people, maybe a majority?, are working not in a “dream job” but are content and happy at work. It’s not an either/or money or sadness type situation and framing it that way is a great way to be miserable on whatever path you choose.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Yeah. Also, “being an artist” — creating art, having artistic achievements, etc. — is possible even if it’s not your day job. That’s where having healthy boundaries between work and the rest of your life comes in. That’s something I’m still working on, and it will look different when the pandemic is over than it does now, but it’s far from “life sucks and then you die”.

        1. Carter*

          Exactly. So many artists say they stop enjoying it once it becomes their main job. I don’t want that; I want to find a way to continue to be creative and pursue my passions alongside my regular well-paying job.

          1. Former Child*

            The classic example is a restaurant server who’s studying / pursuing acting.
            The Pandemic shut off both professions but they’re coming back.

            It would be interesting to interview some famous actors and some servers who get acting jobs to find out how they’ve juggled the two roles. They usually leave the server job if they get a “show” but some have made a living as a server w/o ever becoming rich and famous.

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              Also, novelists — it’s only the most wildly financially successful ones who quit their day jobs entirely, if I understand correctly.

      2. JamieG*

        I agree. I recently went to a different job to pursue higher pay so that I could afford in a few years’ time to take a couple years off as a creative sabbatical. However, I don’t expect that in a couple of years I will be able to make a living creatively and am prepared to re-enter the work force at that time. Living with only a materialistc/salary-focused bent or only a carefree life of creative pursuits is a false dichotomy. I have really appreciated making money at times over the years; the security and opportunities were worth it. At other times, it wasn’t worth it and I made a different choice. You have to be mindful of your career(s) and family and all of that, but it’s possible (although never guaranteed) that you can find the space in your life for all the things you want.

    2. Anna Badger*

      I don’t think this has to be either/or – I went down to four days a week at my day job a couple of years ago, and that gives me a day for creative work each week, and it’s possible to accomplish quite a lot in those 32 hrs/month.

      Obviously I’m super lucky in that I can live on 4/5 of what I could be earning and that I’ve found a job at a company where reduced hours are fairly common, but on the other hand I was pretty intentional about aiming for the kind of work and the sort of environment that would make this possible, and I’ve accepted some tradeoffs in terms of how I can afford to live. It’s possible to work a day job AND be an artist, is all I’m saying – and lots of other artists in my particular location + artistic field do something similar.

      1. Ermintrude*

        I loathe the work/creativity dichotomy idea.
        I work various menial jobs, study and follow my interests. I feel pretty neutral about most jobs I’ve done but someone has to do them.
        We can’t all be just creating.

        1. Former Child*

          I’ve brought creativity into menial work sometimes, for my own amusement. Or to improve the work experience. “Creativity” to me can be about doing the work.

          1. allathian*

            Oh yes, absolutely, and this is also true of people who don’t consider themselves creative in any artistic sense. Any job that involves solving problems, brainstorming, or thinking out of the box even occasionally also requires creativity.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      It’s not foolish to do stuff that makes you sad/drained then you eventually die, if that job keeps you alive, with money that gives you a home, car, and food. And if being an artist doesn’t provide you with the ability to support your own life and existence.

      I do actually think for the most part it is foolish to try to be an artist. You have to run your own business if you are an artist, and not everyone has a business brain for that. God knows I do not. If you can’t be a business person, then how are you going to stay alive?

      1. Ermintrude*

        Running a business is work, amiright. One does not simply rock up to a gallery/pop photos online, and start making income.
        When I was busy selling my art, I talked to a heckload of people. It was like being somewhere between a MLM salesperson and a drug dealer. :-9
        I do want to be a gallery artist at some future stage but it’s going to take some doing.

        1. LunaLena*

          Ha, so true! An artist I follow on deviantArt made a graphic of that once. He pointed out that being a freelance artist meant not just producing art, but nine additional roles including customer service, legal department (trademark and copyrights, etc), accounting, logistics, etc. The artist is Ben Heine and the graphic is called “Must Do for Success,” if anyone is curious.

          1. Pants*

            This!! Part of why I feel I’ll never be a “successful” artist is that I lack the skills, energy, and desire to take on the additional roles. I also tend to be “done” with a piece when I finish it. I did it, now it’s done and I don’t really care what happens to it. Freelancing also gives the requester the ability to make suggestions/demands which I feel lessens the experience for me. Granted, most of these are probably excuses. My real issue is that finally finding the right drug cocktail for my mental miscellany killed my creativity. It’s gone. Pfft, disappeared once my brain began working correctly. I miss my creativity.

        2. New Job So Much Better*

          Writing fiction is the same way, you are always in a self-promo mode and it’s exhausting.

            1. TardyTardis*

              I still write and upload it, but I just don’t have the energy to do the promo and thus have few sales (currently a caregiver). But I still have the bulk of two series(es) in my head, so will continue to plug along on them.

        3. Caroline Bowman*

          You’ve made me think of a dear family member who is a boiler maker by trade, very skilled, specialised work indeed, but fairly industrial ”not creative” type of fields, boilers for trains and heavy industry.

          He’s also a gifted artist with metal work, creating the most astonishing, lifelike pieces from left over materials, some of them with practical use (balustrades, gates, railings, stair guards, fire surrounds, light fittings), some just sculptures… displayed in galleries, and sold for quite high amounts. It’s not his ”day job”, nor even close to it, but he’s brilliant at it. What he’s not good at? Business. He flakes out totally trying to ”sell” or negotiate at all. For that, he has a very good salary at his boilermaking job and that’s perfect.

    4. LunaLena*

      As someone who works in a creative field and does art as a hobby/side gig, it doesn’t have to be either/or. I love my job and have no desire to move, but on the flip side working in a creative field means that quite often I come home drained of creative energy and have little interest in pursuing my own personal projects. PreviousJob required my technical skills but very little creativity, and while I didn’t quite love the job, it paid the bills and I still got to work in my field. My creative output was very high during this time because I didn’t feel like I was coming home and doing the same kinds of things I had just spent the last eight hours doing.

      I don’t think it’s foolish to try to be an artist because art is certainly a legitimate career path (my grandfather was one). What’s foolish is to go into it without understanding the realities of it, or going into it without a plan. If you are seriously considering going into art, you should be doing the same kind of research you would if you decided to go into medicine or law. For example, what field are you looking at? Illustration? Comic book art? 3D rendering? Concept art? Animation? There are a LOT of options, and a lot of them require different skills and knowledge. In my experience, too many people want to go into art because they think it will be fun (“you get to draw pretty pictures all the time!”), and are quite surprised to learn that it’s a grind, just like any other kind of work. If you’re lucky it’s an enjoyable grind, but if it’s not it can be just as saddening and draining as any other line of work.

      1. Former Child*

        Some people bring an artistic / aesthetic sensibility into their job. An interior decorator might, for example.
        They may paint for pleasure but deal w/paint swatches at work. Not all jobs are totally removed from any creativity.
        When I worked for a realtor I did office work but also got to write house profiles, which was fun, since I’m a writer. When you let someone know you have a creative skill, sometimes they’ll add it to the job but it’s something you enjoy.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          A lot of false dichotomies are swirling around. Scientist, teacher, carpenter, computer programmer are all at least potentially creative occupations. And for me this level of creative pursuit has always been an important part of my professional identity.

          This doesn’t mean that regardless, you may not want to develop some *specific* kind of creativity, or artistic sensibility. I have artistic pursuits, too (music and fiber arts), but these are strictly hobbies. Still, I recognize creative impulses in both, and some creative impulses are at the boundary of job and hobby. For example, I’d like to do more blogging and am playing with the idea of having a podcast.

          The re-evaluation processes, triggered by COVID, that the LW and Alison mention seem to me to be going deeper. It’s definitely a thing, though it doesn’t have to be along the “creativity” axis. It could be about other values – family/community, and also around not being underpaid.

          I’m kinda thrilled/hopeful about the idea that some people who have felt trapped in low-paying jobs, now that they either stuck it out in highly exposed situations or were laid off for a while, may not be willing to go back to the old situation for the same pay. From mathematical thinking there’s the concept of a local optimum, whereby you are in a position that is just about stable, and getting out of it is hard as it’s an uphill battle any way you might try. But it may be a pretty bad situation overall. Now that some people have been pushed out of these local optmima/minima by forces due to COVID they may land in better places that used to look unattainable, as every path appeared as high-risk and maybe unreasonable.

          Personally, I am thinking more strategically about what kinds of jobs I might want to take.

    5. Anon for this*

      I discovered the hard way, that (for me) it was foolish to try to be a fulltime professional artist. I’m a good musician and (in my opinion) an great songwriter, but so are millions of other people. The law of supply and demand did not work out in my favor.

      The irony is now that I work a 9-5 office job, I’ve never been more “successful” as a musician–performing weekly, locally well known, and really happy with my how my talents and artistic voice have developed.

      I don’t make much money from it, but I still consider music my primary occupation.

    6. Chairman of the Bored*

      Alternate take: I find it very rewarding and freeing to *not* have my creative/recreational outlets also be my meal ticket.

      I work a job that overall I enjoy (even if I’m not passionate about it) and use it to pay the bills; this lets me do the things I care about most exactly the way I want to do them – without worrying if they’re going to find enough of an audience to cover my expenses.

      Will the project I’m working on this weekend be “good” enough to attract a buyer? I don’t really care that much, because I’m not planning on that income for anything important. So now I can just build what I feel like building, and don’t have to worry about the commercial aspects of it.

      1. Fran Fine*

        This is my thought process. I’m in communications, and I design things (e.g., websites, newsletters, presentations, etc.) and write during the day while designing/styling on the weekends (I do fashion, food, and beauty photography as a hobby). In the perfect world, I would be a professional interior designer, personal stylist, and novelist, but those fields are so over saturated in reality – I would likely not make enough money doing this stuff to survive. Then I’d become depressed because of the brokeness, so I’ll stick to my day job and earn this good money, lol.

  5. MommaCat*

    Not exactly the same, but being a stay-at-home mom this past year has convinced me that I’m a better mom when I’m working outside of the house. We’ve been lucky that my husband has remained employed in our decimated-by-covid field, but I’m definitely looking again as things open back up for the next school year.

    1. Anonymous271*

      This! I’ve known for a while that I am not the right person to be a solely stay at home parent. And this last year has really driven home how much I do better (as a person and as a parent) when I have regular breaks from my kids.

      And my list of things I need from a job has changed a bit in the last year as well. I’m looking for a job that is fairly independent, some but fairly minimal interaction with coworkers, not customer facing at all, and preferably not in an office at all. Before, I might have compromised on some of that, but now I’m just so done with office politics and the vast majority of people in general.

      This is mostly possible because my spouse has an amazing job (like OP), and I’m grateful that I can be more selective about it. And he is happy to be the one with the stable job, because as we’ve seen in the past, when I’m happier in my day to day life, our entire household is so much happier.

    2. BlackLodge*

      I’m right there with you! I feel so much more engaged with both work AND parenthood when I can spend time away from my child. Once school goes back to normal you won’t be able to kick me out of the office.

    3. Anon4now*

      This is interesting, I had the opposite that getting to spend so much time at home with my kids- 2 and 12 at the start of covid- made me realize how much I missed before when I had no work life balance. I’m seeking to go back less than full time now so I can be home when school gets out.

      (NO judgement either way, this is one of those where what works for one isn’t ideal for others and neither way is “right”)

    4. Generic Name*

      I’m right there with you. I stayed home with my newborn for as long as I could stand it, which turned out to be about a year and a half. My son is now a teenager, and I’m the primary breadwinner of our household. While I did really enjoy a lot of the closeness of sheltering in place, I’m much happier going into the office at my full time job

  6. Old13oy*

    I’d already been working on my exit plan by doing consulting work in my spare time. It’s been 2.5 years of that, in fits and starts – I’ve learned a lot about how to run a business and what I need to do to make the transition to doing that full time. During the pandemic I ramped up business development and started taking on more contracts because I was no longer commuting and had more free time – everyone else being remote and willing to meet over Zoom also helped!

    Now that we’re talking about going back to the office and I have to do my 3 hours of commuting daily again, I might scale it back a hair, but my intention is to keep chasing this thread. I have no interest in returning to working in my office, and will do so only until I have enough time in the job to accrue certain benefits. Once I have those, I’m out.

    1. Old13oy*

      Also – just realized the linked article features one of my coworkers! I’m going to have to rib them a bit next time we’re in a meeting together, since apparently we’re both having the same thoughts!

  7. Katie Porter's Whiteboard*

    The last year has absolutely made me reevaluate my work. I would say that what I’m doing is adjacent to my dream job but there are so few opportunities in my field even at the best of times. Even if I do move, the best I could hope for would be a lateral change and I want to move up. Instead of leaving, I’ve stepped up a lot more in my own position by taking more responsibility either by explicitly asking for it or filling in gaps that are being ignored. I’ve also invested myself in side (unpaid) projects that support the type of work that I’m truly passionate about so I’m more prepared for new opportunities. I’ve gone from waiting for open opportunities to looking for open opportunities to creating the opportunities.

    I’m not really sure how things will sort out, but I feel like the last year’s given me a lot of clarity about what’s important to me and ways I can pursue it in incremental ways.

    1. Lana Kane*

      Incremental ways – yes! I don’t know why it took this whole *waves arms around* situation to make it finally click that step by step is a better way to move towards what you want. I naturally tend towards wanting everything now and then petering out when I realize it ain’t happening. Good luck!

      1. Fran Fine*

        I’m the same way. Thanks to the pandemic, I went back to school for a graduate certificate, learned and refined my design skills, and then received a promotion into a communications manager role – something I gave up trying for a decade ago.

    2. Quinalla*

      Similar situation for me, I made it clear way, way more than in the past what I want out of my job and have taken huge steps to make it happen. I’ve also had to set firm boundaries with both work and my kids and my husband as well and it has honestly been one of the great things that I plan to hold onto with both hands as the pandemic wraps up. I also feel more willing to go find a new job if I start not feeling fulfilled/valued at my current one, but honestly my job has been great and I’ve been very impressed how they handled and continue to handle the pandemic – from a safety, empathy and business standpoint it has really been amazing and even moreso when compared to our competitor/peer companies that a lot of them were not prepared to go full remote and were hot to trot to go back to the office ASAP even though 95% of our work is completely fine done remotely.

      I have taken a hard look at a lot of things during this pandemic and it has been very interesting what I missed, what I did not and what I was relived to get rid of.

  8. SurlyGirl*

    100%! I posted about this on a Friday open thread a few weeks ago. My partner and I are feeling really burnt out and want to take a year or so to take advantage of the world, but I’m concerned about the optics of that time when I return to the workforce. While that time will definitely be restorative, will it hold me back in my career?

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      It boils down to how competitive your field is, how ‘in demand’ your skill set might be a year from now plus how talented you are. As with most things, the more talented the individual, the more leeway they get.

    2. Reba*

      I think I replied on your previous thread, and I’ve been thinking about it more since (in light of being part of a family where feelings of regret are the big mental health challenge).

      I think the thing to face is, you will not be able to get a firm answer to this question. It’s a risk! Who knows the future? All you can do is think through if you made such and such choice and this or that happened, how you would cope.

      But I predict that “it was 2021 / around the time of coronavirus” is going to go a long way to explaining things for you — you don’t have to get personal, I think many people will be able to understand rethinking life and career stuff.

      1. SurlyGirl*

        You did! I think that’s the part I can’t really wrap my head around – the risk and not knowing what the consequences (good or bad) may be after the year. I’m the kind of person who always has a plan so this uncertainty is killing me lol.

        1. Anonym*

          The uncertainty itself may provide an important growth experience! (From a person considering something similar and realizing that partner and I are both very constrained by fear around jobs/security. I believe it will strengthen us for the rest of our lives to take a leap like this, but am still putting off the decision because… you know.)

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Just do it! People always regret NOT doing stuff. Stuff you do that turns out bad is a learning experience. You’ll learn so much.

    3. FrenchCusser*

      I don’t think employment gaps are as big as deal as is sometimes made out to be. I have a 10 year gap on my resume that no one has ever asked me about. But I assume it’s because I’m a woman so they just assume I was ‘raising my family’.

      But I don’t see a problem with most jobs in just telling them, if they ask, that you took some time off to travel or whatever. The extra life experience might even bee seen as a plus.

      1. pbnj*

        If I heard someone say that they took a year sabbatical to travel, I’d honestly be a little envious of their experience and their courage to leave a job with nothing lined up. But that’s just me. I think if the interviewers reacted poorly, then it may be a yellow flag that it’s not the workplace to you. Many folks still can’t understand people not wanting work to be the center of their universe. I also think it’s becoming a more accepted thing, but not mainstream yet. I hear a lot of younger people expressing the desire to do it, but I only know 1 person that’s actually done it.

        As others said, it’s hard to say what the job market will be like, and how in-demand your skills are. To me, that may be the big question.

      2. Anon for this*

        I (male) have a 5-year gap, which I mention in my cover letter was spent “raising my family” (even though that wasn’t the only reason). No one ever questioned it.

        My first job after returning to the work started at half my previous salary. But the next job after that was back on track.

    4. Marie*

      OMG hi are you me? My partner and I are having the same thoughts. Neither of us want to be in an office job for the rest of our lives, and we’re both feeling burnt out. We’ve thought about taking a year off to just “chill”- we both have the kind of personalities where we’d relax for a couple of months, then get bored and go find things to do.
      It’s hard to have faith to make that leap tho!

      1. SurlyGirl*

        Ha I might be you!! That’s our thought too – give ourselves a year knowing that six months in we’ll probably be ready to tear our hair out lol. That leap of faith is much more difficult than expected since I’m the kind of person that always has a plan. I think I might just have to take the plunge though!

    5. Squirrel*

      My own experience: I took off 4 months to travel. It took 2 months after coming back to find a job. My new employer did not ask (or mention at all) the gap in my employment. If you took a full year off, I might mention in my cover letter just to reassure an employer. I think gaps for longer travel are not as unusual as they used to be, and I know that, as a hiring manager, would not give me any concerns about hiring a person who did this.

    6. Gloucesterina*

      I guess one way to think about this is that when you return from sabbatical and apply for positions, you’ll be de facto screening out employers who judge candidates on quite minor (in the broad scheme of a whole career or lifetime) employment gaps.

      You’ll be screening in employers who value a more diverse workforce or who acknowledge the pressure of the pandemic (e.g., mothers and caregivers forced to step away from paid work due to caregiving needs, people who lost their jobs during the pandemic, etc.).

  9. BlueberryFields*

    Burn out is real! I can’t speak from experience, but I do know a few people pre-pandemic who left their 9-5s for creative pursuits and ultimately ended up returning to office jobs.

    Especially if your creative dreams are new to you, perhaps it would be beneficial to see if there are any options for taking a sabbatical from work. This might allow you to see how it feels to follow your dreams full time, but with the option to return to your job. Obviously, this might not be possible in your unique office situation, but it might be worth exploring!

    But also, life is short. Follow those dreams.

    1. Graphic Artist*

      I so wish sabbaticals were more widely accepted in the US. I know of companies that automatically offered them to five- or seven- year employees – wow, talk about a retention incentive!! I don’t think it was even full pay, but what a quality of life boost. Remember when they said mechanization would end up giving us all four day workweeks with summers off?? What happened to that??

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I recall reading recently about a new large-scale trial of four-day weeks, and it basically concluded that it was exactly as productive as the five-day model.

        I mean, I’ve definitely found that office work expands to fit the time available – if you know you need to get away at 5pm Thursday then you get everything done by then, but otherwise the same work takes until Friday happy hour.

        Obviously not all jobs condense, but if we deal with issues about treating part-time unfairly (eg you qualify for pro-rated benefits for every scheduled hour on the roster, not just if you average 40) then a lot of people would benefit from shorter work weeks and/or job share.

        1. Here we go again*

          I work 4 10 hour shifts a week. I’ll never go back to 5 8s again. I use less pto, better work life balance and I’m with my son more and I save on daycare.

          1. Graphic Artist*

            I don’t think you should have to work 4 10s. I think if worked 9-5 M-Thursday and we’d magically find that this was enough for most/many office jobs at least.

            1. pbnj*

              I believe that’s what the study said, that workers worked 4 8-hour days. And I totally agree with you, it’s like when there’s a holiday and somehow everyone magically still gets all their work done.

              1. Graphic Artist*

                Having worked in several nonprofits that are 35 hour workweeks, I can say there is no difference in productivity that I could detect.

                1. LC*

                  If you don’t mind sharing, do you find that people generally adhere to that?

                  My new job has 7.5 hour workdays/35 hour workweeks but I feel like people don’t really actually call it a day after 7.5. It’s hard to tell when remote obviously, but that’s definitely the sense I get.

                  I’ve been trying to be very deliberate at doing it myself though. It felt super weird at first (well, still does) to just log off when I hit 7.5, but it’s sold as a perk to working here so goshdarnit I’m going to take advantage of that.

                  I figure if I get in the habit now, while I am still new and definitely don’t have enough work to fill a day yet, it’ll be easier for me when I do start getting more work. So definitely trying to make it a normal, default thing for myself.

          2. Nobby Nobbs*

            Oh, I love doing four tens! It’s not for everyone, but it is for me. (My current workload shakes out to something closer to five tens, but fortunately I also enjoy raking in the overtime.)

            1. Here we go again*

              I make commission. So no overtime for me, but its great to have that extra day off. I get so much more accomplished in my personal life. And I make to same amount of money.

        2. Liz*

          I so with my company would do this. We did, back when I first started 20 or so years ago, but it was a work 9 nine days, have one off, every two weeks. At the time, my job didn’t really allow for that, i thought, and i was so new, and no one else did that in my group, so I didn’t even bother asking.

          Sadly, it was abused by a number of people, and rather than address those, they did away with it altogether. And have said they will never bring it back. Thankfully where I am is flexible, and I have plenty of PTO so i can take time off pretty much whenever I want, but it would be nice to know I had a day off every couple of weeks.

      2. BlueWolf*

        Sabbaticals used to be a thing at my firm, I think only after like 15 or 20 years, though. People who have been here a long time are grandfathered in, but otherwise they are no longer offered. We do get pretty generous amounts of paid leave and I’ve accrued a good amount during the pandemic, but mainly because I can barely put in a request for a week off without getting some pushback about it not being at the right time of the month for our workload. I work my butt off to get my work done before I go on vacation. Rarely does someone end up having to cover something important when I’m gone, but yet we have to make sure we don’t take off time at an inconvenient time of the month so as not to burden our colleagues.

        1. Graphic Artist*

          15 years is too long of a service period to be an incentive to me, I think (20 years, definitely – that’s too far away to matter – who knows what could happen in that much time). Although if it was a full year off with full pay, that’s a pretty darn nice perk. 5-7 years is right when I start getting itchy in a role, so if they had an incentive to hang in there, I would definitely go for for it.

          1. BlueWolf*

            I think it dates back to a time when it was more expected that people would stay with one company for life (we literally have people that have worked for our firm for like 30 or 40 years). Obviously, we have a lot more turnover now, but there are still people here that have been here for decades. I’m sure there’s lots of other benefits that have changed or been added in that time though.

        2. TexasTeacher*

          This seems to be a widespread problem. You get PTO, but you have to get a bunch of the work done ahead of time so you can take it, and even then, you can’t take what you’ve earned. In an ideal world, the time you took would also cover a temporary employee to take your place for the work to be done, like a substitute teacher. (Although let me tell you, the work that has to be prepared so a substitute can function is significant, and has the affect of me not taking any days unless I absolutely cannot function!)
          My spouse struggles with this conundrum and I really wish they could take even a month away from the workplace to really rest.
          I know a lot of teachers that work 70 hrs a week, and I’m sure they get a lot more done than I do, but I just …. can’t. I didn’t put my work email on my phone, and I don’t open my work laptop often in the evenings because otherwise it never stops. I’ve got a ton to do in the next 4 summer weeks, and will probably get some of it done, but this is a job that it is Never Enough and you can work yourself to death if you’re not careful. I am “on” in the classroom without fail, and I’ll get quality lessons written and executed, but I drop some of the other things. I’m not proud of it, but, there it is. (Sorry, this last paragraph was a little off-topic!)

      3. Bethany*

        In Australia, (mostly) everyone gets long service leave after 10 years with the same company. It’s 2 months of full pay to do whatever you want, and a lot of people take 4 months at half pay. This is in addition to 4 weeks vacation every year, so a lot of people at this mark also have a lot of saved vacation and take a long time off, paid.

        I work for a global company and we have a lot of people from other countries transferring to Australia at about the 9.5 year mark so that they qualify. Might be an option for some commenters?

    2. CanadianCMA*

      I really relate to this comment. I have a relatively new creative passion – but I cannot imagine doing it full time or to make ends meet. Maybe someday but, probably not. It’s about a 180 from my day job as an accountant (not public accounting) and it’s saved my sanity and I think it’s brought be back from burn out. (Although most of my burnout comes from having kids at home with remote school and work).

      I also wish sabbaticals were more of a thing. I technically work somewhere where I could do a self-funded one and maybe I should think about that in a few years when my kids are older – but there would also be political repercussions of actually doing it. Maybe by then I won’t care though!

  10. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    If you feel strongly that you WILL look back at your next milestone birthday and have regrets, go ahead and quit the job and do what you love – you are a lot better situated to do so than many! But if it’s just burnout and you generally like and are fulfilled by your work, you may want to try a leave of absence or something before pulling the plug entirely. I admit I’m more cautious than most, which is why I’d personally hesitate on this, but you know yourself better than I do, LW! Plus, I’m not one who looks back with a lot of regret – I’ve done what I had to do, what was available to me at the time. But that might just mean I don’t have the options you do, too, so YMMV.

    Lists of pros/cons might help, if you’re a list person, or taking your “what if” as far as you can see it going and then deciding. What if you quit your job and pursued your creative passion? What would this look like, practically speaking? How would it affect your lifestyle? Would you have to bear big up-front costs? Would/could it ever turn into something that makes actual financial sense, or will you be living off your savings/investments/partner forever? And also, what’s the worst-case scenario? Whatever it is, can you live with it? Can your partner? All things to think through and discuss, because this is a big change that would affect you both. I dunno if that helps you at all, but those would be the things I’d be thinking about and discussing, not only with my partner, but even with friends/family whose opinions/thoughts might give you another perspective, or who you can just trust to be a sounding board.

    1. Annette*

      “Just” burnout? People act like burnout is something you can reverse with a few minutes of meditating or something. For me, it has been a much more overwhelming and irreversible experience. I don’t have the option to take a leave of absence or sabbatical and the pandemic helped me realize that my burnout on my career is permanent. 2020 was a nightmare for my job and my dad died, and I was gritting my teeth everyday this year while I was still working from home.

      My boss decided all the WFH staff had to return to the office and the first day I walked in, looked around, and said to myself, “Nope. I can’t do this at all.” I had been planning to retire in 2022 or 2023 but I decided to quit this summer instead. My stupid gray office with a gray floor and florescent lights with no windows just broke me.

      I am lucky in that my partner is happy to support the household, and I do want to find something else to do, but I had to face that I could never regain feeling happy, and helpful, and rewarded in this current job.

      1. LC*

        “Just” burnout? People act like burnout is something you can reverse with a few minutes of meditating or something. For me, it has been a much more overwhelming and irreversible experience.

        Yes, this is something that’s been bugging me for a bit now, but haven’t really been able to put my finger on. So often, when I see this term, it seems like it’s something that’s not good, that’s hard, that can get you a little down, but is ultimately, easily fixable by non-huge amount of time off or switching to the “right” job or finding a hobby or, yes, mediation. But it was so, so, so much more for me.

        My gut reaction to how I usually see it used is: “Wow is that what people mean when they say burnout? Am I just being a baby? Are these people overreacting or am I just broken so it makes it a lot worse for me?” And I am completely open to the fact that I may be underestimating or misinterpreting what people mean when they say they’ve had burnout. I generally don’t know these people and don’t want to assign them experiences that aren’t actually true. It would not be unlike me to do that (unintentionally! but I’m getting better!), so it’s very possible. But it always gives me pause, for one reason or another, when I see the term used.

        1. LC*

          To be clear, my response is about 5% eyeroll-y and 95% immediate and overwhelming self doubt.

          I’m not really self confident enough to judge other people, lol. So I hope this came across the way I meant it.

        2. Fran Fine*

          But it was so, so, so much more for me.

          Same – I was burned out for seven years. No amount of vacation time, meditation, yoga, etc. could fix what was wrong with me. I only really came out of the fog in 2019 and that’s because I found a new purpose and stopped putting all of my self-worth in my career (or at least tried to).

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          As with everything, there are probably different degrees of burnout. Someone might just need a few days break to be back whistling while they work, others might get completely depressed and need to change their job, home, partner and hair colour to start feeling better.

      2. Midwestern Weegie*

        I talk to people about burnout a lot (I work in mental health), and there’s a huge difference between what I call “colloquial burnout”- the sort everyone gets, the “I need a vacation” burnout, and actual, clinical burnout where you can wind up desperately mentally ill without treatment, which may involve career changes, medication, therapy or all three. I talk a lot about the 12 stages of burnout, and people are usually surprised that it actually breaks down so clinically.

        Sidenote- I hate “burnout” used for the colloquial stuff. Actual burnout can be incredibly serious. I went through therapy for clinical burnout myself last year, and I was able to find my joy again, but it was only because I recognized it and got help early.

        1. Damn it, Hardison!*

          I did not know about the 12 stages of burnout, so thank you for mentioning it!

        2. LC*

          Oh interesting! It can be so easy to see things as all-or-nothing, so this is a good reminder that there are a lot more things on some kind of spectrum that we often think.

          (I verrrrrryyyy much get that as a response to having ADHD. Like, yeah, everyone gets distracted sometimes and everyone has a hard time concentrating sometimes and everyone can be a bit more high energy than usual sometimes. There’s a huge difference between that and what those of us with ADHD actually experience, not least the level of impact it has on your life. I could go on a whole soapbox-y rant about this, but I’ll save that for a more relevant discussion.)

        3. Kimmy Schmidt*

          What’s a better term for this short term, colloquial idea of burnout? I don’t have another ready word for that.

          1. Midwestern Weegie*

            I usually call it “job fatigue”, but that’s just my preferred way of describing it. I don’t know that there’s a good, all-encompassing term for just needing a bit of a break, or having a rough patch at work, but not being completely fried.

          2. Your Local Password Resetter*

            It seems like a kind of general exhaustion to me. Something that drains your reserves and leaves you struggeling, but doesn’t mentally destroy you like burnout does.

            Being tired and looking forward to the weekend vs despairing and looking forward to the sweet release of death.

        4. Annette*

          Thank you for mentioning the 12 stages of burnout. I am going to read up on that.

          My primary care doctor kept urging me to take a vacation to help with my burnout, which was difficult to make time for because I always had so much to do at work. But in 2019, I did get 2 weeks in another country, on the beach, and it was wonderful but coming back to work triggered a very very deep depression so that approach didn’t work out for me!

        5. Fran Fine*

          I had to get therapy for my burnout as well. It was an eye-opening experience for sure.

      3. Anon for this*

        I think of “burnout” as something that can only be recovered from by walking away.

        I’ve burned out from a couple of jobs, and it was more than just being exhausted. It was also realizing that I had acquired too much responsibility (or the wrong responsibilities) that I couldn’t get out from under. And being forced to drop balls that I wouldn’t be able to pick up without dropping other balls. At some point it makes sense to put on your parachute and jump out of the plane.

        1. Former Child*

          Funny, I cited skydiving above, too, as being thrilling like quitting a toxic job.

          Burnout to me, though, also involves the awareness that you can’t CARE as much as you’d like. Working in a caring profession or non-profit can burn you out and if you can’t make the effort any more you have to either get better boundaries or quit.

          When you care philosophically but are too exhausted to be as patient and giving as you want, that can be burnout. Don’t know if a person can come back from it. If you’ve worked w/abuse victims it must be hard at some point to keep going.

          1. Annette*

            Yes! I work in a caring profession and I not only stopped caring, I had become very resentful. I decided it’s time to try to do something for me, rather than everyone around me.

      4. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I think this is such an important point. I’m not quite at the level of burnout you describe here, but just the idea of my job is exhausting to me right now. In fact, I’m seeing a lot of conversations on social media between people in my industry that makes me think we’re going to have a reckoning of some sort within the next few years. Library staff have been pushed to do more with less since time immemorial. It got worse during the 2008 recession and never bounced back, and it got even worse than that since Covid.

        Personally, I’ve always known that government employers put their staff on the lowest level of the priority chain. We got used to using an employee’s old hand-me-down microwave in the staff kitchen or crowd-funding for a water filter because the government finance department wouldn’t buy us what we needed. But in the back of our minds, I think we always assumed that if it became an actual matter of life and death, our employers would do what it took to protect us. And so many of them just didn’t. A lot of the library workers I’ve spoken to just don’t see a way forward, and aren’t sure if they can be government employees anymore. I’m in the process of applying for a job with a different nearby government body that took much better care of their employees during the pandemic than mine did. I don’t know if it will be enough, but I’m not quite ready to give up the career I’ve worked toward all my life without giving it one last try.

        1. Steph the Editor*

          It has been a very difficult time to work in local government.
          We were fortunate in that we were able to work from home for a few months, but the pressure to come back, open up and get back to normal is intense. All my friends with non-profit or corporate jobs are working from home and may be for the rest of their work careers, but we are back in person and have been for more than a year. It absolutely made me rethink my career choice and how and when I retire.

      5. Monty & Millie's Mom*

        Annette, I hear what you are saying and in no way meant to minimize true burnout. I thought it was clear by the rest of my sentence, but let me clarify that to read “But if it’s ‘job fatigue’ burnout and you generally like and are fulfilled by your work ‘but truly do need a break’…..”. I was reading it as this type of burnout, not the 12-stage burnout discussed by Midwestern Weegie above in this thread, just based on how the LW was describing things. I could be wrong, of course, but that’s what I was basing my comment on.
        I’m sorry you had such a bad experience. I hope retirement is freeing and joyful for you!

  11. Kimberly*

    My husband and I were both laid off from our jobs in the travel industry (nothing glamorous – we both worked at the company HQ, him in logistics, me in accounting). This year taught us that we don’t want to be at the mercy of someone else for our livelihood, so we both got licensed as life insurance agents and started our own business. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s worth it for us to have greater control over our family’s financial stability. We’re also considering a cross-country move in the next couple years to the area we’d like to eventually retire in. With working from home and for ourselves, we can now live anywhere.

    It’s been worth every uncertain moment so far to know that now when we talk about work challenges, we’re in the driver’s seat to make whatever changes are needed.

  12. Audrey Puffins*

    I’ve gone the other way a bit; having spent the last few years starting to put together a plan to pack up and move hundreds of miles away, I now find myself in a position where I value the stability of the job I currently have more than the aspects that led me to think about moving on. However I am coming from a place of having already been made redundant due to the pandemic and having to job search during a pandemic and learn a whole new job from scratch during a pandemic, and I tell you, if I had plenty of savings, no dependents and a supportive partner, then I wouldn’t be looking back for a SECOND. You don’t sound foolish, you don’t sound selfish, you sound really well set-up to make a change that you want to make, and I think you should absolutely do it, for me if not for yourself.

    1. Audrey Puffins*

      But also, making this change doesn’t have to be permanent. It’s not a binary either/or, you’re not burning a bridge by trying something else. You can always go back to the rat-race if you get so far into your new plan then realise it wasn’t the right call for you at this time. The rat-race will ALWAYS be there.

      1. Persephone Mongoose*

        I think this is the most important comment for the LW to read. You can absolutely go back if it doesn’t pan out. There’s also no shame in it, either. You tried something else and it didn’t work out. The important thing is that you tried it and will never have that nagging “what if” in the back of your mind for the rest of your life. Plus, you probably learned a useful thing or two that you can take with you!

        1. T. Boone Pickens*

          While they might be able to go back, it might not be at the same level of title/salary. Something worth considering for sure.

          1. Morning Glory*

            Yes, definitely. This is something so many women have experienced when they were ready to return to work after raising kids as a SAHM. Your old industry might still be there but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to easily return to your old career path.

  13. Ginger*

    I hate to say this but it feels appropriate…. YOLO.

    We all have one life. Yes, we need to provide for ourselves, create a future to depend on (like savings, housing, etc.). But do you want to reach 65 or 70 and say, “I wish I had tried”…?

    Last year made me realize how much I really dislike my role, I had started to take steps to change it but really buckled down – had the awkward (for me) networking outreaches, wrote down my goals, asked for help. Raised my hand and said I want to change (despite the risk of it alienating my current management). I just received an offer for a new role (in my current company) and I can’t tell you how liberating and EXCITING it feels.


    1. MansplainerHater*

      Same circumstances here, though when I approached management they shrugged me off. It was the catalyst I needed to find something else. Not just to seek out a new job opportunity, but to make the inquiries during the interview process about how the company is run and whether they had what I needed at my previous position. I’ve been at my new job for two months, and I smile ear to ear all day, every day.

    2. Fran Fine*

      Are you me?! I just did the exact same thing! I too received a new job at my current employer that’s way more in line with what I want to do with my life, and I’m so glad I got over the awkwardness, took the leap of faith, and applied for this promotion.

  14. Amy*

    I’m the opposite. After my husband was laid off in 2020, I narrowly escaped a layoff, and we needed to sell our house and move to a lower COLA, I’ve become more conservative about having a boring old job with benefits.

    1. Cookie D'oh*

      My husband was also laid off in 2020. Thankfully he got a severance and found a new job about 6 months later. I’m happy with my bi-weekly paycheck and benefits. My job has fairly standard 9-5 hours so I have time outside of work to travel, pursue hobbies, relax. etc.

      1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Will Always Be Blue*

        That’s where I come down too. My job is not exciting but I am grateful.

        1. Former Child*

          I’ve sold my house when times were tight. And was grateful. But still had to pay rent.
          People buy into a lifestyle sometimes but you don’t have to.

    2. Sara without an H*

      There’s a lot to be said for a boring job that puts food on the table and provides health insurance, but doesn’t eat your life or burn you out. Some of the happiest people I know have unexciting jobs that pay for the stuff they’re really passionate about doing.

      1. MissGirl*

        This is where I fall. Yes, I’d love to quit and follow some create pursuits but I watch my friends who do it full time and they’re burning themselves up trying to make a few dollars. Almost all of them are living with family or have a spouse as back up. I know one woman who’s supporting her family through her creative stuff and she did it for years before going full time. I don’t want to hustle 24-7 and be constantly scrambling for money.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      My spouse has been laid off three times over the course of his work life and has only found stability in his current position (government and the job’s a great fit for his skills). We also both grew up in families that ran small businesses and remember the lean times, not having health insurance, and the many hours we worked for free to keep food on the table as well. My mother is also financially insecure and unable to retire in her 70s, so having financial stability (not rich, but not wondering where rent’s coming from next month) is a priority for me. All of that has definitely made us both more appreciative of boring jobs with benefits as well.

      I have pretty much always had a life-eating job, but this past year has actually made it much more manageable because I’m not losing two hours a day to a commute or dealing with people popping in all the time. I see my kids more. My spouse and I have been able to spend more time together as people and not just planning next week’s schedule – and I’ve been able to help with things I could not before and give my spouse more downtime. Even my boss noted in my annual review that I delivered on a lot of things this year with the right support, time, and lack interruptions. We’re talking about how to keep me working from home 2-3 days/week so I can continue to have that getting-crap-done time and better work/life balance.

  15. Foreign Octopus*

    I’ve absolutely re-evaluated my thinking on what I want out of work and I’ve decided that a work-life balance is no longer important to me. I want a life with work that finances it. The things I’ve decided that are the most important to me are:

    1. Remote work (100% but I’m willing to flex on that a little – and I do mean a little here – for the right job)
    2. Flexible hours
    3. Decent pay

    I don’t want the high-powered career or the corner office or the glitzy clothes, I want to spend my time comfortably doing work that’s inoffensive and that finances my hobbies. The whole hustle culture is anathema to what I want from life now because life’s short and there might be another pandemic just around the corner.

    1. Graphic Artist*

      This was me until my hobbies started becoming somewhat lucrative (but not enough to live on) and then somehow became a Side Hustle that I was always kind of hoping might break out into my One True Dream Job and suddenly I was back in the rat race. Damn you, capitalism!! *shakes fist at sky.*

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, I will always be planning with “there might be another pandemic just around the corner.”

      I hate my job, but it’s not expendable.

    3. LC*

      I don’t want the high-powered career or the corner office or the glitzy clothes, I want to spend my time comfortably doing work that’s inoffensive and that finances my hobbies. The whole hustle culture is anathema to what I want from life now because life’s short and there might be another pandemic just around the corner.

      Yep yep yep, absolutely this. I’ve always felt this way but it’s only in the last year that I’ve been able to express it more clearly to myself and not lie (to other people or to myself) about it.

    4. JC*

      Just done exactly the same. In a good enough financial situation that I could step away from the career and corner office to a “job” that pays enough to fund my lifestyle, but is low stress and low effort (no more 60+ hour weeks or multiple hours a day commuting, no more landing in the hospital due to stress). I’ve decided I want to focus on living my life instead of climbing the ladder, and I’m happy to “clock out” close the laptop and enjoy my time with friends and family and hobbies.

    5. farrisonhord*

      This is me. I did my current job for six months in the office before doing it fully remote for the next year and almost a half. My team has gotten nothing but praise for the services we provided but my grand boss is adamant we have to be in the office to actually be doing our job. Apparently we weren’t actually working this past year? I am sick to the gills of thinking like this. I’m actively job hunting now and the three most important things to me are:

      1. Remote work/flex hours
      2. Decent pay/benefits
      3. Work/stress I can handle (I’ve learned different people can handle different kinds of stress well, so I’m willing to put up with certain types of nonsense to get the two above)

    6. KnittyGritty*

      Are you me? Right down to your gravatar (yay Trek!!), your comment completely encapsulates the exact mindset I have developed over the past year or so. My job isn’t terribly fulfilling as I’m only using a portion of my skills and experience, but it’s 100% remote and pays decently. There are quite a few other great opportunities in my field that have come up recently, but I’m just not willing to go back to a high-stress job.

    7. Loosey Goosey*

      This. I like my job, but this year has made me reevaluate what my work (and my career overall) actually means to me. I’m trying to invest less of my identity and self-worth into my career, and in turn take my daily work stresses less personally. It’s my job; it’s not what gives my life meaning. It’s also made me feel more comfortable staying where I am, and less pressured to strive for more, more, more in terms of responsibility and prestige. Hustle culture is so exhausting and I just want to stay away from it, basically.

  16. Keymaster of Gozer*

    It wasn’t a great year for me, mentally, so please take this story as coming from the admittedly probably inaccurate viewpoint of someone who spent time in a mental ward in 2020 (not as staff….).

    I did realise that I’d faced the very situation that had scared the whatnot out of me when I was a virologist – I now work in IT – and survived it. But some of my loved ones hadn’t. It’s definitely solidified my desire to never return to my former career – there’s no way I could study viruses again as a profession. I’ve lost my clinical detachment.

    The IT career I now have, I was before always very against working from home for me personally because I tried it a couple of times and hated it. Now, I can see the benefit of actually having fewer disruptions of coworkers talking/burping/talking about football ad nauseum etc. so I’m more willing to do it, just not all the time.

    Also decided my current rank (IT Manager) is as high as I want to go. I could, in theory, still climb ye olde corporate ladder since I have the skills, the experience and the contacts but nowadays I know exactly where my stress limits are – and promotion would break them.

    When I ditched virology for IT I spent a lot of time worrying if I’d regret it, if I’d made a horrible decision that’d haunt me forever. Nowadays I tend more toward a ‘I made the choice, it’ll probably work out ok, if it doesn’t I’ll cope’ kinda mindset.

    1. S*

      +1 for the concept of knowing your stress limits. I am in a high-stress job that pays well and has amazing benefits. And I have enough institutional knowledge to be considered valuable. So I’ve spent a lot of the past year plus examining my own attitudes towards work and stress, and trying to modulate. Draw boundaries. Put my health first. And I’ve been pretty open about it with colleagues – and some of them have even listened! It’s just so obvious that everyone around me is on edge. I’m not, at this point, ready to walk away, but I’m also not willing to sacrifice my health or wellbeing. So I’m dancing a fine line, day by day.

      1. J.B.*

        That is great. Boundaries are incredibly important and I’m glad you are finding your way!

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It’s a really hard thing to learn all right! I left one job with no other job to go to because I’d just reached the point of utter and total mental collapse if I stuck it out for one more moment – it was very well paid, I loved what I had control over and produced but my stress levels were through the roof and I never had a low stress day.

        That’s an extreme move, I know, and I did discuss it with the husband unit first. But my hair stopped falling out, I got more than 3 hours sleep a night…

        1. S*

          Sounds like it was unsustainable, and you did the right thing for you! Glad to hear that you’re doing better.

      3. TechWorker*

        Whilst I agree with this I think the same job can be very different levels of stress depending on experience/management/mindset. My job absolutely still has stressful times (I manage quite a few people, there’s always ‘urgent’ work to do, and if things go wrong it’s on me). But… two years ago I was totally burnt out, super stressed all the time, and now I have more responsibility and less stress. What changed? A manager with more experience and a more realistic view of what can get done, plus more experience…
        Obviously everyone is different but I’ve gone from feeling like there was absolutely no way I’d be able to hack the next 10 years in my industry, let alone the rest of my career, to being a lot lot happier, despite the role not actually changing that much.

        1. S*

          It’s a good thing to remember – a job that might seem intolerable can become bearable with small changes – a change in management, some experience and confidence, or even a shift in attitude.

  17. Windchime*

    I have definitely re-evaluated. After several people in my family passed away, I realized that I don’t want to work until I get sick and old. I want to do things I want to do for the next decade or so. So even though my job is boring but fine and the people are so nice, I made the decision earlier this year to retire. My last day was supposed to be in June, but they were able to offer me part time (20 hours a week) for a few more months so I did that.

    The difference has been amazing. I can go to the grocery store when I want and I have plenty of time to quilt, putter around the house, and go see my mom. Working part time is nice, but I can see now that being retired would be even nicer. So when September comes I will retire for sure and will enjoy it.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      At my last government job, we had these two raging assholes who’d been at the agency since the early 1970s. They refused to change or adapt. They hated email. They would sleep in meetings. They proudly announced they’d never retire.

      If things didn’t go their way, they’d claim to be private citizens and go to public meetings and leak all this internal information and try to change things that way.

      Then they got laid off. At this point, they were in their mid-70s. What did they do? They continued to go to those public meetings. They refuse to tell anyone they don’t work at our agency anymore. They continue to “just stop by” the office so they could talk to anyone who would talk to them.

      I know they were assholes, but it was pathetic. If I’m 76, my ass is on a beach. Can you really not think of anything else to do with your life aside from sabotaging your old employer and everyone who hated you?

      1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

        I also have known people like that from working at government agencies and it baffles me, I honestly pity them that they don’t have anything actually interesting or enjoyable going on in their lives.

      2. Generic Name*

        OMG! My dad is a retired fed. Part of his job was attending those public meetings as a representative of his agency. He hated that part of it. When he retired, I asked him if he was going to be one of those old retired guys who showed up at public meetings to stir up trouble. He said absolutely not! Lol

      3. Windchime*

        I worked with a guy who, legend has it, was in his 80’s. And yes, this is in a government job (university hospital). He was smart and hardworking; he looked like the kind of old guy who probably biked to work and could kick your ass at soccer. But he was 80!! He did finally retire a few years ago and I hope he is having a great time. But there is no way in hell I am working that long. I’m patting myself on the back for making it to 60.

    2. Lyudie*

      This is basically where I am at, but I’m only mid-40s so who knows when (or if) I could retire. My husband and I are well enough off but not “retire at 50” well off (he’s in an in-demand and well-paying field with lots of experience, but I definitely am not). I am increasingly frustrated at trading my life to a company doing work I don’t love or even like sometimes (though I cannot figure out what work I *would*I love that I’m remotely qualified for, either). Midlife crisis, maybe.

  18. DataGirl*

    The last year has really solidified for me that what I want to do is not work. I want to spend my time cooking and gardening and volunteering and crafting and learning. The problem is I can’t afford to not work, nor can I afford a career change to something that would be more fulfilling because those types of jobs don’t pay enough. To the letter writer I’d say if it is in your means to make a change and be happier- go for it!

    1. Graphic Artist*

      Ha! I felt the same way. I used to think it was burnout or I was in the wrong field or the wrong role but ultimately I realized I … just don’t want to work. I’m perfectly happy putting around at home, pursuing my non-lucrative creative passions, and being around my loved ones. Too bad about the whole, uh, money thing. In some ways I guess this takes the pressure off because I don’t think any job would fix this, so I can stop trying to find that elusive role now.

      1. Damn it, Hardison!*

        This is me! I switched jobs during the pandemic, thinking it would be the antidote to my burnout/workplace that I was totally over. My new job is great, the people are terrific, the pay and benefits are awesome, and I’m so glad I made the change. But I realized the true problem is that I’m over work entirely. On the up side, I now don’t get so stressed out about work, because there’s part of me that just doesn’t care anymore. The other side of me helpfully reminds me that there are bills to be paid.

      2. A Girl Named Fred*

        Huh, this is a really great potential mindset shift for me. Thank you for sharing! I replied to this comment below about feeling the same way, and after reading your reply I realized I came down on the side of “Well, I’m never going to find a job that’s satisfying, so the next however many years until retirement are going to suck” when maybe I should be thinking “Well, no point chasing that unicorn anymore! What can I do that supports me and the stuff I want to do outside work, and what are my dealbreakers in doing that work?”

        Thank you again for giving me something to think about!

    2. A Girl Named Fred*

      All of this. I quit my job because it was super toxic and am in a similar situation to OP – good savings, supportive partner who doesn’t mind picking up a few extra expenses if it saved my sanity, etc. But even now it’s hard to shake the lifetime mentality of the rat race – my folks are already asking about the job search, and there’s potentially a position opening in my partner’s workplace (different department) that I’d be well qualified for and I just feel caught between the rock and the hard place of “need money (in the next 6-12 months) to live” and “have 7 billion other non-stable-job things I’d rather do with my time.”

      It is such a tough mentality to break, although at least the last year helped shed more light on it for me. Good luck to OP, to anyone else who’s made a switch, and to all those still struggling with the decision. We’ll figure it out, friends. <3

    3. Lyudie*

      Oh lord this is definitely me as well. Sometimes I am baffled by comments that “oh I love my job and it’s fulfilling” and to me that would only be true if I was a) really helping people or 2) being creative. Maybe I’m wired wrong but 90% of what companies will pay decently for is not remotely interesting and/or fulfilling to me (the rest I am not qualified for).

      1. DataGirl*

        Same. I love the arts and being creative and have a ton of hobbies but none of them would make for businesses that would be bring in enough income to support me. I used to have an Etsy store, but eventually did the math and at the price point people were willing to pay for handmade goods I was earning about $1/hr after materials, fees, etc.

    4. LC*

      Same, I’ve realized this is much closer to what I want than I’d previously thought. I was laid off last June and was out of work for 11 months. I had/have a really hard time saying this to a lot of people in my life, but when they told me, underneath the terror, I was relieved.

      I’d been struggling for years, but the previous 6-9 months (going back to before the pandemic) had really put me in a awful mental state. I’ve been dealing with major depression for closing in on two decades, but I have quite literally never experienced anything remotely approaching what I was going through during that time.

      So when my position was eliminated, while I did get really down on myself (thanks, RSD and emotional dysregulation that was kicked into high gear at the “fact” that I was obviously not good enough to keep around), I learned so much about myself in this past year. I was so much better at being unemployed than I expected.

      I was able to fill my time with things that allowed my mental health to start improving, both by not doing things that made it worse and also by learning a lot more about how my brain works and finding other people with the same experiences which was absolutely enormous in helping me start undoing the years of harmful things I’d internalized about how broken and defective I am.

      I was able to get actively involved in things I never had time to do for free before, but wouldn’t want to become my regular job (aside from the fact that it wouldn’t pay remotely close to enough to live on). I was able to cross stitch more. When I stumbled across some random interesting thing, I was able to take however much time I wanted to dive super deep into learning everything I could about it. I started cooking a lot, then realized I’m pretty good at it, then realized I actually enjoyed it. I tackled some of the house-stuff that I’d been putting off and ignoring for years (not that I actually got much of it done, but it still improved and that is a huge win for my obnoxiously ADHD ass).

      It’s not that I don’t want to do stuff, or contribute, or just sit on my ass all day. I just really, really, really don’t want to have to be part of the rat race ( I hate that term, but it’s the closest thing I can think of to what I mean atm) to survive.

    5. CatCat*

      I feel this so hard, but can’t afford not to work. I could potentially afford to go to part-time (if I can find the rare part-time opportunity) in one year if my spouse has a full-time job (laid off, struggling to get entry level in a new field in middle age [I support spouse’s goal to get into this field, but damn, I am getting tired of supporting it].)

      I am thinking of leaving my profession, but for what, IDK. I am working on figuring it out.

      Please cross your fingers that the stars align.

      1. DataGirl*

        Fingers crossed for you! Spouse- that’s my other challenge. Mine is a consultant so when he’s working it’s fine, but he can have weeks or months of zero income. Plus as a self-employed person his taxes are so high and he has no benefits- no insurance, no retirement fund, so I have to carry all of that. My kids have complex health needs so we really can’t afford to not have insurance (insert rant about access to American healthcare being tied to employment).

    6. Ms. Frizzle*

      I’ve been realizing something similar, and I feel really conflicted about it. On the one hand I do actively love my job in a lot of ways. On the other, if I could I would totally quit it to stay home and garden and make things. The two things I took away from going remote were that I would really like more free time at home (which I did have while we were remote) and that I really missed face-to-face time with kids, and I have no idea how to reconcile those two things.

    7. Fiona*

      Yep. This last year really solidified for me that most jobs are kind of fake. Not that work itself is fake, but “jobs” as a concept – its very American and puritanical and sometimes pointless. The idea that one doesn’t want to work is seen as taboo, but really, why would I want to work a job when I could be reading, seeing family, taking classes, biking, cooking, etc? Capitalism has done a number on our brains.

        1. Anonym*

          Mmm, Puritanism… I don’t know for sure, but if a historian told me that it provides the foundational assumptions of modern capitalism, I would not be surprised.

          1. Agnes*

            Further back than that.
            Proverbs 21:25-26 The desire of the slothful kills him; for his hands refuse to labour.
            And I’m sure we can find plenty of examples from other cultures as well.
            Voltaire also lists idleness and want as twin evils to be avoided.

      1. TechWorker*


        My company offered something during the pandemic where you could choose to do 4 days week/80% pay. Some people have found it much much better for them (I didn’t do it cos I’m mgmt and thought it wouldn’t be perceived very well) – but when querying whether they could do it full time the reaction from senior execs was like complete shock that anyone would want to work *less*, with a heavy insinuation that wanting to work 4 days a week was akin to not caring about your career at all. Even ‘working a bit less’ is taboo. Madness.

      2. Tali*

        Agreed. I realized I don’t want to work and most jobs are fake and don’t matter. I need to make a spreadsheet so that someone else can decide to put numbers in one place or somewhere else, and based on those numbers someone can make a spreadsheet and it all goes back around. I am so removed from people, animals, the land, nature, and meaningful useful work. All of this is pointless busywork.

    8. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

      EXACTLY. my dream is to spend my days going from one creative and artistic pursuit to another, from taking multiple dance classes, to piano lessons, to creative writing and drawing/painting, to teaching and taking fitness classes, and finish off my day with leisurely sitting on the couch playing videogames with a cat or six on my lap and eating good food along with the family.

    9. pope suburban*

      I feel exactly the same way. I cannot stand what I do anymore, which is something that was well underway before the pandemic. But the year and change since has clarified to me that I am nothing more than a stone to squeeze for blood to my agency, and that what I do for them will never be rewarded or even acknowledged. But everything else out there would be a massive pay cut, and that’s from an hourly rate that will keep me and my husband in okay (but not great) apartments forever. I feel so miserably trapped. I am exhausted. I have virtually no ability left to slap on a happy face and wait hand and foot on people who showed no regard for my life (and the lives of others) or my profession. I can’t even kid myself that continuing to perform well will take me anywhere in this agency, a problem that virtually all of us are grappling with on top of a pretty brutal year where we were all ill-served by our tone-deaf management. I don’t want to do this anymore, but I don’t want to go back to renting shoddy apartments and having anxiety attacks over paying bills again either, since that’s hardly less taxing. I just feel stuck and I don’t know what to do other than maintaining a constant, low-grade job search for something that’s at least half a rung above entry-level, where I’ve been stagnating and getting exploited for a decade now. Graduating into the LAST “once in a lifetime” economic collapse did absolutely crater my career trajectory and I’m so frustrated/angry/sad about that right now.

  19. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I had no idea how much in person meetings and socializing hindered my productivity. As soon as I started working from home, I had all this spare time to get non-urgent projects done. Additionally, I would use small breaks to do a load of laundry or clean my bathroom. It’s great!

    Now that I’m working from home, I only socialize with people I want to when we have one on one calls. I can now just leave a meeting as it’s wrapping up without having to listen to the “Oh just one more thing while you’re all here…” crap. Since people are leaving right when the scheduled meeting is supposed to end, the talkers are losing their audiences. In person, it’s much more visible and considered rude if someone walks out of a meeting right when it’s supposed to end.

    Working from home has given me so much more control over my day. I’m not spending time getting ready, putting on makeup, commuting, shopping for clothes, trying to figure out what to eat for lunch, etc. I can even schedule naps during the day. I never want to go back.

    I do wonder, however, what will happen to all those middle managers who won’t have much to do now that they don’t have employees to visually supervise. I think of my old boss who did nothing else but snoop my calendar and ask where my coworkers and I physically were throughout the day if we weren’t at our desks. I imagine she’s very lost mentally right now.

    1. mcfizzle*

      I’m seeing your former boss now digitally stalking employees. As in: “You show as ‘idle’ for the last 10 minutes?!?” pings to employees on a regular basis.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*


        She would send emails like this. “Can you move your one on one with Bob to 3 PM so we can meet at 1 PM?” She really wanted to let us know that she was looking at our calendars as if we cared that much. Those were accessible to anyone in my office so I’d never put confidential info there.

        Another time, my coworker was speaking at a conference and we were watching him via a Livestream. My boss saw us and wanted to know why coworker wasn’t in his office. I thought it was a joke and pointed at my monitor. But she was serious. “He needs to be at work. Why isn’t he here?” I gently explained he was invited to represent our agency at a conference so he was there *points to computer*. She couldn’t get over him “not being at work” and I didn’t know how to respond to any of that.

        1. mcfizzle*

          Ouch… where to start with “how is boss displaying the wrong reactions”?
          We once had a secretary in a different department (visible to me where I sat) who would move stuff from one side of her desk to the other. And then back to the original position on the desk. Then back to the other side. All day, everyday. She really thought she looked “busy”.
          I think I would take her over your former boss any day!

    2. Midwest is Best*

      Working from home has changed my life for the better in so many ways. I run events so I do still have to be on-site occasionally, but I went from crazy hours (12-14 hour days on the regular) to near total control of my schedule outside of event time. I can join a 9AM meeting and then take the rest of the day off until I have to be on-site at 5pm or whatever. Rather than having to come to the office at 8:30am and getting home at 11:30pm. It’s so liberating. I got to spend so much more time with my kids this past year that I will always be grateful for. I have explored new hobbies and gotten deeper into existing ones, and have enough time to go for a master’s degree that I had been wanting but putting off. My boss is 100% on board with me doing whatever I want to do in terms off in office vs wfh. That kind of trust and autonomy is so rare, and I’m thankful for that level of flexibility.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      I also saw a lot of productivity gains this year. When I did my year-end summary this year in preparation for performance review, I was almost impressed with myself for having gotten so many things done. Then, my boss mentioned it in my review and suggested that we find a way to keep me remote 2-3 days/week to maintain that focus.

      My middle managers are actually having to put more time into supervision and effort to stay connected to their team. They’re not calendar-stalking them but do like to check in with people one-on-one at least once a month to make sure they’re doing okay, aren’t overloaded or underloaded with work, and have the training/support they need. But they’re also spending less time navigating interpersonal conflicts between employees, so their strategic projects have proceeded more quickly as well.

  20. Caramel & Cheddar*

    It hasn’t, but only because so much of what I’m getting now is what I wanted but didn’t have before the pandemic. Things are finally aligning!

  21. Distressed and Distrusted*

    I put in my notice two weeks ago at a job I had been at for 3 years.

    The pandemic forced me to think realistically about my career progression. I picked a high-prestige humanities career, that is known for few opportunities and low pay. In college, I knew this was risky in a logical way, but my heart told me that things would work out. The pandemic, including the total upheaval to our institution, showed that I was stuck in a dead in and would not be allowed to grow. The last straw came when it was revealed I was going to be assigned important and highly stressful duties for no additional pay and was not going to be allowed to do any creative projects.

    Quitting without a new job is really scary, but my spouse and I are in a position to afford it. I already have a few applications in a related, but distinct field and am applying for masters in the new field.

  22. Quail*

    Absolutely! I was already planning on leaving my job since I got my degree, but seeing how my workplace handled the pandemic and how terrible the higher administration is has made me start searching actively rather than passively. My feelings on the place have changed from annoyance to hatred, so it’s definitely time to find something new and get out. (I just need to figure out where I’m going and whether I need to learn some new things in order to do it!)

  23. NomadiCat*

    I was where you were a couple of years ago. I created a tiny side hustle that I grew into a small business, built up my savings, and then took the plunge. While it ultimately turned out not to be what I was looking for and I’ve since gone back to cube life, it was an amazing experience to have under my belt and I feel better for having tried it. And I might still try again!

    My experience clarified my priorities, taught me what I did and did not want out of a career and my life, and helped me recover from some truly gnarly burnout.

    Either way, what I’m trying to say here is there are ways to structure this so it feels less scary. Having an actual business name under which you pursue your creative endeavors gives you something tangible to put on a resume (and your business cards, and your tax forms!) and helps you remember that what you’re doing is real and important.

    If you have the money to do this and nobody whose life is going to be disrupted if it doesn’t work out, do it. Give yourself a year or two to try and make it a viable venture and just see where life takes you.

    1. Graphic Artist*

      Strongly agree that if nothing else it cured my burnout to have a year “off.”

  24. Graphic Artist*

    I absolutely did this. Shortly before the pandemic (grrreeeat timing) I decided I could freelance and pursue my creative passion and make ends meet for a year or so. Ironically, one of the things I wanted most was to work from home, which my old job would not have let me do; of course they were fully remote anyway six months later. I had a lot of savings and a backup support – I also thought I could just get another comparable job if I had to. I quit my soul sucking job. It felt great. I felt really brave and empowered and excited.

    The pandemic made some things harder – like the fallback job option – and some things easier, like sticking to a tight budget. There are many elements to not working a 9-5 that I really love. There are some things that are really hard; taxes are a nightmare now, any kind of application is harder (I was interested in being a foster parent but my freelance salary was all over the place and I couldn’t refinance some debts for the same reason); obviously insurance is really tough, I don’t get the matching benefits of a 401K anymore. I feel privileged that I’m able to navigate this because I don’t have dependents and my health is good. If I were married, it might have been even easier.

    It’s been a fun experiment. I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it long term. But if you can mitigate the risks it’s worth trying. Life is short.

  25. Lurking Tom*

    I owned my own business for a couple of years, it went under about 6 months pre-COVID (which for sure would have killed it anyway). I had to go back into doing IT work, which I had left due to burnout, to pursue my passion.

    Even though we burned through all our savings and wrecked our finances trying to keep the business going, not a single day goes by that I don’t wish I was in a position to go back into business for myself again.

  26. Susan*

    I was laid off October 30, 2019; ten days later, November 9, my father died. It was expected, he had been in stage IV of pancreatic cancer, living at my sister’s house in hospice care. The back to back nature was just something that threw me.

    The aftereffect of losing my father was a terrible blessing in that I inherited enough money that if I was careful I could retire. I decided to take some time before looking for another job, so I spent some time relaxing through the holidays, took a couple trips. Came back from a trip to Barbados the end of February 2020, ready to start looking for a job. Boom – pandemic.

    I was unemployed for the most part since the layoff, starting a part-time job in November of 2020. I’m an introvert so the staying inside didn’t bother me, but I didn’t really have any idea of what to do with my time. Part of me just didn’t want to work anymore, but at the same time I lost a sense of time – not in the good way – without having purpose.

    The company that laid me off in 2019 hired me back. Different job, lower title and salary, but to be honest I like the idea of a lower pressure position, I like my colleagues, and I was able to get the five weeks vacation I had when I was let go. Right now I plan to work until I am 50, which is the end of 2023. I want take the next couple years to figure out what to do with my time after that. In the meantime I’ve got a better attitude about my work; I don’t let it stress me as much. I am incredibly blessed that I have a cushion so that if things don’t work out I’m okay.

    1. The Original K.*

      Wow, we have similar stories – I was laid off in fall 2020 and three weeks later, my father died. (Layoff was COVID-related, my father’s passing was not.) He was ill but we lost him unexpectedly. I was so grateful not to be working when we lost him because grief is … well, I don’t need to tell you, and I was barely functioning. I still have tough days. I think about how at best people tend to take a week when they lose someone and I 100% could not have gone back to work at full capacity in that time. We didn’t even have his (virtual) memorial in a week.

      My dad got some years in retirement before he passed, but it wasn’t enough. That’s at the root of my shifting my financial goals to be able to retire earlier.

      1. Susan*

        I am so sorry you had to go through the same thing. Two shakeups to a core piece of life in a row can really throw you; I also agree having the time to grieve without pressure to do other things was “lucky”.

        We spread most of my Dad’s ashes with his second wife’s (she died March 2019) in January of last year. The rest have been sitting in my closet since then, waiting for the big extended family vacation we usually take but was cancelled in 2019, so we could do a memorial and spread the rest of his ashes where his parents and older sister are. We are planning both the vacation and the memorial for this year.

  27. The Original K.*

    Yes. Work/life balance has become even more important to me, and it was already important. I’ve also been contemplating a shift toward doing work I care more about (I don’t particularly like my work and I think I’d feel differently if I did), but no matter what I do to earn a living, I don’t want work to be the center of my life. I also want to shift my financial goals to be able to retire earlier.

    For a lot of people, the pandemic has laid bare how little employers care about their employees – not even always with malevolent intent, the system is just set up that way. I think a lot of people are seeing that and making choices about it where they can.

    1. Windchime*

      I agree. Fortunately for me, we got a new CIO just a few months before the pandemic hit. The previous CIO was horrible and she only allowed WFH under very limited circumstances; I’m sure she would have had us all back in the office after a few months. The new guy realized that we were able to pull off a giant software implementation almost 100 % remotely, and has decided that we will all just stay remote — except for people who want to come back in. They can request a permanent workspace and return to the office at any time.

      I think that people now see that there are options. And hopefully employers are seeing that they’d better join the 21st century if they want to keep a qualified, content workforce. It feels like there has been a shift in the balance of power.

  28. A Poster Has No Name*

    I’ve seen some people (online content creators) go from part time to full time, so ditching the day job is certainly doable but the key is planning, I feel like. I’d sit down and go through some scenarios/questions:
    1. Do you need to be making money at some point from your creative stuff or could you live on one income?
    2. If you do need income, how long could you go before it made money?
    3. And how much would you need? How realistic is it that you’d be making that amount within the time frame?
    4. What are the best/worst/likely scenarios for all of the above?
    5. What happens if it really doesn’t work or it does but you get burnt out, or you realize it’s not for you on a full time basis? Could you go back to your current industry after some time away? How long would you have? Would you be able to enter another industry if your current one isn’t conducive to returning after time away?
    6. If you’re in the US, does your partner have things like health insurance and other benefits that would make it easier for you to not be employed formally?

    If you crunch some numbers you should be able to see if you can take the plunge now or if maybe you need to take 6 months to save up X amount to cover contingencies, but it sounds like you’re in a great position to do it!

    Good luck!

  29. Firecat*

    I’m not doing anything with my career right now.

    A word of caution about major life decisions right now – you may not have the capacity for the stress.

    My spouse and I bought a new house since it was a great time to sell and even though absolutely everything worked out well it’s left us over extended for months now. We just don’t have the energy to do much of anything. Basically we over extended our stress capacity and are now recuperating.

  30. Manders*

    I was laid off right at the start of the pandemic, and it taught me that I need *some* structure in my day and some assurance that I’ll have a stable income and health insurance. I had a lot of big plans about finishing creative projects, but the total lack of a schedule or a sense of stability messed with my ability to actually complete work for myself. Several of my friends who’ve resigned in the last year with big creative dreams are job hunting now for the same reason.

    That said, I’ve been talking a lot with my friends about how jobs fit into the lifestyles we want to have. I’m working from home now at a job that’s going to be remote for a while longer, if not forever. Between the lack of a commute and the fact that I’m already at home on lunch breaks, working from home has added three hours of useable time to my day. I have my office set up just how I like it, with no distracting noise. No one’s commenting on what I wear, how I do my hair, what I eat, my gender presentation, etc. I’m realizing that I value these things immensely, and if I had to go back to the office full time right now I’d probably be job searching. I think remote jobs, full or part-time, will be my goal forever.

    I do think the past year has changed the way I think about my working life. After being laid off, I no longer feel like I can fully trust any job’s long-term stability, and I’m less invested in measuring my self-worth by how much money I can make for a company. I’m thinking more about what my job can do for me, because I know I can walk away if I have to.

    1. Manders*

      One other thing I’d add: Dreaming about an artistic career from the outside can be very different than actually living it, especially if you need to make a living off art. Living off savings and doing some art on the side can be an amazing lifestyle. Working full-time as an artist, trying to create large volumes of what you think will sell, is a difficult career even for people who love the work. I used to think I wanted to be a full-time author so I could write whatever I wanted whenever I wanted; now I know I’d have more creative freedom as a part-time author with a steady job.

  31. Super Doctor Astronaut Peter Corbeau*

    I currently still work for a company that furloughed all of the low-level employees at anywhere from a 25%-75% rate for about 4 months last year. They spent this time telling us all that this plan was necessary to keep the company afloat. Meanwhile, they were quietly hiring a full cast of new white men to serve as, in my opinion, completely unnecessary VPs. After all of this happened, I also found out that I was making $10k less than my male counterparts who had been working in the same position for half as long as I had. That was the nail in the coffin.
    I don’t have a fully fleshed out exit strategy just yet, but yes. I’m very much done working to make profits for already wealthy white men who don’t respect me and have no intention of sharing.

  32. mousekatool*

    I don’t think I’ve ever related to something more. Last year, the company that I work for almost a decade merged with another company. I was one of the hand full of people that was offered to keep my job, but it came with a move to another (close) state. My husband works remotely so it didn’t impact his job at all. I took the job. After having a toddler, working remotely, doing merger work (with an incompetent co-leader), a natural disaster, sell and buying a new house, moving states, I’m BURNED OUT. My job pays well, but I’m starting to resent it. I feel trapped and I want to move back.

    My husband and I committed a couple months ago to stick it out for another year unless I’m able to find a similarly high paying job in our old city. I’d have to pay back my big moving bonus- which of course I used to move- so that’s be a big hit.

    It’s hard to admit that we probably made the wrong move, but with my options being move and keep my job or stay and lose it, there wasn’t any really good options.

  33. glitter writer*

    I had a major milestone birthday about six months ago, and took a new job right around the same time. It’s a very different kind of role in the same field, but for a startup (which is a new kind of environment for me). I’m glad I took the jump, even during a pandemic. It was time, and I didn’t quite realize how burned out I was at my old daily work until I stopped doing it.

    I also intend never to commute to an office five days a week again in my life, but as most of the jobs I had before the pandemic were fairly flexible about remote work that’s not really new. But even clawing back an hour a day, two or three days a week, from that just makes the rest of my life so much more manageable.

  34. Aly_b*

    I quit my job and started my own business. I’m still in the same field, and even have some of the same coworkers, but I was not happy with how management handled the pandemic and treated their staff. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s going very well and I now think I will be able to afford to retire by 50. In some ways the great reshuffling has been a good time to start something because many people are open to moving around and trying something new. I’m in demand in a booming industry that didn’t substantially slow down during the pandemic, though, which definitely affected the decision making for me. But I’m glad I didn’t just sit there and simmer for years about it.

  35. Renee Remains the Same*

    THIS IS MY DREAM. (Can’t help the shouty capitals). I too have a good job, good pay, nice boss and coworkers – but I couldn’t be more disinterested in my actual job …. if you paid me. The company I work for does extremely nice things for people. I should feel like I’m contributing to the betterment of society. But I don’t. I feel like a secondary cog that doesn’t really turn the wheel and only gets noticed if it squeaks. So my contribution to the betterment of society is superficial at best.

    I don’t know what that means for my future, except if I’m still doing this in 5 years I will be incredibly disappointed in myself. Not because I want to take a leap and live my creative dreams. But because I know that I will be happier earning less money with less responsibility. It’s hard to communicate that to people. I have been told that I am unrealistic. But, I don’t think it’s unrealistic, I think it’s not common and there’s a difference. I’m not a striver. I’m not overly ambitious. I want to do good work and then I want to go home and try to build an actual life that makes me happy. I don’t need a lot of money to do that. Yet, I’m still not able to cut the cord.

  36. Jack Straw*

    Mine isn’t as much my 9-5, but I have absolutely reevaluated my seasonal, side job that I really did (or thought I did) love doing. It was an events management job for a performing arts org. So, yeah, 2020 didn’t happen. When asked to return for 2021-22, I said I would in a 50% reduced capacity, and I’m honestly even re-thinking that at this point and think I’ll cut back to 25%.

    I really did LOVE the job and was passionate about the org; it was more like 20-30 hours/week volunteer work that I happened to get paid a small amount for doing. But after a year without it–seeing how much time it took away from my family, friends, and other pursuits–I’m also a little resentful (even though I know it was my decision, maybe I’m feeling resentful toward myself?).

  37. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

    Yeah, I absolutely rethought my job during the pandemic. I saw that I was never going to get where I wanted to go at my previous company and that the promises they’d made me were never going to materialize. So I left. I was one of those people who gave notice in May. I found a fully remote job with clear expectations, decent benefits, rare overtime, working for a company with a mission, values and products I can be proud of. I had been at the other job for 8 years. It was time and I was tired of feeling underutilized and undervalued. I’m in my early 30s and working on paying off my 20s, so I am not in a place to reduce work or pursue a creative career, but I am definitely much happier now than I was six months ago.

    1. Fran Fine*

      It was time and I was tired of feeling underutilized and undervalued.

      Agreed. My former manager clearly lost his mind and forgot all I did for my former team, so I took a promotion into a totally different division and so far, I feel utilized and happy again.

  38. JelloStapler*

    I have considered it but confirmed I like what I do (more than other options)- I would like more flexibility though and noticed how widespread salary compression, is as well as how much USA laws are on the side of business not workers.

  39. Wing-N-Wing*

    Not pandemic-specific, and it wasn’t that we wanted a **change** in our careers, but years ago we both realized that we loved our jobs, they paid decently and were meaningful. There was just too much of them. For about 6 months we practiced living on 80% of our salaries (banked the rest) to make sure we could do it. Then negotiated with our bosses to go part time, 32-hrs/week. We spent our 3-day weekends hiking and camping and canoeing (ie, very low-cost recreation) and gave up going out to dinner. The enthusiasm with which we could then approach our jobs made them more tolerable, and the backcountry memories were priceless!

  40. Burnt Toast*

    Next week I start a 4-day work week with a 20% pay cut. It’s an optional program my company is trialing. I’m not sure how I feel about the cut, but I desperately need time away from work. I can go back to 5-day weeks at full salary after a few months if I want. We’ll see.

    1. irene adler*

      Does this also include 20% less work as well? OR are you expected to get 100% of the work done in 80% of the time?

      1. Burnt Toast*

        theoretically, 20% less work as well (capacity in our planning tool is lowered), but realistically? it’s gonna take strong boundary-setting energy.

        1. Firecat*

          If it turns out you are getting just as much work, it may work for you to try a 4/9 schedule. I don’t that for a while during the height of the pandemic and it helped me a lot. M-Th were 9 hour days and Fridays were normal 8 hrs with every other Friday off.

      2. JC*

        Yep, I suggested this to my boss and he expected me to continue to cover 100% of the work and hours compressed into 4 days- but for me to drop to 80% salary. I laughed and told him that’s not how it works….but sadly that mentality is prevalent across the industry.

  41. Out the door*

    I am one of those who opted for the Great Resignation. I left a company after almost 2 decades of time because this past year really opened my eyes to what I wanted to be doing career wise and what was no longer working for me. Almost as soon as I accepted it was time to move on, an unicorn opportunity that fit what I wanted landed in my lap.

    A few months in and I am very happy I made the change. But without having spent some time allowing myself to define what I wanted, needed and expected from work, I am not sure I would have made the jump. I feel no guilt because it was the right move for me and ultimately both companies.

  42. Ace in the Hole*

    LW, this stood out: “I have a high-paying job working on something I care a lot about, with coworkers who are kind and supportive”

    This is objectively a good job. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good job for YOU. If what’s best for you right now is to move on, that’s okay! Instead of feeling guilty about leaving, could you reframe it as giving an opportunity to someone else? In leaving to pursue something better for yourself, you’re opening up a really good position that might be someone else’s dream job… a win-win situation.

    1. KMD*

      This. I am in a similar situation. My job is well paying, I love my co-workers, I enjoy the type of work I do. But I also really enjoyed WFH, and they have just brought us back in the office this week and won’t give any word on adding a work remote policy until September. So I got curious, started job searching, and in a week found a similar job, betterpay, completely remote. I gave notice last week, tomorrow is my last day. Everyone at work has been shocked that I am leaving. But I have been here for 13 years, with very little growth. It is time for a change.

      If I’ve learned anything from AAM over the years, it is a) It’s just a job. An exchange of work for money. I owe them no loyalty, and they owe me the same. b) Don’t burn any bridges on the way out, because in a year I might be looking to come back if this WFH thing isn’t as rosy as I think it will be. I want to be sure there are people at OldJob who remember me fondly.

      Wish me luck!

  43. should i apply?*

    I can totally relate to this post, so no real advice but just understanding were the OP is coming from. I am disengaged from my current role, and don’t know if there is anything I can do to try to make my self motivated again. I am also in a similar position, where I am financially secure enough that I could take a significantly lower paying job without compromising my future retirement, but not secure enough that I could retire now (late 30s). I also love art, though my ability to be financially successful at it is a big question mark.

    My current plan is to pursue a new job in a similar role to my current, with the hopes that a new company and new projects will spark my interest, while I am actively pursuing a side job in art. For the side job my goals is to see if a) there is potential to support myself b) if turning a hobby into a career makes me not want to do it.

    I would love to take a long sabbatical but it isn’t something that my current company offers, and I am not brave enough to just quit with no future plans. Also I would love to travel internationally and I don’t think the timing makes sense yet (with the pandemic still going on)

  44. Tuckerman*

    My organization really stepped it up this year and while I trying to move on at the beginning of the pandemic, I no longer have that in my immediate plans. They went beyond good handling of the pandemic and made other big improvements that make me proud to be an employee. That said, the last year made me realize I really want to get my side hustle actually off the ground, so that is a priority this year as well.

  45. Ama*

    My job has always been somewhat flexible, and going remote has created the perfect work/life balance for me. But they have not said anything permanent about their future plans. If they start requiring us back in the office, I will be devastated and likely will look to make a job change.
    Having a home and a child, my concern is not as much time for creative pursuits, as just time to run the house and family, meet my work obligations, and stay sane.

    1. The Original K.*

      None of my friends with young kids, to a one, want to return to commuting – getting that time back has meant more time with their kids. Even those with shorter commutes (to me, that’s under half an hour each way) want to keep that time.

  46. cactus lady*

    The pandemic has definitely changed the definition of success to me. I think we’ve been sold this story (especially in recent years) that the reward for working hard is more work, climbing the ladder, getting more responsibilities and more stress, and less time to ourselves. However this past year & some, success to me has been increasingly defined by my ability to spend time with loved ones, pursue hobbies, and take care of my health. I am not in a financial position to quit my job right now, but if I were, I would and I wouldn’t look back. Life is too short to be doing things because you feel like you’re supposed to.

  47. Juliette*

    I’m not at the point of OP (I don’t have as much of a safety net yet) but I am starting to push back on my typical workweek, which during the summer can exceed 60 hours over 6 days. I work at a non-profit museum, and this is a field-wide problem, especially when you consider the low salaries and paltry benefits. I just cannot do it anymore, nor should I have to. I used to be a people pleaser at work, but after lots of therapy, reading AMA, and burnout from the pandemic, I have really changed for the better. And, if things don’t improve, I am ready to look elsewhere for work.

  48. Left Turn at Albuquerque*

    My last day was a week ago. Although I loved my job, my workplace, which hadn’t been the best environment to begin with, had become unendurably toxic over the past year, so when a major project I’d spent 3 years on was taken out of my hands days before it was supposed to be implemented I realized I’d had enough and submitted my resignation. I’ve got enough in savings to probably get me to the end of the year, but I’ve also just accepted an offer for a part-time, no-benefits, entry-level job with a 52% pay cut to help keep me from turning into a navel-gazing hermit (my housemates consist of a dog and 2 cats) and also give me time to put myself back together and, I hope, help my savings last a little longer. I’m still second-guessing myself for quitting, but hopefully in a few months I’ll be in a place (mentally and physically) where I can take on a second part-time job, or start looking at returning to the workforce full-time, though probably not in the same industry.

  49. Enginerd*

    Best career advice I was ever given. You should enjoy your work above everything else. Too much of your life will be spent at work to be miserable. That’s not to say you won’t have a bad day or a rough patch here and there but if it gets to the point where you’re just fried, or where you dread coming into work every day, or spend every day counting down the hours until its time to leave, then its time for a change. Move internally to the company, switch to another company, switch to another field entirely, but the bulk of your adult life will be spent working, you should at least find some enjoyment out of it.

  50. thatoneoverthere*

    In a way…yes. I have been wanting to advance my career for a while. I am elder millennial who graduated in 2008 with a basic degree (laid off 3 times). Hello being stuck in entry level jobs since I graduated! I am tired of the basic work, basic pay etc. BUT…I work for a pretty great company, boss and kind of enjoy my work. There’s no opportunity for advancement for me. I have been looking at places that are in my niche field, with tuition reimbursement or more opportunity to advance. Its been hard though. Yes places are hiring, but for alot of really entry level stuff. Not the stuff I want.

    The pandemic just made me realize that life is short and fleeting. I want to advance so I am gonna work my butt off to get there.

    1. LC*

      Off topic, but I’ve seen this a few times lately and am curious about it. How are we (the collective we) defining the term “elder millennial”?

      I’m smack dab in the middle of the birth years that I see defined as the millennial generation but this is probably the third or forth time recently that I’ve seen someone (presumably, based on graduation year) younger than me refer to themselves as an elder millennial.

      (Genuinely not trying to be snarky or combative, I’m just curious.)

      1. LC*

        Oh wait. If you graduated in 2008 with a degree, you’re likely talking about college. I’d read it as high school.

        I’ve still seen it a few other times recently, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here, sorry about that. Feel free to disregard!

  51. Geillis D.*

    I’m a double first-generation immigrant (moved as young child from A to B, then as an adult from B to C). I won’t ever be able to shake off the feeling that I have to work as hard as I can, as long as I’m able to, just so as not to live in a cardboard box under a bridge. I wish (really, I do, I’m not saying this as a humble-brag) I had the feeling of security that will allow me to not work, even with a nice amount of savings.

    I’m lucky to work for a great place with a few busy months but otherwise very people- and life-friendly. My answer would have likely been different if my environment was not as nice.

  52. LC*

    I’ve become more comfortable with what I’ve been feeling for years.

    I don’t want to climb the ladder. I don’t want to start working toward the next job the second I get a new one. I don’t want just continually increase the responsibility or the stress that work (any work, just in general) brings me. I don’t want to manage people, and I don’t really want to manage things, either. I just don’t really want to be in charge. And that’s okay.

    I’d rather have my own little corner of work, where I can work on things that I’m good at that will neither bore me to tears nor make me want to crawl under the desk and hide from the stress. I want to work with for a company that does some good in the world, or at the very least, isn’t actively harmful. I want to earn enough money to fund my future and have good enough benefits that I can enjoy my life outside of work until I can stop working, things like a good amount of PTO (that is actually a break, not the kind where you just have double the amount of work to do when you’re back) and good health insurance (so I’m not constantly on edge that something will happen to decimate the savings I’ve been working so hard on).

    I still have a hard time putting it in words, but it’s easier now than it was a year ago, when all I could really think of was that I’m not ambitious. Which, I guess that’s true, but that’s not really the way you want to frame it to your boss. I absolutely dreaded every single (quarterly) performance evaluation at my last job because my otherwise pretty good boss would inevitably ask me what I want to do next, what I’m working toward, where I want to go soon and where I want to end up. I don’t know, lady, just let me be good at the job I’m currently at, okay?

    This has all been true for years, but it’s been a multi year process of recognizing it, not ignoring it because I must be defective, understanding it, being okay talking about it if I have to rather than straight up lying when asked, accepting it, and actively work to make it happen. Still getting there, but it’s a whole lot further down the line than it was a year ago.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I feel this way too. I just don’t seem to find anything around here that isn’t super stressful.

      1. LC*

        I’m about six weeks into my new job, and I was very, very intentional during my search to find the right place for me at a company that treats its employees well and not over-selling myself or looking for a stretch position (which would almost certainly equal more stress). During interviews, my new job seemed like what I was looking for (as in, best case scenario considering the fact that I need a job), and I think that I was right.

        Obviously, we’ll see how it is in six months or a year as my workload increases with my training, but based on how it’s been for me and what I see in the other employees, I’m cautiously optimistic.

        All that to say, I’m in a better situation than I thought I could/would find, and I hope that gives you a bit of hope.

    2. LurkNoMore*

      This 100% for me! I’m a top performer in my company and I’m working on interesting projects that hopefully will be beneficial to the company long after I retire; because of that, they pretty much leave me alone. I don’t make management level money and can’t stay at the ‘sweet destination’ company condo but I also don’t have to travel 3 weeks out of the month and put up with constant corporate BS either. I’ll take that compromise any day!

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I don’t know why this is viewed so negatively in the United States! It’s fine to be a specialist at what you do, and not everyone wants or needs to climb the corporate ladder only to get more stress and longer hours. Plus, moving up often means getting away from the work you enjoyed!

      1. Fran Fine*

        Yeah, companies need to do better about creating technical tracks alongside the management tracks. Not everyone wants to, or can, manage.

  53. Marz*

    I haven’t even finished the book, but this is what I’ve been doing – I’ve been using the book “Designing Your Life” and it’s been a huge help in providing structure around these questions, and really solid, specific exercises, instead of just pondering these big questions, do I like what I do or do I hate it? It has all these exercises and experiments to do and really explains why you’re doing them, and how, say, building 3 very different 5-year plans, how that will help you think creatively – maybe there are other options, where you do what you do but at a different level, or you take what you like about your job to a different job, or you build something of your own, and how to push you brain past that judgement zone and into that avant-garde design mode of like, why not make a hat that is also a dress, what would that look like, how do I do an experiment to see if I’d like my HatDress, how can I field test this idea, what do I like about it? And fail fast and fail forward, don’t get overly attached to your first idea, okay, HatDress was a bust, come up with a new idea, don’t just keep working on HatDress when it isn’t working for you. I recommend it, it is work, plenty of homework involved, but it all really feels relevant and helpful, and, kind of fun!

    1. should i apply?*

      I read that book also, though I admit I started the exercises but haven’t kept up with ones that you are supposed to do over time. I liked the philosophy of the book in general, though if I remember correctly Alison would not agree with the job search suggestions. It also is a good fit with the book “how to decide” which isn’t a career book but definitely has a good frame work for look at decisions, including career / life decisions.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I liked the idea of designing my life, I just somehow could never get it to work for me on a practical level.

  54. Spearmint*

    I have actually become more satisfied with my job over the past year. I took my current job after 6 months of unemployment, and initially I was dissatisfied because it wasn’t a dream job that fit my lofty career aspirations. But my job also has decent pay, fantastic work-life balance, great benefits, good pandemic policies, and many opportunities for professional development. Over the past year, I’ve realized that those things matter more to me than being in a dream job that lacks them.

    I don’t expect to be in my current organization 5 years from now, and I still have ambitions, but I’ve realized that I am in a icy better place than I had thought.

  55. Nea*

    I’m not in a position to change careers or move – but I’m certainly in a position to reassess, and I did.

    Changes I made: Getting up later. Such a small thing, but when we went back to full-time work and my alarm went off at 5 a.m., for the first time I thought “Why am I doing this to myself? Why? What do I really gain?”

    I’m more likely to just take leave than try to work off every hour I take. After being locked down for 18 months I can afford an LWOP day or two rather than worry about my leave in reserve.

    I was one of those people who always said they couldn’t afford to retire. And I can’t… at the moment. However, it’s suddenly a much higher priority and I’m acting like that – I kept my job but moved to a much larger, more impersonal company for stability and a raise, I’ve opened a high-yield savings account, etc.

    TL;DR – The pandemic taught me to slow down and not make myself crazed over work.

    1. LC*

      One of the more pleasant and less expected benefits of not working for almost a year was being able to consistently sleep on my natural schedule.

      If completely left to my own devices, I’m a 2am/3am to 9:30am/10:30am, 7.5 hours kind of gal. Not having to fight against that every day was absolutely amazing. But the world as a whole isn’t built for night owls, so my sleep has been anywhere from “meh” to “poor” for most of my adult life.

      You’d think my body would eventually get tired (lol, pun) of only getting 5-6 hours of sleep most days and I’d start getting to bed at a more reasonable hour, but nope. Sigh maybe someday.

  56. WendyRoo*

    Since I’ve been working from home, all I want to do is hang out with my houseplants. Caring for plants brings me so much joy! I’ve been thinking about buying a used food truck and converting it into a mobile houseplant shop.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I’m curious about your idea. Where would your shop go? Farmers markets? Sounds fun! I am also a lover of plants and spent too much money a month ago to outfit the balcony at my new place with plants plants plants.

      1. Wendyroo*

        I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks this is a cool idea! Definitely farmers markets, food truck parks, breweries, etc. I live in a densely populated city full of young millennial professionals and not a lot of garden centers or plant shops in the area. Retail space is so expensive. But if I saw a plant truck on my lunch break next to the food trucks, it would be hard to walk away without a new plant!

  57. anon e mouse*

    I guess I am in a different position than a lot of people commenting here in that I actually gave my creative dreams about as much energy as I had for them in my twenties and didn’t get the kind of traction I needed not to need a straight job. So although I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, I want to point out that the pattern I just described is a very real possibility, and, frankly, the most likely one for most people. And, also, that trying to monetize your creative outlets can have some very real downsides for your enjoyment of them.

    That said, my wife and I are making huge changes in our lives in this post pandemic period, so on the broader trend is something I’m certainly participating in. Making a cross country move next month to be closer to family, wife is taking some extra time off with the baby, etc etc.

  58. Damn it, Hardison!*

    I was feeling very burned out in my job before the pandemic, and the downtime forced by the pandemic (employed but no commute or activities outside the house) gave me the time to really think about why I was dissatisfied and whether things could or would change. I realized that it was unlikely that anything would change, and that even if it did, I just didn’t want to be there any longer. I found a great opportunity in the same industry, basically the same job I was already doing but with a higher title and 25% raise. I was nervous about making the change during the pandemic, but it’s been fine. My new team and company are great, we can stay remote if we’d like (although I’ll go in a couple days a week), and my work life balance is better. I was lucky to be employed and WFH for the duration of the pandemic, and fortunate that it gave me the mental space to really analyze my situation and see it for the dead end that it was for me. While I’d like to think that I would have come to the same conclusion eventually, I think the pandemic gave me the clarity to know that I needed to make the change.

  59. anonanna*

    Yes, yes, yes, yes. I’ve been incredibly unfulfilled in my job for well over a year and I’m so depressed and unmotivated I’m about to go work at Mellow Mushroom or Trader Joe’s, ha. I know everyone says that fulfillment shouldn’t come from work, but I spend most of my hours at work and don’t want to spend every day wishing the time was going by faster.

  60. JH*

    Honestly, I’ve been really re-evaluating my career trajectory. I had always been one of those people that wanted to work in non-profits so I felt like I was giving back to the world. And that money didn’t matter to me. But over this last year, I’ve realized I have so many new hobbies outside of just work. And that on a non-profit salary I can’t afford to do them. I’ve been feeling guilty about wanting to look for a new, higher-paying job. In the last year though, I’ve truly realized that we’re supposed to work to live not live to work. Doesn’t ease the guilt though since I love my work and most of my team!

  61. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    I’ve realized my job is meaningless. And endless series of manufactured emergencies built on arbitrary rules that doesn’t do anything to further goodness in the world. I’m trying to figure out how to swing things financially, and I am out of the rat race for good. Life’s too short and too fragile to waste it on things that don’t matter.

  62. Eat My Squirrel*

    100% the past year and a half has changed my career goals. I used to aspire to become a Chief Engineer, a high ranking position in charge of an entire multi-million dollar program, which, in my industry, is rarely held by a woman (there is only one woman Chief Engineer out of a few dozen in my line of business right now) so I had the added desire to help represent women in this position.

    Now? No way in heck would I consider taking that job even if it was offered to me. Why would I want to spend MORE hours working (from home) and have MORE stress, when I can do something less “important,” sign off at 5:30 every day and go walk outside and enjoy my land and my garden and my animals? I can afford my lifestyle on my current salary, but if I got that bigwig job, sure I’d have more money, but I wouldn’t have the time to enjoy it. I could afford a tractor! But I’d always be working late instead of out moving compost around!

    No thanks. I’m good. Struggling a little to get used to being ok with not being used to my potential… I think maybe I’d like to be a low ranking manager again instead of my individual contributor role… but that’s as high as I want to go. Lead a group, not a program.

    1. May Flowers*

      That thought about whether or not you are “living up to your full potential” reminds me of a powerful motivational video I watched a few years ago on that topic from Byron Katie. It was life-changing for me–I decided to stay on my current rung of the corporate ladder and then eventually took a step down the ladder, once I realized that full potential =/= highest possible rung on the ladder.

      Here’s a link to the Byron Katie video:

      1. Eat My Squirrel*

        I’ll take a look at that. For me though, I didn’t mean to equate my highest potential with the bigwig job. It’s more that in my current role (also a step down from where I was) I know I could do more than what I’m doing and fix some things that need fixing, but getting it done would require more support from my manager than I’m getting. I tried a few times, and if I were the manager and it were my people I was trying to get support for, I would keep pushing, but since I’m just a lowly IC, if my boss doesn’t care, I’m only going to put so much effort into changing his mind before I give up. So basically I’m sitting here with a vision of how to make things better for my little group, and the knowledge and ability to do it (think updating out of date procedures when my former job was owning all of another, bigger group’s procedures) but I’m not being given the opportunity to execute it. That’s what’s hard for me to get used to.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      Hello fellow woman engineer tired of seeing no women holding senior positions! And agree… the struggle to shift away from “my default goal is the most ambitious goal” is hard…

      1. Eat My Squirrel*

        Oddly enough, most of the Chief Systems Engineers where I work are women, so there is that. Those women and the one who is a Chief Engineer are all in their 50’s or 60’s, so I’ve reflected on the fact that the women with the experience to lead would have started work in the 80’s and 90’s. It was a lot tougher for them back then. I graduated college in 2001 and there were only two other women in my graduating class. So it could easily be another 20 years before we start seeing more women in engineering leadership roles.

  63. Just Another HR Pro*

    I have always wanted to work less hours, and during COVID I was able to move to an individual contributor role after years of being a manager, so I have a less stressful job with more free time. I took a slight pay-cut but it was worth EVERY penny!

    BUT the one good thing to come from this whole COVID debacle is that I finally fought my fear and convinced myself that I can in fact leave my current career in HR and do something that makes me happy. COVID really gave me the opportunity to reevaluate my life and what makes me happy. HR has been a serious drain on me mentally (my concentration is in Employee Relations so you can imagine what I have to hear and deal with on the daily), but I always thought I was too old (45 in October) to start a new career from the bottom. I have had many people tell me I am not too old, but nonetheless it scares me to enter a new career at 50-ish.

    ANYWAY – so just two weeks ago I started an online certification program to move into graphic arts. I know it may be incredibly low-paying in comparison to working in government contracting for 20 years, but my happiness is worth eating Ramen again.

    1. The Original K.*

      One of my favorite stories is that of a guy who worked as an auto mechanic for years but went to med school in his 40s and became a doctor at 47 (link in next comment). I also just saw something about a 70-year-old who successfully defended his dissertation. As long as you’re above ground, as my grandfather used to say, you’re never too old!

  64. WFHbutwithkids*

    yes, 100%. My husband’s job will require him to travel, 1-2 nights, every other week. This was 100% NBD before… now we have a young child and I’m realizing that if there hadn’t been a pandemic, I would have been totally and completely screwed.

    I’ve already taken a step back at my job, from a more senior “leadership” role, which will means, I have zero chance at ever being promoted now. We are making plans for me to quit in the next 2-3 years. Neither of us want our child in daycare 10-12 hours a day and it makes sense for me to take a step back.

    There’s always going to be a “what-if” no matter what I do, but I know, everyone will be happier with me home full time.

  65. many bells down*

    Our whole organization has reevaluated our work hours. As a religious institution we were previously open 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and now we’re realizing how unsustainable that was with the staff we had. So now we’re thinking of being totally closed on Mondays, and I might even only work 4 days a week.

  66. JJ*

    When I went freelance some years ago, a LOT of people were really weird about it, particularly about the major pay cut I took for the first year or two. They could not understand that the trade of money for time and autonomy was worth it for me. They also believed they were more secure in their jobs than I was, but any job can evaporate at any time.

    Any time you want to take a nontraditional path, people will hassle you. Don’t let them convince you that just because your path doesn’t look like theirs, that it can’t be successful. I now make more money than I ever did at a job AND have way more freedom and control over my working life. If you can afford to, take the chance.

  67. Dr. Doll*

    My plan for several years has been to retire in 2025 (a little early at age mid-50’s), and I’m going to stick with that for personal financial reasons and also due to feeling a responsibility toward my team — but it’s feeling like kind of a long time off, after last year.

    Part of it is realizing that if my job were advertised now, and I applied for it, I would not be selected. The past three years, especially last year, have demonstrated that there’s some very specific deep expertise needed in this position *now* that was not before, and while I’m learning as fast as I can, it’s not enough.

    I’m looking forward to calling this gig done and moving on to something where I feel I can contribute better.

  68. Hosta*

    If anything the pandemic has made me want to push forward in the rat race harder. Being around my partner who has a similar job, but is considered more senior, has shown me I’m way better at what I do than I thought. There’s very little magic that he has that I don’t and yet he gets paid almost 2x what I do. So I’m pushing for a promotion.

    The other thing that I think is pushing the great resignation is that the pandemic has seemed to make folks more extreme versions of themselves. People who were annoying but not deeply problematic are now verging on toxic. People who were caring are now becoming helicopter moms of their co-workers. The extremes of behavior, especially in people you knew before, are making many people choose to leave teams where they were previously happy.

  69. mx. burnout*

    OP here! I can’t wait to camp out in this comments section all day. You all have some really great perspectives and I feel so relieved hearing that other people are thinking about these same things. (BTW, because a few people asked about it – for most of my career I made a freelance living off of my creative skills and I have no reason to believe I couldn’t do that again. My current position working full-time for salary was actually an experiment/outlier move that wasn’t ever meant to last very long. So I do think I can make a living off my art, but I’m not looking forward to doing those taxes again.)

    1. Manders*

      If you’ve already made a living off your creative skills and you know you can do it, I say go back to it! Going into a creative field with experience and realistic expectations can be a great career move. Restarting a career you know you can do well is a very, very different experience from following a dream without having a realistic idea of what the job actually looks like.

  70. ChangingPace*

    I am in a role and industry that is known for its employee burnout. I came close to losing a parent to Covid and my partner and I have decided to make some significant changes as things are returning to normal. We are making a move that we’ve wanted to for many years, I am job hunting in an industry I am well qualified for and have dreamed of applying to for years (holding back was always ‘the right thing to do’ by my current employer but now I’m done waiting) and we are both extremely happy to be making progress on things we’ve been holding off on for so long. I suppose when it hit me in the face that this is my one and only life to live, working like I’m being whipped every day is no longer worth it.

  71. TiffIf*

    I am pretty risk averse and have been comfortable in my job for a while. So even though I was working hard and there were some stressful/busy times, it felt like I was stagnating–my skills no longer growing.

    During the pandemic that was actually a comfort–I knew what was expected and that I could do it and so it made work something that was not more stressful than usual–unlike just about everything else in life during the pandemic. Now that we’re emerging (tentatively…I’m fully vaccinated but I am also in a Delta hotspot because of the large numbers of unvaccinated people) I’m getting antsy in my position. Yesterday I applied for an internal transfer that would be a growth opportunity.

  72. notacompetition*

    Just did this in Sept 2020. I spent several years working full-time as well as freelancing, so I had some existing clients when I went full-time freelance. Here’s what I did to prepare myself, in order:

    1. Saved at least 6 months’ salary (more, I had close to a year’s salary after taxes when I left my FT job)
    2. Secured three retainers with clients–one I’d had long-term, one new, and one from my old job (yay)
    3. Started a retirement fund (I have a traditional IRA and a Roth and I plan to roll the traditional into the Roth in annual chunks. Once I left my job I also rolled over all my pension/retirement savings to these accounts)
    4. Started a business checking account and got a TIN
    5. Redid my website
    6. Figured out how I’d have health care (it’s more expensive but I’m OK with that)
    7. Gave a month of notice to my old job (so the third retainer really came in here, but you get the idea)

    I am a writer/comms person and I get to do all kinds of awesome creative work. I also got a grant to provide subsidized client work to local artists. Most months I’ve made as much or more as I was making, before taxes, at my FT job. And I’m getting new client inquiries ALL THE TIME. Except for the last two months because I had a baby in May. My husband is also in a creative profession as a FT freelancer (owns his own biz) and we are super comfortable financially.

    So, if you’re thinking about it and you can really concretely prepare, DO IT!! YOLO! Be ready to live off less than you were making, but you very well may be pleasantly surprised by how much income you end up with.

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      As a fellow self-employed person there are numerous retirement plans that you may want to check out. Everything from a SEP IRA to a 401(k), solo 401(k), heck there are even some Roth 401(k) plans out there. A good CPA or financial advisor can definitely help in that regard.

      Also, if your health insurance plan is anything like mine (#bad) there is a good chance you can set up a HSA which is a really slick way to sock away some money that is triple tax advantaged. I.e. you can contribute pre-tax dollars that grow tax-free and when you withdraw them for qualified medical expenses (which is just about anything) you don’t have to pay any tax on the withdrawals. It’s a way that I’ve kicked in some extra money after maxing out my other retirement vehicles.

      Continued success!

  73. Justin*

    I can’t quit, financially, but I have fully given up on merely finding a better job in this field (employee training) and am just planning to move onto something where my (soon) doctorate and my actual research and writing on racism and whiteness in organizations will be valued (maybe academic, maybe not, who knows).

    So, yes, even if I can’t actually quit. My skills need to be put to actual benefit, my writing needs to matter instead of being something I do on the side. And I want to own a lot more of my labor (so either I have a lot more autonomy or find a way to work for myself), etc.

    1. Honor Harrington*

      If you are in the US, now is a perfect time to look for jobs working in the Diversity/Equity/Inclusion space in corporate America. Your background is ideal for it, and it’s a growing area with most large corporations creating or expanding teams in this area.

    2. Tali*

      I remember you talking about your work and it is absolutely needed, and you seem to be one of the few people qualified to speak on it personally and academically! I hope you can find a way to make it work, you could do a lot of good in the world.

  74. No Tribble At All*

    For me, the biggest change was I only spent time with people I like. I’m friends with most of my coworkers, but some really get on my nerves. At home for a year, I was around (1) my husband, who I adore, and (2) my cats, who I adore. Even if we weren’t paying attention to each other, it makes me happy to work in the same room as my husband. It makes me very sad that I have to spend most of my waking hours away from the people I love the most. I’d love to be able to WFH one or two days a week just to interact with him and the cats more.

    I’ve always been so career-oriented, but this past year has taught me that emotionally, family matters more than your job. Job’s don’t care about you; a person cares about you. Being an engineer is still a huge part of my identity, but that part became smaller because of WFH.

  75. Leah K.*

    I am one of the people with the opposite mindset. I am employed by one of the companies whose business didn’t suffer much during the pandemic and who treated their employees very well. So, I definitely value the financial stability and having an ethical employer. If anything, this pandemic has made it more clear to me that this is where I want to build my long-term career.

    1. Joielle*

      Exactly the same here. My spouse and I did very well financially during the pandemic – our employers weren’t really affected, we easily transitioned to working from home, and the double whammy of not paying student loans and making a lot of money selling our house let us pay off almost all the rest of our debt, buy our dream home, and save/invest/donate much more than we ever could before.

      Now that we’re stable and have a nest egg started, I’m less inclined than ever to risk any of it. Especially knowing that the next disaster is probably coming. Maybe a pessimistic take, but I’m a lawyer so being risk-averse is my nature! :)

  76. roll-bringer*

    I worked from my parents’ house in Colorado for six months last year. I enjoyed it for all the reasons I thought I would – more space than NYC, access to a car so I could go hike without messing with public transit, time spent with family. But the most important thing was their neighborhood.

    In the ten years since I graduated from high school and moved out, it’s been a very sleepy street – I was always the youngest kid on the block. But in the last couple of years, a bunch of families with school-age kids moved in, and the Howl – Colorado’s weird take on the evening clapping for essential workers – brought all of them into the street and onto my parents’ front yard every night. The grown ups would stand six feet apart in the road with a six pack sititng in the middle of their circle, and I would keep their kids entertained.

    I freaking LIVED for it! It was the highlight of my day! I could tolerate a workday of emails that never felt like they mattered and meetings that seemed meaningless, but I absolutely adored our nightly games of tag, or covering the sidewalk in chalk, or swapping deeply bizarre and unfunny Kid Jokes.

    Anyway, this is all to say, today is actually my last day at my corporate job. I’m in grad school to get a masters in education. I start student teaching elementary school in the fall.


  77. Michala Biondi*

    A few years ago, I was hired to return to a job I did, and loved, covering my current boss’ job during her maternity leave 26 years ago. It was the jobsite I always wanted to return to, though I enjoyed other positions in the mean time. It was just right in so many ways – the subject matter, salary, team, work focus. But now, almost 5 years into it, I’m like, okay, I’m ready for something else. This past year has been – weird, yes. I’m an archivist for a hospital system. This current year, 2021, is a big anniversary year for my two hospitals, and additionally we installed a new cataloging system in our archives, lots of extra work, so it’s been extra stressful, which feeds into the ready-to-do- something-else-now part.

    But what I’m trying to say, is that after a while, one’s dream job with all the right pieces, still becomes the daily grind. Change is good – sometimes. don’t rush into it, because even dream jobs become mundane at some point. Change wisely.

  78. CatCat*

    I only really started feeling truly burned out by the pandemic in the past few months. I am unhappy at work for various reasons and I think my burnout is making it hard to see what I used to like about my job. I definitely feel some of the sentiments expressed by the OP. I can afford to take a pay cut and am seriously considering it though I worry I am just feeling like the grass must be greener and maybe it isn’t. Then I’m still unhappy and earning less money.

    I signed up for a webinar next week on leaving my profession entirely. I can’t tell if I am over my profession or just over my current job.

  79. Anonymuse*

    First, an answer for the OP: Do it!! It’s okay to have a job that looks great on paper and be tired of it. I left my previous job because it was such a nice place to work, hardly anyone ever left, and I was stuck in role I was getting bored with. You say you’ve got tons of savings and no caregiving responsibilities, so when are you going to have a better chance?

    If you’re worried about the precariousness of the world, put hard limits on how far you want to go. Like, “I will try this for X years/months and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to my old career.” Or, “$Y of my savings is my permanent emergency fund, if I wind up touching that then it’s time to go back.”

  80. Sara without an H*

    This year crystalized several things for me, with the result that I decided to retire at the end of the academic year. I didn’t want to work until I was too old to enjoy retirement. And a global pandemic, the likes of which haven’t been seen in a century, is an excellent reminder of one’s own mortality. My Latin is rusty, but the phrase “memento mori” sticks in my mind.

  81. Ms Cathy if Your Nasty*

    In about 6 months, I will be part of the great resignation. I’m working on transitioning to independent consulting. The pandemic helped to give me some clarity of what I really want. My current position is well-paid with a good company, but is no longer professorially interesting to me and this will not change no matter how much I want it to. I’m in a similar position as the OP. There’s no real reason to not do it other than the fear of the unknown. For me, my field is aligning in a way that it’s a good time to make a move. And I heard someone say once, we should never make life decisions based on fear. Planning my own business has been a great COVID-project. It’s focused my energy on the future, helped me to learn new things, and knowing I have an exit strategy helps me on the bad days at work.

  82. Carly*

    I’d really love an example of a resignation letter that presents this in a professional manner, if anyone has one.

    1. mx. burnout*

      Yes! I have allowed myself to fantasize about what my post-Great Resignation career might entail, but I get stuck at how I will deliver the news at work. My boss is incredibly supportive of me, but we have *zero turnover* at my office (as in, over decades) and *lives to do this specific work* as do most of my coworkers. I don’t need them to understand my actual reasons, but I wonder how I can say “I’m just tired of this” that doesn’t come across as entitled or dismissive of the work they do.

    2. Caboose*

      Dear Bossperson,
      If I keep working this job, I think my soul is literally going to wither away and die inside the shell of my physical form. In order to avoid this, I will be resigning, and my last day will be X.

      …Probably not ideal.

  83. Elizabeth*

    Someone mentioned recently (in a good news post?) that their company offers 10% of their time to pursue passions. I can’t do that, but in the conversations with my new boss and grandboss about the promotion they were offering me, I made it really clear that I was going to be extremely flexible about WFH days going forward – especially during a Canadian winter. And that I was going to focus on the professional development of my team as much as I was going to focus on the issues.

    If I’m going to lose my team, I want it to be because they have incredible opportunities, and not because we couldn’t offer work/life balance and the flexibility to be a human.

  84. AHM*

    In the pandemic, I resigned from my (very stable) Federal job to move to a risky early-stage startup. The startup allows me flexibility with how I manage my day – I’m no longer a chair-warmer who needs to refresh my mouse every five minutes to appear active. I work when I need to, and structure my day however I want.

    So far, that’s meant the occasional breakfast date with my partner, longer mid-day walks with my dog, and workouts can be fit in whenever I don’t have meetings.

    My mental health is SO much better, and the stability/risk trade-off has been well worth it.

  85. blink14*

    Absolutely thinking about it! I’ve already decided to remain 100% remote long term, with the option of going back hybrid. I’m signing another lease for my apartment, but with the intention of using the next year to declutter my belongings and really think about what I want to do and where I want to be. If anything, the pandemic has made me realize even more that I am a person that thrives on my surroundings in my personal life, and less so from a job.

    None of us are getting any younger nor can we predict when massive life changes might happen. I’d rather take a more proactive approach to my dreams of where to live and what to do with my life than just be satisfied with a taste of it here or there.

  86. Umbrellasunshine*

    I love my job. My career options have grown despite the pandemic. I have multiple wonderful opportunities in my field and company. But. The jump to senior management will be more stress, less control of my schedule, more hours at work/on the phone and less time with my kids/outside. So I’m torn. Will I regret giving up a shot at director in my mid career? I don’t know.

  87. Over It*

    I’ve had the opposite experience–work this year has really reshaped my priorities for the rest of my life. I worked directly in COVID response (social services) and most of the people I’m closest to were home over the past year in more corporate work settings/grad school, insulated from many of the things I was experiencing through work and ambivalent around issues that didn’t impact them directly the way they did for me. It made me realize that my values weren’t as necessarily aligned with people I spent time with outside work as I had previously thought, and while they are still good people that I care about, I want to make sure I am spending more time with people outside of work whose values match mine. Switching jobs a few months ago from direct service to program administration in the same field has also done wonders for my work/life balance/burnout and is allowing me more time and headspace to explore new opportunities. Despite my daily frustrations, I’m realizing I’m really lucky to have found a job where I care deeply about the work I’m doing. No plans to quit anytime soon, although I definitely couldn’t afford to if I wanted to.

  88. JTM*

    I don’t think you’re alone in this. In 2020 we lost so many loved ones – I myself lost a beloved family member, who quite literally dropped dead, and I’m still griefing their loss. Their passing has made me contemplate how much time I have left on Earth, and how I might spend it. 2020 has shown me that some of the things I thought were essential, aren’t as essential as I thought, and I’m prioritizing time with my family and my work-life balance over the prestigious role.

    Doing what’s best for you and feel zero guilt about pivoting your life into what you want it to be.

  89. Lexie*

    I didn’t follow my dreams and life has taken some turns that mean I will probably never get the chance and it fills me with a great deal of regret. So if you have the chance to try, take it.

  90. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Dunno. I still don’t object to being quoted.

    I’ve been a remote Programmer for a decade, and I noted before, I don’t think I’d fit back into an office full time. If anything, I think the pandemic has increased my opportunities nominally, as I now get calls about jobs that are already remote, and only one on-site position has been unable to even consider leaving me offsite. My sad condolences to those negatively impacted by the pandemic for the losses; I take no joy in saying that it’s done more good than harm to me on this front.

    On the other hand, requirement bloat and inflation has left me painted into a corner, and experience bloat means I probably don’t have enough of my life left to build up the qualifications for a lateral move into a new organization. On that front, the pandemic has done little to change my situation; if anything, it’s harmed it, as the handful of left-handed purple squirrels out there who can check every box remotely seem to be emboldening recruiting companies to ask for the moon and multiple stars, where before the regional candidates were pretty much the selection pool (barring pricey relocation packages).

    I think all the forces eventually, effectively cancel out, as long as we exclude morale from the conversation. I’m more focused now on making my current role palatable through the earliest I could entertain retiring than I was two years ago.

  91. Ace*

    I feel guilty about leaving my job. (I’ve already made the decision to leave at the end of this month.) My job isn’t necessarily high-paying. But, it was enough to support my spouse and me. I enjoy the work and the rest of the team. However, in late 2019, I was feeling the effects of burnout without quite realizing what was happening.

    Living through the pandemic has made me realize that I haven’t prioritized myself at all. I kept moving in the direction I thought I should be moving. But, I didn’t reflect enough on my path to see if that is what I *wanted* to do.

    I’m fortunate that my job effectively gave me a buyout offer. This means I’ll have a few months to contemplate what I really want to be/do when I grow up. It also gives me a chance to take a break from everything and take a much-needed vacation.

    I still feel guilty. I’m still second-guessing myself. I’m worried about not having income for a few months. But, overall, I am curious and excited about becoming the person I was best meant to be.

  92. New Mom*

    I’ve posted about this before but I may be part of the great resignation (maybe) because I had a pandemic pregnancy and baby and was able to work from home and spend so much more time with my family. I’ve had my first day of work and missed my baby’s bedtime by ten minutes which made me so sad. I just can’t believe that I’m going to have such a reduced amount of time with my family going forward AND the commute… blerg!

    So I’m going to see how things are but if my quality of life is too reduced by being back in the office, I’m going to start looking even though I really so enjoy my job.

  93. Decidedly Me*

    I had a remote job even before the pandemic, but I’ve decided to take more advantage of that by digital nomading to an extent. Next year, I’m going to work from other counties for a few weeks at a time, at least a few times a year. If I like doing that (which I suspect I will!), then I’ll be doing that every year. My partner is less into this, but super supportive, and will likely stay home or join me only part of the time. My manager already knows, as well, and is supportive. I’ve always wanted to travel more and just exist in other places. Having all my trips canceled due to COVID and realizing that just days off doesn’t recharge me really made it clear that I need to do this.

  94. Quickbeam*

    I am finishing up my career, looking to retire. Working from home (for the first time in a 50 year work life) got me out of putting in extra hours just to be seen. I went from an average work week of 60 hours to 40 in the work from home transition, just as productive. It was an enormous wake up call and planted a seed going forward into retirement to value my time more.

  95. Adam*

    Absolutely. I moved to Vegas about five years ago and have a string of bad luck. Three jobs later (two lay offs and one REALLY TERRIBLE CEO) reminded me of two of my goals. I’ve always wanted to do clinical behavioral therapy and I’ve always wanted to work for myself. I’ve also always enjoyed helping those less fortunate.

    Sí a year later Im rounding the bend on my bachelors degree in psychology that I started about twenty years ago, and have been accepted into a phenomenal graduate program for social work.

  96. Anonymuse*

    Second, an answer for Allison: I’m comfortable in my current job, but I’ve definitely re-evaluated what I want from work going forward. I don’t want to have to commute every day ever again. It’s not just all the time I’ve gotten back, but being home and able to do things that need doing throughout the day. I know I’m super lucky to be in an industry that has widely embraced remote work, but since I’ve got the chance, I want to use that luck!

    I’ve also been thinking about pursuing a creative dream in a part-time way. I’ve been thinking for a few years that I’d like to go back to school and get a music degree sometime. Not for a whole new career, just for something I’d like to do as an occasional side thing. When COVID is more under control, I think I could find a way to fit a class or two at a time into my schedule.

  97. Mannheim Steamroller*

    I would love to be able to quit and do something else (not sure what, but I would probably figure out something). However, staying the course for just 6 more years means being eligible to collect a pension, so that becomes the priority.

  98. Buttercup*

    I am in the subset of people for whom work has never been a passion. I have no ambition as it relates to corporate life – I just want to make enough money to support myself and my cats independently, and enough free time and extra money to pursue my creative endeavors separately from money. Ideally, I would be independently wealthy and not need to work at all, but that’s highly unrealistic. My work experience is, unintentionally, all in an area I don’t like working in, it’s just what I happened to have the opportunity to do. I want to change course if I can, but when hiring managers see my resume, they think I’ll be “downgrading” and get bored with the kind of work I applied to do and reject my application without even speaking to me, regardless of what my cover letter says. But because my work experience is technically a hybrid of two areas, whenever I apply to either of those areas, hiring managers decide I don’t have enough experience and, again, reject me without speaking to me. So I’m in this strange limbo of having all the time I want for my creative endeavors, but no money for it, and no opportunity to convince anyone that yes, I can do the job you’ve listed, and I would be an excellent fit. I don’t want to work, but I need to, and that’s not good enough for anybody, apparently.

  99. Ama*

    I’m in sort of a weird place on this because I was already looking for a new job prior to the pandemic (and then didn’t see a good job posting for 14 months because my sector got hit really hard). I badly, badly need to get out of my current job; I’ve been here for 8 years so my frustration is 50% boredom from doing the same basic project cycle for 8 years and 50% realizing that the higher ups will never staff my department at an adequate level as long as I am here to always bail them out. And I really do intend when I leave to make it clear to my boss that the actual decision to leave had nothing to do with the pandemic, if it weren’t for the pandemic I would have left over a year ago.

    The main thing that has changed with the pandemic is that I am seriously considering quitting without anything lined up because I’m starting to worry that I’m so burned out that if I don’t take few months’ off work entirely I’m just going to be a mess at any new job I start. I know it is a nuclear option and it isn’t one I am considering lightly but I would *never* have considered doing this before.

  100. The Happy Graduate*

    This past year made me really appreciate a strong work-life balance more than anything. I would imagine a good course of action if you want to quit and pursue a creative avenue is to do it gradually – for whatever it is you’re doing, work on it on your free time and see how realistically well it can support you financially and make your decision from there. I say this because while the pandemic has allowed people to reevaluate their priorities and goals for quality of life, it also forced people to come to terms with how quickly a series of unfortunate circumstances can cause you to land in a terrible situation. While you say you’re in a good place financially now, make sure the creative pursuit is worth the risk or is it more worthwhile to keep it as a side-gig that brings in some extra fun money, especially as you seem to have a really great job that you enjoy (and not a soul-draining one)!

  101. Manana*

    If you have not monetized your creative pursuits in any way prior and need to have some income in order to feel stable (even if just “extras money” for getting yourself lunch or haircuts) then either keep the job you have now or find a less demanding/fewer hours job to work as you develop your creative business. Also, note that running a creative business does not give you more time. You will find yourself working way more than when you had an office to clock in/out of and a guaranteed paycheck each week.

  102. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Last year I was out of work for 6 months and felt like a has-been. With almost 40 years in my field, I know I lost out to younger talent at lower salaries. Financial stability was drilled into me by my Depression-era parents, and I’ve been working since I was 14. I can’t see myself retiring because I don’t think I can! I went back into consulting last year because the money is better (for now, anyway), and I can choose the kind of work I enjoy (ditto).

    Still, I quietly opened an Etsy shop last year to test the water on my jewelry design skills, something I used to do and still did as a hobby when I had time. My work sold well at farmers markets and craft shows, and I wondered if I could build a side hustle – really, the whole point of Etsy – but then my industry came back to life.

    One thing I found? I loved designing and creating again but it became a chore when I HAD to do it. Some days, I just didn’t feel creative or inspired. I spent those days building inventory, etc., but was a little surprised that creating felt like hard work. Still, I liked my experiment and think I will try it again.

    Regardless, I plan and hope to consult at least part-time when I eventually retire. Financial stability and all, it’s handy.

  103. Square Root of Minus One*

    I’m making moves and sending probes in that direction, but at the slower pace I can manage.
    I dream to be a writer, and I even entretain the dream to be a songwriter too. But I don’t intend for these dreams to become money-related stress, so I’m not aiming to quit, but to decrease the time I spend there. I’m a government employee, so going part-time is always a possibility if needed.
    Already done: working 90%. Frees up 45 minutes every working day for minimal cost (tax changes made it so after-tax income was only about a 3% hit). These 45 minutes a day I currently spend writing my novels. At some point, I might get better at it?
    Now the rest is aimed on moving back home with my boyfriend, only the timeline remains TBD:
    Pros for moving in ’22:
    – My current job has a site there, and people are starting to retire from there. Some jobs could be accessible to me.
    – My boss is likely to retire between ’23 and ’25. I’m really not interested in reporting to either one of my current peers. Better for me to move first.
    Pros for ’23-’24:
    – I bought a place where I am now at a great rate, the longer I stay, the more profitable it will be when I resell.
    – I am eyeing another branch of government that pays much better. I know my chances will improve when I reach 6 years of experience in my current occupation, which I’ll reach in April 2023. I could have several doors of entry, to be considered according to their openings.
    More income meaning more investments and/or less time at work, more time to start and maybe make profit from creative pursuits. And maybe, if I manage, retire early to my creative endeavors altogether :)

  104. Pikachu*

    I’ve basically accepted that meritocracy is a myth. It doesn’t matter how hard you work. You will still get passed over for promotions and raises, whether your performance warrants them or not. Companies will stop at nothing to pay us less and ask for more, so I am done.

    I quit my full time job and now do freelance copywriting and have a part time gig doing some basic operations management for a startup my friend is running. I cut my salary in half, and my health insurance is now “thoughts and prayers.” But I have never been happier to just f**king relax and live on my own terms.

    No more padding resumes with keywords from job descriptions just to maybe make it through an ATS only to compete with thousands of others. Cover letters? Give me a break. $15/hr requiring a master’s degree? Delusional. Not to mention the marketing spin recruiters love to put on job titles and descriptions. The other day I saw a job on Indeed called “sales lead.” You would think that was a role leading some form of sales… but no, it was for retail/cashier. What are they thinking?

    I recently heard a company leader in the healthcare industry (vp or ceo, I forget) on a podcast talking about how covid resulted in the highest revenues in the history of the organization. Less than ten minutes later, they were talking about how hard it was to hire people because between the stimulus and unemployment nobody “wanted” to work. COME ON. Maybe pay your people a reasonable wage before you send them into a potential deadly situation. It is just sickening.

    So done with ALL of it. To some, it sounds like despair, but I have never been happier. To all those who made more money on unemployment than they did going back to work, GOOD FOR YOU. Ride it as long as you can. Be lazy. Live your life. Stop creating value for shareholders and create it for yourself. Let the companies suffer. Let them hang their passive aggressive signs on the door about how “nobody wants to work.” They don’t care about you anyway. The system exists to pad the wallets of the wealthy and nothing more.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      THIS! Yes, when I see an add that asks for a masters degree and 3-5 years experience with a pay rate of $22 an hour I laugh. There is no way in hell that I am going to do that. I am very curious to see how long it takes employers to come to realization that they may have to cut into their profit margins if they want to bring actual qualified candidates into their offices (or retain those who are willing to do it as a career start instead of having turnover every two years).

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Amen. . .
      I’m trying to make that leap, so it’s good to hear a positive story. As I’ve looked at companies ads and answer recruiter calls while trying to find any path out of the hellhole I landed at, I’ve found they want to pay me more than $30,000 under what I made at the job before this one. I was an engineering project manager. I was not even that well paid at my last company–lots of my peers made $10k+ more, hence leaving and landing in the hellhole. What they wanted to pay me relative to what new grad engineers get made no sense. It would be like a 5 year paycut for me, but it’s fine. I get it. It’s normal for my world and has what has happened for decades, but peace out. I’m done.

      1. Pikachu*

        It’s all a joke. I was in marketing for a decade. When I entered the field, job qualifications included strategy, metrics, revenue impact, that kind of stuff. Now, companies want all of that plus graphic design and web development skills. For the SAME salary. Why do I need to be a wordpress developer to build an effective strategy and lead its execution? Why do I need to be a graphic designer to analyze campaign metrics? Who could possibly have time to do all of that??? There is absolutely zero reason to require all these skills in one person except to pay less and get more.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          It’s everywhere! On the PM side, it would also be nice if you are a Primavera (scheduling software) jockey and do AutoCAD. Sure. I did once know both of those, but I haven’t done either myself in ages because my very large company had schedulers and designers.

  105. Jules*

    I actually just recently accepted an offer for almost 45% more than what I’m making now. The commute is longer but there were things I saw there that my current company has thrown to the wayside (i.e covid restrictions). I felt guilty about it for about a day. My husband snapped me out of it, by saying “What has that place given you?” I got COVID from being in the office because I was “essential”. Life is way too short to be at a place where there was no upward trajectory and was being treated less than. I can’t remember when I’ve been as happy as this change has made me. You owe it to yourself to live your best life and make the decisions that best benefit YOU.

  106. Lorax*

    Yes! I’m in the same boat. I fell into my current career path after graduating into the last recession. I put off following my original career goals in order to secure basic financial stability in the short-term, and until recently, basic financial stability has remained a huge struggle, even though I’ve been highly “successful” in terms of promotions and professional recognition. Now I’m looking back on my career trying to figure out how I got here. I don’t love my job in the day-to-day. I actually hate the kind of work I’ve ended up doing, though it’s for a good cause and has allowed me to attain high-level positions in my industry. I feel simultaneously underutilized and overworked, and definitely underpaid. My interests and skills are fundamentally misaligned with the core aspects of my job, but I’ve toughed it out for over a decade. I felt like I had no choice. But now, after the pandemic, I feel like life is too short to spend 50+ hours a week buried in thankless paperwork with no light at the end of the tunnel. I’m starting to seriously consider either going back to graduate school to pursue my initial career goals, or else taking a few years to try my hand in a related, intensely competitive creative industry. It might be a risk, but I feel like there are actual possibilities, maybe for the first time in my life.

  107. Abogado Avocado*

    I am exhausted from the past year. I am an essential employee in a government office that has bent over backwards to support us, but I ended up working a lot more than was healthy because of the need to respond to so many issues involving the pandemic. I am closer to retirement than you are, OP, and am a Type A personality, so it has come as a surprise to me that I am now contemplating whether I want to stay on the work treadmill for the years until retirement or whether I want to leave and enjoy what life throws my way.

    In contemplating this, I realized that I have these advantages: (1) my academic and work history are such that I would have no trouble whatsoever jumping back into the workforce if necessary. I have proven myself in my profession and really don’t need to do more to make my mark; (2) my partner and my financial history is sufficiently secure that, even in a doomsday scenario (financial crash or dread disease or both), we would have adequate funds to support ourselves throughout the rest of our lives. It helps that we have a financial adviser to guide us through that; (3) I have family and friends I enjoy spending time with and would love to spend more time with; (4) I have hobbies that bring joy to my life; and (5) COVID has brought home to me that life is short and that the secret of life is to enjoy it. As to disadvantages, I also know myself well enough to realize that: (1) work has always been a big part of my identity; and (2) I love being in public service because, well, we get to serve the public. However, I know well that volunteering could fill the identity and public service holes, to the extent that in leaving work they turn out to be holes.

    I don’t know if any of this will assist in thinking about your situation, OP, and I don’t yet know how much longer I will work. I do know I appreciate Alison for making this forum available and to see everyone’s thoughts.

  108. GermanCoffeeGirl*

    I had reached this point when I hit my 30s a few years ago (so I dealt with this pre-pandemic) – I was burnt out from everything. I wasn’t sure if my career path was right for me or if it was just the work environment stressing me out, I felt stuck and desperately wanted to run away. I was fortunate enough to be financially flexible, single and without dependants, so I decided to take a sabbatical (quit my job, cancel my apartment lease, put everything in storage) and travel to New Zealand on a working holiday visa. My experience was overall positive and I learned a lot of things about myself and what I want from work and my future.

    What really helped me make the decision was to realize that I wasn’t bound to my decision FOREVER. If I decided that my sabbatical wasn’t for me, I could still return to my home country and/or home city and look for another job. Of course, there were some people who thought I was silly or flightly for deciding to quit my job and leave, but there were enough people who said they would do the same if they could. In the end, if you have the opportunity and the ressources to take a sabbatical (and maybe have it turn into a permanent life decision), do it.

  109. Cimorene-turned-Morwen*

    I feel this deeply. I’m burnt out, but also deeply, deeply angry. Because I’m an epidemiologist. I thought getting a PhD in public health meant that, although the hours are long and the pay is low, if a public health emergency ever happened my work would help people. Instead, what I saw this year was dismissal of the collective expertise of my field, the utter failure of major institutions, politicization, and needless death and suffering. I would quit tomorrow, except that I’m on a work visa, and leaving my job means leaving the country, my partner, and the life I’ve tried to build.

    1. Kate*

      I can see how that would be frustrating, particularly when there were lives literally at stake and people have died who should probably be living their lives right now. I think we have a general anti-science problem where ignorance and opinion is valued too highly but facts and knowledge are discounted. I work in climate science now and it’s amazing the number of people who still deny the science and instead choose to believe ‘facts’ that began as propaganda from oil and gas companies…

      1. Cimorene-turned-Morwen*

        Exactly. I’m at the point of wondering, “Why bother? Why stay?” If I can’t make a difference, I should at least make money. If I’m not helping the world, I should try and be happy.

    2. Honor Harrington*

      C-t-M, I just wanted to say thank you. I can only imagine your anger, frustration and exhaustion over what has happened in the past 18 months. But people like you are part of why Covid hasn’t been worse. Having disaster plans, using science and influence, developing vaccines and communications and plans – you and your colleagues are a big part of why so many have lived, despite the horror of how many have died. .

      I hope you find a new future and a new opportunity. You have surely earned it.

    3. Julie*

      Along those same lines, my SIL is an Infection Preventionist at her hospital. She was set to start a larger Master’s program this fall and she just decided no thanks. She’s high risk and had to be at the hospital every day seeing death and everything else just to have the vaccine come out and watch her coworkers refuse it (they just made it mandatory this month) and watch her family members refuse it. I don’t think she believes in people any more and is trying to find her own kind of exit strategy into a different area in the field or even beyond. Her health condition made this her calling but she had a major health crisis this fall from the stress and now has been diagnosed with PTSD so her situation is really one she knows must change but it’s making her question everything about herself.

  110. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    YES! I was laid off from a toxic job that I hated in January that I had wanted to leave for a year but didn’t because I was hesitant to take a pay cut. Well, the lay off forced my hand and after my shitty boss told me I “suck at my job and they don’t want my energy” as they laid my entire department off I was unemployed for all of 8 days when I was hired at a job that I love. Not only am I utilizing the skills I want to use but my new employer values my skills and definitely doesn’t scream at me or tell me I suck. The pay is less but my quality of life has improved. I am not so stressed that I can’t sleep and my friends and family are telling me that I am “back to my old self” and that “my demeanor is like a night and day difference” now that I have escaped the hellscape that I was working in. I hear from old co-workers every once in a while and I know that hellscape has not improved, in fact the heat has been turned up in hell so I am SO happy that I stepped out of the flames and into a warm oasis. I learned a lot about what is important to me and what is not, I am not willing to tolerate assholes for the all mighty dollar anymore. I think a lot of employers are going to find this out within the next year.

  111. Orange You Glad*

    While I’m not ready to move on to a new job yet, this past year has taught me to take more control of what my job entails and cut out all the “busy work”. Working from home full time was an adjustment, but I’m much better now at making my time my own. I no longer have to look busy because I’m sitting in an office until 6 pm, I can just walk away from my desk and do things around the house once my work is complete (but still remain reachable for emergencies). I’m actually enjoying my coworkers more now that we connect occasionally online than when we were in a crowded office together all day.

    The pandemic has made me rethink where I want to live geographically. Pretty much the only travel I’ve done this past year is back to my home state to stay with family and for the first time in my life, I’m feeling the pull to move back there.

  112. Kate*

    I’m with you too. Fundamentally, I haven’t changed. The things I want are the same. Now though, after covid I can see a clear path to actually getting those things. In my old job I worked more than 84 hours per week, not including overtime, though it was a physical job so the hours somehow seemed more manageable plus I was on a work rotation of 4 weeks at work, 2 weeks off. After returning to uni for a 2nd Masters, I have a new job (been there 6 weeks) and only work 40 hours per week. The managers are adamant about not working beyond those hours except in exceptional circumstances, they support me with training, I enjoy what I do, etc. And yet I still want to leave. Why? Because my new job wants us to work in an office 3 days per week, which means I have to move to a new town and I’ve realised I don’t want to do that. All my clients are in another country so everything will be remote anyway – why do I have to move house and then drag myself into an office when I can work just as well from my current location? I don’t want to work 40 hours per week, I’d prefer 30. I have a few options ahead of me and covid has helped me realise that the things I thought were impossible are completely possible…

  113. Kate*

    One thing I think this year made clear is that there’s no such thing as job security. If your employer thinks they’re experiencing a shortfall, you’re nothing but an expense to be cut to them, even if you literally do the work that makes the enterprise run (pilots at an airline, professors at a university.) If you can afford to spend your days doing what rewards you, do it and don’t look back.

    I have a few resolutions: more intentionality about my time (building in self-care every week, structuring work hours to be able to parent as much as I want to, focusing hard on the stuff I value at work.) And doing as little as possible of the stuff that makes my administration look good and doesn’t benefit me or my coworkers, because they’ve made quite clear that they see workers like us as disposable. Since I’m a professor, the line between that stuff is pretty clear and I’m lucky to have the flexibility to say yes and no to what I want–but I bet lots of office workers are also doing stuff that pleases the boss and doesn’t boost your own skills and marketability. After 2020, no thanks to all of that.

  114. irene adler*

    My Pops always said “take advantage of your opportunities because they won’t always be there when you want them.”
    Sounds like you have the support; do it!

    I wish I had some kind of support to go to part-time or to do something else. Working from home sounds so freeing! But nope! Can’t.

  115. NancyDrew*

    In a way, I’m doing and feeling the opposite.

    A full year before the pandemic, I quit my (lucrative, lovely but busy) corporate job to pursue creative writing and consulting. I already had one book deal under my belt so I thought I’d really give it a go. And I did, and soon got two more book deals and picked up a couple of clients.

    But…turns out I HATED it. I hated worrying constantly about money (children’s books don’t pay a ton for most writers) and finding new clients. I was used to have a large, steady paycheck and even though we’d saved up a ton for me to do this, suddenly NOT having that paycheck was incredibly difficult. We have two kids and my spouse is self-employed, so we also had huge healthcare costs. And, again, we planned for all of this.

    …But we didn’t plan for a pandemic. When it hit, work dried up immediately. Some of my clients canceled my big contracts. Both my books got pushed back, including one that’s still on indefinite hold. I went from being nervous about my income to being downright paranoid.

    Eventually work picked up again but I realized I missed the security of a steady paycheck and excellent, cheap health insurance. (Again, keeping in mind I am incredibly fortunate to be at the executive level, where I pull in a very high paycheck.) When my kid was diagnosed with special needs, the health insurance became even more critical, and I decided to go back to corporate life.

    So overall, the pandemic pushed me BACK into a steady corporate job, full-time, and I feel like I can breathe again. I’m fitting in my creative writing (ie, next book) when I can, and relishing the safety I feel now that I hadn’t felt for the past two years. I don’t love this current job but I like enough parts of it to get me through my day, and truly am embracing the security I feel now.

    However, I totally get the drive to follow your dreams these days. I feel like I’m doing that but in different, more personal ways!

    1. Marie*

      I really relate to this, even though I am in a very different place in life than you are. I’ve always wanted to write children’s books…since I was a child myself. But I’m a risk-averse person and not having a stable income would drive me bananas and impede my creativity. So I went into data science, where I work now.

      I still want to write kids’ books, just haven’t figured out how to integrate that into my daily life yet. I’m partially remote now, permanently(?), so I need to find the discipline to channel that extra time into writing. I really appreciate your perspective.

      1. NancyDrew*

        Start small! I’m so burned out right now that most weeks I’m only managing about 2,000 words total. (I used to write 2000 words a day!) But that’s ok! Try to pick one night next week where you focus on what you want to write for, say, 20 minutes. See how it feels. It’s like exercise — the more you do it, the more you realize the benefits it brings you and how good it makes you feel!

  116. Marie*

    I said this in another thread but I started down a FIRE path shortly after I started my first corporate job at 22 (I am 25, soon to be 26 now). I did this because I wanted to have the flexibility to pursue my creative and outdoorsy interests rather than working until 65, but I am far too pragmatic to quit my job and YOLO. Being able to retire early or transition to part-time work seemed like a good idea.

    The past year made me appreciate my job, my company, and my financial choices more than I already did. My job might be boring to some/many people, but it provided me a stable source of income and very inexpensive health insurance. I was never at risk of being unemployed, and I had saved enough even in just 3 years that I didn’t have to worry about paying rent or bills in the event I was laid off.

    I knew before 2020 that I wanted to work remotely at least part of the time, and I’m very grateful that this has caused such a seismic shift in the acceptability of working from home. As someone who has always had 45-60 minutes of highway commuting (each way), this makes a huge difference in my quality of life.

  117. middle name danger*

    I’m currently doing university remotely (was remote pre-pandemic) while working full time, to transition into an industry that was completely shuttered by COVID. My plan was to work in that industry part time for experience and connections until I graduate and then start looking for full time work. (It’s a notoriously difficult industry to break into – jobs that may have 10 applicants in other industries will have 500+)

    The pandemic has made me twice as determined to make the move. I’m a year from graduation but aggressively applying to everything I might be qualified for, hoping they’ll see my cover letter where I tell them how my work in my current industry will transfer over.

  118. Oreo*

    I am thinking a lot of my future as well. I had just left a job that burnt me out for a different one right before the pandemic started. I was ready for a fresh start and then March happened. Now I’m burnt out from trying to learn my new job in a really difficult situation. Not for lack of trying but I just felt like so much was stacked against me and I struggled to learn the job. Now I’m torn between “do I hold out for another year and give it a real try in person or do I look for something else”. I got pretty burned a few times and I was already coming off a high intensity burn out job with 12-14 hour shifts. For a time, I wanted to return to my old job just for some familiarity but I reminded myself that there were reasons I was burnt out and those reasons are still there. So now I’m a little at loss of what to do. I’m too early on in my career to even think about retiring and there’s a lot of work I’d like to still do. I still have some goals for myself. For me it has felt like 2 years of constantly trying to figure out what to do and not getting much of anywhere. I think ultimately some type of work-life balance and being in a job I just don’t absolutely hate would be good enough. I’d still like to pursue grad school and am encouraged by there possibly being more online degree programs in the future to choose from so I don’t need to move myself and my family around. I think after so much uncertainty in the last 2 years, I’d like financial stability and comfort and routine again. But first, just some rest to try to recover from the shock of the last 16 months would be helpful.

  119. Ellen*

    If anything, I feel the opposite. I was already content in my job (luckily!); my company handled the pandemic well and provided as much support and flexibility as I could have asked for, plus they increased entry-level (and slightly-above-entry-level) salaries across the company at the beginning of 2021. I think I could be happy staying here for a long time.

    What the last year DID make me re-evaluate was whether I could do so while working in the office full-time. At the beginning of last March, I would have told you I had no interest in working from home, but I’ve come to really appreciate the perks (no commute, throwing in a load of laundry during the day, etc.). I’ve also realized I probably don’t want to stay in the high cost-of-living urban area where I currently live, and I’m hopeful that my company will continue to be flexible about WFH and remote work.

  120. Admin 4 life*

    It’s definitely knocked me out of a place of blind acceptance. We have been fully remote with standard business hours on Monday through Thursday and then Friday is a half day with no meetings. It’s all changing again when we have to go back in a couple months (3 days a week from the office and two from home with no half days) and I’m thinking about finding a remote job that has the same flexibility.

    I’ve been able to get to know my child and actually feel like I’m raising him (he’s six now). I’m more productive at home without the social expectations of an office and dealing with smelly foods and irritable coworkers. I’m saving money and actually getting to have time for myself instead of only working and commuting to survive with the hope I can retire in my 70s.

    I’m currently studying computer science on my lunch breaks in the hope I can move into programming and find something fully remote in a lower cost of living area. I hate the rat race.

  121. May Flowers*

    I am one of the mass of people who participated in the Great Resignation during COVID. I have been working FT for the past 20 years, often with lopsided work-life balance. To decide to resign without another FT job in the wings was a bit like jumping onto a tightrope without a safety net beneath, but now that I’ve been without FT work for 8 months, I’m very glad I made the decision to leave FT employment.

    To me, the decision came down to answering these questions:
    * Can our family manage on a reduced income?
    * Will it allow for me to be happy, healthy, and fulfilled?
    * If I change my mind and want back in to my previous career trajectory, will that be possible?

    We made the decision for me to quit my job as a family unit (me and my husband). I reached a breaking point last fall where I was crying at work and having panic attacks in the evening. It was not healthy. So, I quit without another job lined up….a first for me. My manager was very kind and compassionate, and our C-level team offered to rehire me if I wanted to come back at some point. I spent the holiday months rebalancing myself and trying to figure out what to do next.

    My husband and I have spent the past 5 years living extremely frugally (living off just one income and saving the other income…not high incomes, just watching every dollar). This financial cushion we built for ourselves allowed me the freedom to recuperate and figure out what is next and to be a bit more flexible in my next step, rather than being forced into another FT job.

    I ended up moving into doing freelance work, doing the same work I had been doing FT but now only 20 hours a week and without all the corporate hoops, mindless meetings, etc. etc. I just turned down another offer for a freelance gig last week since I’m pretty well set for the rest of this year with freelance opportunities. I am MUCH happier working part-time and managing my own freelance gigs than I ever was working for “the man.” Our savings rate has gone down, obviously, but it’s a fair trade-off. I’m happier, healthier, and bringing in enough income to give us stability. I’ve been scrupulously tracking our finances since I quit, and we’re still living within our means with some extra for savings. So, that eliminated the financial need to return to FT work. Now that I’ve lived without FT work, I don’t think I will ever return to working 40 or more hours per week.

    All of that to say, chances are that if you decide to quit and follow your creativity passion, you may end up in a much better place than where you are today. Also, there is probably a way “back in” to your current path if you decide you need it. I keep hearing about employee shortages, so I suspect for the next little while at least, it will not be terribly hard to break back in, if needed.

  122. Zenon*

    Pandemic-induced thinking changes pushed me to leave a toxic job at a startup. There were many things I loved about, especially my immediate team, and I was getting regular promotions and had decent pay and benefits. But the company had brought on a new set of senior technical leadership (from one of the FAANG companies with a reputation for being sexist and awful) who were, to put it mildly, a train wreck. They were incredibly rude, condescending, and bullying — one engineer in particular was *not allowed to be in meetings with non-engineers unless an eng director was there to keep him from being abusive*. This was considered acceptable behavior. Anyone with communication or organizational skills, especially women, were mysterious branded “not technical enough” and pushed out of impactful roles. Lots of that kind of thing.

    Prior to and during the pandemic, I’d been determined to help my product succeed and not let the jerks get me down. Aforementioned engineer insisted an open source software tool was “tool complicated” for a stupid data scientist like me? I’d learn it! Left out of meetings despite being the DS tech lead on a project? I’d stalk calenders and get myself invited! CTO doesn’t believe in math or that non-engineers contribute any value? I’d wage a charm offensive, suck up when needed, have coworkers present their very impactful work regularly!

    And then one day, after yet another project went off the rails because the engineers who micromanaged everything grossly underestimated the level of effort involved, I was like…why? Why am I doing this? This company and this leadership isn’t worth it. When the next pandemic or other disaster hits, will I really be happy that I spend so much time and energy trying to impress these people I’d stopped respecting? Did I want to work at a company I’d be embarrassed to refer anyone to because I knew how badly they’d be treated? Lots of companies VALUE understanding whether or not their product works. So I (pretty easily) got a job at one of those places. Since I made the switch, my former company has continued to hemorrhage employees who aren’t straight white or Asian men. Meanwhile I’m finally spending my work hours not only doing work that I find interesting and valuable, but doing it for company leadership that I trust and respect.

  123. AnotherAlison*

    Completely there with the OP on reevaluating my work!

    I left a job of very long term job and career path at the end of 2020 (voluntarily). The pandemic sealed the deal. We had been partially pulled back to the office in August, but I was one whose grandboss wanted me there. My workload was unreasonable–not so much that I couldn’t manage the work, but work with overseas partners required long days. Then I didn’t get promoted during a reorg.

    The new company turned out to be worse. Everything told to me was a lie. I was interviewed by people who left leadership roles in F50/F500 companies to work there, so I just didn’t see the red flags. I’ve had 3 highly talented coworkers with <1 yr to 2 yrs with our company quit in the last month, so I wasn't the only one who missed the signs. Now I've talked to other companies and recruiters, but bump into wanting too much money (the jobs are a little lower level than what I want, too).

    My last kid is going to be a senior, so I am strongly considering starting my own business. I can afford to, and I want the flexibility. The one good thing is that this stupid new job has shown me how to use my skills in other ways and I've learned some new segments of the industry that my old job never let me work in. I know I can do it, but being so fresh off another bad move, I am hesitant. Sometimes I think I had to take this to get out of my comfort zone so that I could do this thing I've wanted to do for 10+ years, but I am not fully convinced this is the universe aligning things for me. : )

  124. BookJunkie315*

    GO FOR IT. Life is short – buy the shoes and make yourself happy! When the pandemic started here in the US, I was working full-time for the state, which should have paid the bills, but I needed to work two other jobs to make ends meet in Boston. COVID severely impacted the income from these side gigs and at that point I had enough of working all the time and barely scraping by. My old college roomie said she was moving back home to be closer to aging family and when she asked me to move in with her, I JUMPED. It’s been a few months now and things are great! The only hiccup was waiting for my social work license to transfer, which took 7 MONTHS. I now work 1 full-time job that covers expenses and allows me to save for retirement and take better care of my health. I wish you the best as you make your decision – taking the risk can pay off greatly!

  125. hs teacher*

    I hope I am not derailing or sort of taking over with this comment, but in my experience the past year actually proved how much I love my job. (I feel lame typing that!)

    I am a high school history teacher and I’ve always loved it. But teaching virtually, policing students over every little thing they did, and not getting to enjoy the daily weirdness and energy of high school really made the year awful for me and most of my coworkers. It all showed me how much I LOVE “normal” school years and can’t wait to get back to it.

    My school is planning on getting back to as much normalcy as possible for the next school year. I am so excited that I actually am looking forward to summer ending, which I’ve never felt before haha.

  126. Jay*

    It’s a whole constellation of things. I’m sure the pandemic is part of it. In the past eight months, three friends within five years of my age have been diagnosed with cancer, all metastatic. All doing well so far, but who knows? It really rammed home the recognition that there are no guarantees. I can wait to retire so we have more money and still not get to do the things I want. I’m a doc, and last month would have been my 35th med school reunion if they had them. Since I started taking call in third year, that means I’ve spent a good part of the last 37 years on call – ten years of that every third night, every third weekend. It’s a lot less frequent and a lot less onerous now and I am still DONE with having to say “sorry, no, can’t do that, I’m on call.” My husband retired in 2016 and he’s very happy – he does some consulting, says no when he doesn’t want to, now has normal blood pressure, better sleep, and a much better mood.

    I was planning to retire in July of 2022 and have moved that up to December 2021. I may stay on part-time if they can create a position that I find interesting, that doesn’t involve any leadership/supervisory work, that is at most three days a week and can be done remotely. If not….I’ll go per diem so I can pick up some work when I want to. I’m sure I will find some kind of project. I’m OK with figuring that out afterwards. I figure I’ll spend the first six months driving around to visit all the people I haven’t seen in years and going to museums and doing other things I haven’t had time to do. I will sleep past 6:00 AM. I will exercise during the day instead of first thing in the morning. I will spend time focusing on myself. I can’t wait. We’re very very lucky that it’s not a financial risk – and honestly I think I would do it even if it were, at least for a year or two.

  127. PJS*

    I’m somewhat in a similar situation although I wouldn’t say any of these feelings are related to the pandemic. I also have a high-paying job. It is stable, has great benefits, a decent commute, pleasant coworkers (mostly), and I generally like my job. But…..it is very stressful and if money were no object, I would rather do my creative side business full time. Currently, that side business is very tiny (last year’s gross revenue was slightly less than my monthly take home pay at my day job). In other words, there’s no way I can live on that unless it grows significantly. I don’t think it’s likely to grow significantly when I don’t have the time to devote to it that I need to. I know that some people think I should quit my job and focus on growing my side business and live the life I really want, but I grew up in a family that was not well-off. I’m the primary breadwinner in my house (just the two of us) and I strongly value financial security. I would be very stressed if I constantly had to worry about the creative business not consistently doing well. I had given some thought recently to finding a lower paying, less stressful day job so that I’m not too exhausted to focus on the side business in the evenings and on weekends, but I think I would end up feeling the same way about that job and wishing I was doing the side business full time. Just because it pays less and has less responsibility doesn’t necessarily mean less stress. And grass can seem greener on the other side until you move over there. So my current plan is to make the most of my high-paying day job and fabulous retirement benefits by focusing on putting as much money away as I can and retiring from that job as soon as I have enough to live on if there was no side business. Then I can focus on doing my side business full time and if I end up making a decent income from that, it’s a bonus and I’ll be even more financially secure and have more money to do fun things in retirement!

  128. Did these walls get smaller?*

    Since the pandemic I have learned that I really value flexibility and autonomy. I thrived in the WFH environment, and found a sense of balance I didn’t know was possible if you wanted to be successful in my field. Since we have been forced to return full-time to the office I am finding that I am not as productive, not as satisfied, and not as innovative as there is constant “collaboration” which in my field often ends up being “question every decision we have already made twice.” However, I genuinely love what I do, and can’t imagine chucking it and not doing anything. So, if I happen to win the vaccine lotto, I will keep doing what I am doing, but part-time, so that I can find that balance again.

  129. spaceygrl*

    Has the pandemic changed how I feel about my time? Yes, absolutely. Both personally and professionally. Luckily, my company is in an industry that I love. I had a boss who was… stressful. So I started looking for a new job mid-pandemic. I ended up switching groups with my company and one of my questions was, “if we’re remote now, can this new position be remote?” They said yes, so I picked up and moved back to the Midwest (from the east coast) to be closer to my family. It’s also made me question our society: why do we put so much emphasis on how much money you make, how big your house is, what your job title is? Why don’t we think more about “how do I feel?” “How does my company treat me?” “Am I fulfilled?” I’m hoping the American culture changes because of this (for the better).

  130. Jill*

    As someone who has discovered just how much my work-life balance has improved by working remotely, I think as my employer transitions “back to a new normal” (barring what the new variant(s) may bring), I might just need to make working from home and/or flexible work options a priority going forward.

  131. LadyK*

    If you’ve planned it out and you’ve got your health insurance covered, I say make the jump. Life is too short.

    I’ve not had a very “straight path” type of career. Heck, I usually work several PT jobs on top of my FT job to help pay the bills and try to recover from a few layoffs, even with an advanced degree. I was going 100 mph (more like 50-60 hours a week, 8 months out of the year, sometimes 30-55 days straight of working) and had done that for 7 years. I went on vacation early March 2020 and came back to the world stopping. With the pandemic, all of those PT jobs stopped as well as my long standing volunteer work.

    I had been in a role at my FT company for 7+ years and the work dried up. I was voluntold to help what turned out to be 5 different departments (including my own) to help manage their workflow over the last 13 months. With each jump came kudos from my direct reports, peers, direct and senior manager. However, I had been informed that after this year, the company won’t be able to pay me much more than the bare minimum in raises and bonuses because I make too much money in relation to my peers and my job title. Even after going above and beyond in the last 12 months, I got the standard “meets expectations” on my annual review. Um, okay. So I have been trying to use this experience as a learning one to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

    I had been saying my 2 year plan was to relocate closer to my family for about 5 years now. My parent had a pretty big health scare early this year that really solidified the desire to move. Also, with the world making me slow down, I’ve been able to reevaluate my life. I have been underpaid most of my career and at the halfway-ish point, I can start to see that staying in one place, while “comfortable”, is not going to give me the most gains. I don’t think I’ll ever go out on my own as that doesn’t fit my personality (nor available capital contributions) but I’m at the point in my life that I am finally realizing my own worth. I’m confident in my abilities and I’m darn good at what I do. If my current company (or any one that I apply to) can’t see that, it’s their loss. Maybe I’ll just win the lotto and be a stay at home pet mom.

  132. Macaroni Penguins*

    Nope! Plague times hasn’t made me reevaluate my work hours. The non-profit social work type company I work for handled things spectacularly. Staff and clients were supported and safe to the best of abilities. We could work however we wanted, as long as the job got done. And when the provincial government didn’t give us frontline workers an “Essential Worker Hazard Grant”, our company stepped up and provided it. Generally, I’m quite happy with how I learn a living.
    Saying that, I’m disappointed with how little my provincial government values social type workers. We weren’t important enough to be eligible for “Essential Worker Hazard Grant.” We we’re barely granted any vaccine priority. Even though we were Essential Frontline Workers. It’s demoralizing not to be valued by society. So, I might find another job that at least has a salary raise every ten years.

  133. sabbatical dreaming*

    I have an entire trello board for a planned future “sabbatical” where I can try to focus on my mental health, devote more time to physical adventures like climbing trips, and read and write a lot. The job I have now has been an excellent learning and growth opportunity for me, but I still feel like I’m fighting burnout a lot. One thing that stops me from taking a sabbatical now is concern that I’ll be lonely or bored if I’m the only one of my friends not working, as well as a desire to travel internationally, and that isn’t a good idea now with COVID and the delta and other variants still around. So, it remains on the wishlist!

  134. CNasyra*

    I actually let out a breath of relief seeing this thread – it made me feel so much less crazy! I’m in the middle of making this very transition.

    I started a new job right before COVID hit and then that company was bought out by a tech giant only a few months after. I’m really great at my job in this company (not to toot my own horn) but I’ve never worked so hard in my life as I have this last year. I’m also an author and my books have taken off in a significant way in the last year and have remained remarkably stable. It’s definitely not a replacement for my tech-biz salary yet but factor in 15 hours a week of consulting freelance in my field and I am indeed replacing my salary.

    I feel like I have an opportunity that I need to seize and I can’t do that when I’m working 8AM – 8PM on an average day. My coworkers and manager are fantastic but the job is demanding and I’m totally burned out. I, too, experienced the “life is short” epiphany alongside the “is anything I do right now really going to mess up my life forever?” epiphany. Sometimes when I say it aloud I feel, frankly, CRAZY, so it’s very validating to hear that I’m not alone in this post pandemic crisis, haha!

  135. iliketoknit*

    Yes, I’ve been rethinking things. I’m not sure how much of it is really related to covid, though, as much as general dissatisfaction/typical midlife crisis that has happened to coincide with a global pandemic. Like the OP, though, I am in an objectively good job that pays well, with some measure of success, but am feeling way, way, way burnt out (I think it’s starting to show in my work), and really really really want something more creative and meaningful to do instead. I’m actually old enough that I’m not sure if another job would make a difference or if I’m just done with work, period, and need to focus on retirement (less than 10 years away now).

  136. Temperance*

    Not necessarily my paid work, but some side projects that kind of work with my paid work. I decided to only handle the higher-level, board service and leadership roles I’m offered, and I’m quitting my ‘regular’ volunteer stuff.

    I’ve liked having time to develop my own skills, spend time with Booth, spend time with my nieces and nephew, and just, focusing on me.

  137. Sled dog mama*

    Changing what I want to do in my work hours? No.
    Making me jealously guard my non working hours? Absolutely.

    Many years ago I came to terms with the fact that I have very little talent in most creative pursuits, and the little talent I do have is much better spent on a hobby than trying to make a living at it. I’ll leave it to the truly talented and passionate. But being able to pursue the hobby, that is essential for me.

  138. Caboose*

    It’s most coincidence that’s leading to me rethinking what I want to do for work– I was laid off for non-covid reasons, jumped on the first job I got my hands on, and am now realizing that I don’t want to just spend the rest of my life moving data around so that rich people can become more rich. I’m not jumping ship any time soon, but I set up an alert on Linkedin for a handful of fields that I think I would find more worthwhile– mostly healthcare and education.

  139. me too*

    Ab-so-lutely. I was going to write this in as a good news Friday thing once I settled into a job I started two weeks ago, but this is a good place too – I spent the entire pandemic in my apartment working 60-100 hour weeks for a private sector company, underpaid and under appreciated. I had no stake in the work I was doing – without giving too much away, I worked adjacent to the financial system (our clients included private equity firms and major banks) and essentially we helped create capital.

    People were dying of COVID, protesting racial injustice, and speaking out about working conditions for essential workers, and I couldn’t do anything but work until my hands cramped and then I sleep and wake up to work again. I was paid half as much as in house employees for our clients, who work just as much but can afford to Uber Eats their meals and have someone else do their laundry.

    I definitely did not have an a-ha moment or a clear path to a next job, I just wanted out of where I was and I knew that if I was going to work anywhere near full time, I wanted it to be worth something. A LOT of people are perfectly happy working 40 hours for a paycheck and using that money to fund hobbies and family stuff that makes them shine in their off-time, but the pandemic made me realize that my two options were either doing some sort of freelance be-my-own-boss thing, or doing something that makes the world a better place. I can’t sit at a desk for 40 hours a week in the name of capitalism.

    I ended up getting a job doing similar day to day work as my last position (which I WAS damn good at) but in the non profit sector, specifically in the labor movement. I haven’t been here long but I’m not “shockingly depressed” anymore so I think it was a good move.

    To bring this back around – I’m not using my grad degree at all in this role and I definitely questioned if my decision to leave my job, or to apply exclusively for nonprofit jobs, was a pandemic-colored decision – and it was! But I don’t think that means it was a stupid decision. It was a major life event that impacted how we see the world and what we want to spend time doing – whether that’s art or a stable 9 to 5 or hashtag van life.

  140. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I hope you will go for it!
    I feel much the same but don’t have any idea about what else I can do. Please go for it!
    I am rethinking the meaning of life really. Why am I spending so many hours a day and week and month and year doing something that I am only doing for a paycheck. Why is life organized this way!!??

    I am imagining that if I only knew what else to do with my time I would do it! Your letter helps me see that there are other hurdles. But I hope you can see past your hurdles, your sense that you are being selfish, and just do it! I think the world I live in will be a little bit better for me and for everyone, not just for you, if you do.

    Best to you, from an internet stranger

  141. MissBliss*

    Yes. I changed jobs at the end of last year, to get into a job that is closer to my professional roots. It also happened to be a step-up in pay and responsibility. My husband is also leaving his job to start his own business, because he wants to be more in control of his time (and not be berated by higher ups who don’t know what he does). I am much happier in my new job, but I’ve also continued to evolve in my thinking about work. Pre-pandemic, I was super work focused. My career is a big part of my identity, and it still is, but now I *want* it to be less so. And although I am surrounded by people who are very passionate about our work, I also feel supported in wanting to have an entirely separate life outside of work.

  142. Qwerty*

    I left a role as a senior manager / director to go back to being an individual contributor. I realized that when I’m an engineer and work constantly, it is annoying/frustrating but at the end of the day I could point to some pretty awesome stuff that I made. But as an leader, it was soul crushing to spend all day in meetings and not have anything to show for it. So I gave up being a trail-blazer and went back to doing what I enjoy. The result is I have enough leadership experience to help make my manager’s life easier without me getting pulled 100% into that role.

    I feel like I should add the caveat that this wasn’t so much me abandoning my ambition, but that I’d felt pressured to climb the ladder by other female engineers who wanted to see a woman in a leadership role. I enjoy being the first female engineer on a team/company far more than the first female manager.

  143. Texan In Exile*

    I was unemployed all of 2020, having lost my job in a re-org at the end of 2019.

    I spent the year doing volunteer projects related to COVID (getting PPE to medical workers), to anti-racism work, and to getting the vote out in my city.

    I felt useful. I felt like my work mattered and made a difference.

    I returned to a corporate job in February this year and am planning my escape. My boss and my co-workers are nice. The company mission is decent. But – I don’t want to work for a large bureaucracy. I don’t want to work full time. I don’t want the drama of corporate life. I am willing to trade $$$ for meaning and am actively looking.

  144. Jackie*

    I 100% left my firm job last year because of a shift in priorities. Why was I working a job that left so little room for travel, or for activities outside of the office? I live far from my parents, and the last year really drove home that I’m not guaranteed more time with them. Why couldn’t work accommodate working at their house for a few weeks every year? Or – god forbid! – actually taking time off to spend in their company? And why was my billable hours (I’m an attorney) pretty much the only thing I was evaluated on? I had wanted to start my own practice since law school, and the pandemic was the push I needed.

    Then 2021 came in and brought a mess of new crises that just really drove home how much my prior work situation was untenable. We finally called off further fertility treatments. My beloved dog died entirely unexpectedly. I blew out my knee skiing and took a month off for post-op recovery and rehab. (100% confident that wouldn’t have happened at my old job – attorneys were regularly working while sick/through pregnancy leave/the day after surgery). My husband was diagnosed (and successfully treated!) for cancer. I was free to arrange my schedule to accommodate his treatment in a different city without huge stress or asking for permission from a boss. I was an emotional wreck during most of the winter and spring – and definitely couldn’t have focused on keeping my billables up (or, frankly, dealt with clients’ crises or partner requests without sniping or weeping.) My old firm had no leave policies for attorneys, just an annual hours requirement that we got heavily penalized for missing. I would’ve been floundering and miserable.

    Yes, I’m making *much* less than I did before. I am still very much in startup mode and wondering where my next client will come from. I’m lucky that my husband’s employer has much more sane hours and leave policies (for his sake) and generous family insurance benefits (for mine). Assuming I can successfully make my own firm work, I can’t see working for anyone else ever again.

  145. Squeakrad*

    I think about this a lot as I have burned out from jobs for other reasons without a pandemic – burn out is burning out and how you treat it in these times will be vitally important to both of your personal and professional life not to mention your mental, emotional and physical health.
    Looking at what you’re burnt out about it can be a real keen on what to do next. It sounds like you have checked off all the things that should make a job a positive experience but still feel like there’s “nothing left in the tank.” At the very least I think you need a break. Is this the kind of job where you could take an extended break or sabbatical? I am in higher education, and I took family leave in the fall of 2020 when my brother contracted a serious case of Covid and I was responsible for not only his medical decisions but some other family decisions. That made a huge difference in my ability to continue on as an adjunct for the remaining semesters.

    I don’t think you mentioned if your job is on site or remote, but for me being able to teach remotely through this fall and possibly the following spring has made a big difference in my ability to continue my job. If I’ve been forced to return to campus earlier than I feel comfortable I probably would’ve had to look at early retirement in which case I would have taken a huge financial hit.
    That said, I was thinking I would work another few years as altogether I am still only three-quarter time. However I am seriously considering dropping down to halftime starting next semester and for the following year and calling it a day. While I’m maintaining I’m still exhausted
    Any event I don’t think it’s foolish to take some time off whether that involves you leaving your job or having some kind of leave With the option to return. I hope your employer is it sensitive to how people are doing now and can offer you an extended time off to think about things. I don’t think reevaluating your career and your place and it is a bad idea whether that involves leaving your current position or not.

  146. Surviving*

    I really don’t have an “industry” but my experience is office work/receptionist and customer service. I lost a job right before covid really hit and felt doomed. However I had good timing as a job opened up and I accepted an offer. Different industry and not my usual tasks but still in line of office work. I do have some savings but due to husband’s health issues and house maintenance I don’t care think about the whole “dream” job thing anymore. I just hope to survive and have a retirement someday. However, this job i have now is much less toxic, much more flexible than my prior job. The biggest bit of “office drama” has been the sudden retirement of a coworker, they posted the job, I applied and got it, turned out to be a promotion with a significant raise! So as of right now, I can call this my dream job. I’ve escaped the cubicle farms of my past, escaped a horribly draining drama filled office and have decent hours, pay, benefits compared to other places I’ve worked. Don’t beat yourself up if that sabbatical year doesn’t pan out, or your creative energies aren’t being used to their fullest. Some of us are just surviving the best we can. My hubby always tells my millennial daughter that a job is a means to an end. He is absolutely correct.

  147. Voodoo Priestess*

    I have absolutely re-evaluated with the pandemic but not to the extreme of changing fields or careers. I did consciously take a transfer that lets me work remote 100% and it was such a good decision. Instead of always pushing and striving for more opportunities and advancement, I’m in a position where I feel I am well-compensated for work I love. Am I limited in growth opportunities? Possibly. But do I get to set my own hours, work (or take breaks) when it makes sense and focus on my output than putting in face-time at the office? Absolutely. I feel like I’m coasting because it’s work I love and that I’m really good at so my stress is low and I haven’t had to put in OT in ages. My boss and team think I’m amazing because I can turn things around faster than my peers. It feels like a win-win.

    During the pandemic, I realized I don’t WANT to put in overtime. I don’t want to miss family time. I don’t want to sit in my car wasting hours every day. And for what? The pandemic also made it clear how fragile our lives are and how unappreciated most workers are. I’m much happier letting someone else step into those opportunities if I can work home and have more flexibility. And because I am so happy in the role and position that I’ve chosen, it’s so much easier to be genuinely happy and supportive of others, no matter what decisions they make.

    Isn’t it a shame how we are programmed to feel guilty if we don’t think the current career expectations or work/life balance are worth it any more?

  148. Daystar*

    Undeniably. Being treated recklessly and paid poorly at a stream of part time and/or temporary jobs (all that’s been available, including in essential and understaffed fields) finally has me getting ready to quit the two I’m currently in. I’ve had no benefits, no safety protections, and no financial stability. My schedule is changing all the time so I can’t make any plans, not that I get any time off between multiple jobs. I’ve never felt less valued as a worker despite being difficult to replace, and now that the job market is working in my favor I’m doing everything I can to escape (even though I like the service work I do) to get into the white collar work I got my degree in. I’ve got my first interview on Friday- wish me luck.

  149. Flashgordon*

    A lot of people did this after the great recession. All the finance people quit and became cupcake bakers. Spawned a whole new industry!

    1. HotSauce*

      My neighbor did something like this! He was a high level executive in a property investment company. He sold his house in a high COLA area and moved to my modest neighborhood. He now makes and restores furniture in his garage and he’s one of the happiest people I know. He said he doesn’t miss his high six-figure income at all, he couldn’t enjoy it anyway because he was working all the time.

  150. Bloopmaster*

    My biggest take-aways from the past year are a) when you remove pointless meetings and office chit-chat my job truly only takes 15 hours a week and not the full 40 hours that I have to act busy and engaged each week, and b) it’s not the 15 hours of true work that’s exhausting, it’s the other 25 hours that I’m chained to my computer.

    I would give so much to be able to earn my full salary by completing the 15 hours of meaningful work and then have the rest of that time to myself for hobbies and family and wellness. If the work I do is worth $X a year, it shouldn’t matter whether I can do that in 40 hours or 15.

    1. dragonfly7*

      This is part of why I’m bored! I can get so much of my non public-facing work done so much more quickly without disruptions, and my mental health increased substantially from not needing to put up with office drama and tiptoeing around someone. I miss the interactions with the people I served because sometimes they managed to be out of the ordinary.

  151. HotSauce*

    I had a hard conversation with my boss about stepping back a bit this year. Last year really burned me out between having to manage a team remotely, staff cuts, and the pandemic in general. I’ve been putting in a lot less hours these days, I still happily take on new projects when my schedule allows for it, but I also turn some things down when I know it will put me in the red. My mental health has improved tremendously and even though I wasn’t acting like a workaholic anymore I still got a substantial raise. It made me realize that I don’t have to kill myself to be successful and it’s left me with more time to spend with my family and on hobbies I enjoy.

  152. Yabadabadoooo*

    Honestly if you have skills and experience under your belt you can go back to your old career after a year if it doesn’t work out. Millions of people have had time out to study, parent, be a carer, recover from illness etc and then go back to their careers later. If you’ve used the time off to try to do something else, that’s still experience, arguably more if you are self employed as you might have to cover every function of your business as a one-person creative.

    I’m testing out freelancing at the moment having l recently lost my job of 20 years due to the pandemic and I have to say I’m really enjoying it, I am not making anywhere near as much money but it is enough right now and I am not working full time so have time to manage a health condition better which is the most important thing for me. Plus I don’t have to care about the office politics or the endless restructure the organisations I am working with are going through. (Can all organisations please stop with the endless restructuring please? Your employees just want to get on with their jobs and if you’re a CEO you should find something more useful and less expensive/destructive to do with your time)

    Taking the leap is scary but if you don’t try you will never know.

    I know that I am not someone who wants to do my creative hobby as a business or have my own company (I like working for other people) so I would never bother trying that and it is a relief not to ever worry about those options. If you know you would be driven when you take this on then you should definitely go for it.

    Take the chance. Worst case scenario is that you learn a lot of new things.

  153. DutchBlitz*

    For my partner and I, how our companies have treated us has significantly impacted our career plans. I had thought my position (admin at financial firm) was a temporary placement, but the respect and consideration I was treated with during the pandemic has made me eager to stay. (In addition to a considerable raise and a bonus for the work I did during COVID.) I am content to run the “rat race” for now, even though it is not a field or position that I am passionate about, because I like the stability and the relatively stress-free environment. On the other hand, my partner had been planning to stay at his job (bank teller) and work his way up. Over the last year, his concerns and safety were consistently dismissed. He was penalized for not meeting sales goals when the bank lobbies were closed, and we both ended up with COVID from exposure to his coworker. He has now gone back to school online for a Masters in another field (where a higher degree is necessary), and will be quitting his job in the next 4-8 months. The amount of effort he was putting in at his job was never appreciate or compensated for, so he is moving into a field where at least he is passionate/enjoys the work.

  154. Momma Bear*

    As someone who made a pre-pandemic career leap of faith, go for it. It sounds like a lot of things are in alignment for you, OP. Why not make the jump? We so often hold on to what is familiar out of fear or habit, but in doing so, also hold ourselves back.

    We also What If ourselves negatively. We worry about all we will give up, vs gain. If it doesn’t work, then dust off your resume. Allow yourself to dream about What IF it works out…

    I don’t regret my leap. I only regret not doing it sooner.

  155. Been There*

    (not in the US) I had a discussion this past weekend that it’s time for our unions to start fighting for a 4 day/32 hour work week, like they fought for the 5 day/38 hour work week in the past. At the same time we realised that the unions are very unpopular right now, and many people would not support this fight.
    I think a 4 day work week would bring us closer to the work/life balance so many are looking for.

  156. Katefish*

    For me, the big change was an overdue one to my whole industry. When I moved to this state, I was shocked at how almost all the courts required in person appearances for almost everything. The first local firm I worked at was similarly butts-in-seats. The state I’m from had been doing telephonic court since about 15 years before I became an attorney, so it was a huge cultural shock to have people say, “Oh, we could never do this telephonically,” for routine, uncontested hearings. Well…COVID killed that nonsense off, hopefully permanently. Working mostly from home is so much better for most quality of life issues, especially since commutes here are hell (including commutes to/from court). On the other hand, I made good friends in court and at my old office, and am missing that social interaction, so I hope post-COVID is a hybrid or happy medium between “you MUST come in person” and the new normal. (I also switched jobs during COVID, but that was forced on me due to a slowdown and then furlough, and I like both the old and new employers.)

    1. Jackie*

      OH MAN 100% this! I love love LOVE having remote court appearances, and my clients (mostly) do too. Particularly for uncontested matters, there is no reason we’d all have to shuffle into court to rattle off some basic facts under oath. It’d easily take me 1.5 hours to get to the courthouse during rush hour – and 8:00am dockets meant leaving the house by 6:30. I am hopeful that my county will keep Zoom hearings going long after the pandemic!

      1. Katefish*

        For me, the big change was an overdue one to my whole industry. When I moved to this state, I was shocked at how almost all the courts required in person appearances for almost everything. The first local firm I worked at was similarly butts-in-seats. The state I’m from had been doing telephonic court since about 15 years before I became an attorney, so it was a huge cultural shock to have people say, “Oh, we could never do this telephonically,” for routine, uncontested hearings. Well…COVID killed that nonsense off, hopefully permanently. Working mostly from home is so much better for most quality of life issues, especially since commutes here are hell (including commutes to/from court). On the other hand, I made good friends in court and at my old office, and am missing that social interaction, so I hope post-COVID is a hybrid or happy medium between “you MUST come in person” and the new normal. (I also switched jobs during COVID, but that was forced on me due to a slowdown and then furlough, and I like both the old and new employers.)

  157. Kali*

    100% there with you, OP.

    I work in a red state and in a career that is roughly 99% conservative, while I’m… not. Before the pandemic, this would come up on a semi-regular basis, but I’d mostly manage to ignore it and keep my head down. Covid really brought home the gap between me and my coworkers’ views of the world, however – there is and was a lot of denialism, anti-vaxxer dialogue and generally an uptick in toxic political talk that makes me (an already anxious person) miserable on a constant basis. I’m exhausted when I get home every day, because I’m basically in constant flight-or-fight mode at work. The job itself also goes into feast or famine modes which can be very stressful.

    I’ve long wanted to switch to a creative career that has been my dream, but it’s highly unstable and unpredictable. My exhaustion from work means that I very rarely get to work on it in my free time, which forestalls any hope of entering that world fully. I know that I have to make a decision. My partner and I have been debating about how to improve both of our work lives (he’s a teacher, so… yeah…). Maybe getting out of the pandemic will help my anxiety about it all to the point where my job becomes bearable again, but I still want to take a swing at my dream, and I think about it every day.

  158. Silicon Valley Girl*

    I guess I’m feeling the opposite of many folks — the pandemic showed how fragile jobs & the economy are, so I want to keep my head down at my current job & put as much into savings as possible so I can retire. It won’t be a super early retirement (I’m in my 50s), but I’m more committed than before to maxing out my savings in case of emergencies. No way I’d ditch a reliable job right now when I can use it to fund my future & the unexpected!

  159. NinaBee*

    Maybe this past year has shown us how much we grind for capitalism and have lost sight of what it means to really live our lives. The burnout many are feeling is from being in our fight/flight mode for so long, which makes everything seem more stressful and difficult than it has been before. Seems like people are really taking stock of their work life balance after being forced to be isolated and at home for so long (for those that were in that situation). Or just having to pretend everything was normal while going through so many traumatic worldwide event/s (and dealing with people who may have behaved and thought very differently to us). It’s no wonder we’re feeling tired, depleted, irritable and also traumatised. And no wonder many are yearning for an escape or change.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      “Maybe this past year has shown us how much we grind for capitalism and have lost sight of what it means to really live our lives.”

      Really good. So true.
      Of course we need to work for a living, but work shouldn’t be our whole life, and the demands of late capitalism sure feel that way.

  160. Academic Librarian too*

    This year completely changed how I view work and my work/life balance.
    Although I am one of the highest paid/high level/professionally respected within my specialty, I attributed my success to my almost complete lack of work/life balance. 2020 included my promotion to Full and a commitment to put more life in the work/life balance.
    The beginning of the pandemic- moving to teaching virtual, high anxiety amongst my constituency, new virtual programming, combatting institutional racism made that commitment impossible.
    Summer 2020 was a rebalancing and Fall meant saying no over and over and over again as well as pushing back with supervisor on new initiatives and commitments.
    What I discovered-
    I don’t need to be the hero.
    I resigned from local, national, and international committees.
    The world didn’t fall apart as I pushed many (truly many) of my responsibilities to others in my department.
    As we go back to on-campus, I will continue to be part time WFH without apology or explanation.
    What I learned-
    For the most part- no one cares how “hard” I work. Pick one or two things and let the rest go.
    Being a “rock star” is over rated.

  161. Hedgehog O'Brien*

    I’ve really started to reconsider what I want to do with *all* of my hours to be honest. The job I have right now is objectively my dream job. Like, if you had asked me in grad school where I wanted to be in 5-10 years, I would have literally said this exact role. I love the organization, my co-workers are wonderful, and work-life balance and benefits are great.

    I also have two kiddos, the youngest of whom was born about 4 months before COVID and I really struggled with going back to work in January, which surprised me. So when our ED closed our offices in mid-March 2020 and announced that we would be WFH for the foreseeable future, I was kind of OK with it. We also unenrolled our kids from daycare and enlisted family to help with childcare while my husband and I were both working from home. The first thing I realized being home all the time was how little time I’d actually been spending with my kids. And it broke my heart. I love them so much, and I hardly saw them during the week.

    Additionally, working from home with a toddler and a preschooler is VERY HARD even with help. If I didn’t really, really, love my job there is a high likelihood I would have decided to quit and take some time off from working. I honestly considered it anyway, but ultimately I love my job too much and it would have made things financially challenging for us.

    I’ve definitely done some re-evaluating about what is important to me in life, and starting to consider whether I do maybe want to take a few years off at some point while my kids are still at home. I’m definitely keeping 1-2 WFH days when we go back to the office in the fall. I like having the quiet space to focus (while, it will be quite once our kids are back in daycare) and it will be nice to be able to get some household things done during lunch or during what would normally be my commute time so that we can enjoy our time together as a family more. I guess to sum it up: time is precious, we only get so much of it, and I want to spend as much of it as possible with the people I love.

  162. llamaswithouthats*

    I like my job and want to stay for as long as possible, but I also am focused on diversifying my income sources and as well as my identity. This past year, I started really questioning the extent to which I have been taught to really identify with my career. I don’t think it’s healthy. While I’m not against having a career altogether, I think it’s important to not be so dependent on it as a source of identity. This year, I’m embracing balance and as much financial security as possible.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I agree with you 100%. I used to be in a career that my identity was highly tied to, and while I liked the day-to-day work, the overall structure was terrible. I’m not in a place where I am not my career, and am much happier.

  163. Jostlingggg*

    Objectively, my household was unaffected by Covid. My partner and I kept our jobs, and we both received raises over the last year. However, the cultural changes forced on both of our organizations by Covid circumstances (which really laid bare some underlying problems) have made us burnt out and unhappy with work. Had the Covid shift to WFH (and related cultural impacts) not happened, we would probably have another couple of years left in us at our current companies. We’ve also both been deeply unsatisfied with our organizations’ responses to the civil rights protests and increased awareness last summer – which is more a 2020 issue, not a Covid-related issue.

    I will stop speaking for him here, but I think that over the last year there have been a couple of shifts that have allowed me to consider moving on from my current role. First, I passed a time milestone at my current role that is allowing me to move to a new role without making my work history look flaky. Second, I have Stopped Putting Up With Bull$**t, which is a personal development related to some other 2020 Stuff That Happened. Third, I have been in my current role long enough to realize that it’s not a great fit and that there are a couple of other career trajectories (in the same industry) that I’d like to explore. Now, obviously all three of these were IMPACTED by Covid and the associated shift to WFH, quarantine, trauma, grief, etc… but I wouldn’t say that any of them were CAUSED by Covid. Covid, other 2020 events, and the related fall out accelerated an existing timeline for me.

    My current role is 100% remote for the foreseeable future, and I am actively job searching for roles in the same industry that will not be 100% remote and that can demonstrate they have healthier, more robust cultures than my current organization.

  164. LizardOfOdds*

    So much YES. Pre-pandemic, my focus was on climbing the ladder and eventually starting my own business. The pandemic forced me to work at home, which was a hard adjustment but necessary to keep the job I have been lucky to keep through a difficult period of time. The unexpected benefit of the pandemic is that being at home all the time helped me realize what I was missing when I was out of the house for ~10 hours a day commuting and working in an office. I’m still at home for now, and I’m absolutely dreading going back to an office, starting business travel again, and getting sick every 2-3 weeks because someone brought germs to the office. When I work from home, I can still do excellent work that gets rave reviews, but I also have time with my kids and pets, time to cook real meals, time to chat with my neighbors and have a bonfire in the backyard, time to walk to the grocery store instead of racing in to grab something quick after a long commute home. I want MORE of that time, so I’m working with a financial advisor to figure out the fastest way to get to retirement. I’m also talking to every recruiter who sends me a message about a 100% remote role, because the thought of going back to an office gives me the heebie jeebies.

  165. Irene*

    In a way, but probably the opposite of most – I somehow ended up doing COVID research (I’m an immunologist), which has ended up being published in three very high impact factor journals, and influencing public policy in the UK. It was very exhausting, with lots of long hours and stress, and although it was “meaningful”, it didn’t make me feel good about the job I do, or myself. It made me think why I was accepting the terrible work-life balance, the poor supervision and (relatively) low pay, when It wasn’t fulfilling. I ended up leaving academia to work for pharma – my commute is terrible, but the hours are 9-5 and at least I see a path to grow in.

  166. Jackalope*

    I’ve become even more convinced that I made the right career move years ago. It’s been so nice having a stable job with little threat of layoffs and good benefits, as well as a job I actually enjoy. I was raised as a woman in a conservative religious community that tended to downplay my future career; my family was gung ho for me, but I heard many other voices telling me that either it was morally wrong for me to work (or have a substantial job), or not possible that I as a woman would HAVE the talents for a real career, or…. So I’ve been married a couple of years now (both 1st & 2nd anniversaries during the pandemic!), and my husband has a job that while ultimately stable, did involve furloughs this last year. I was so proud to be able to support us with my job, both financially and with my benefits, and while I know that my identity isn’t found in my career, it was still affirming to be able to prove to the nasty voices in my head that what they said about me growing up was wrong. Plus my employer was generally really good during the pandemic, and supported us well, so I’m happy to stay here.

    I’m actually finding more stress deciding about my non-work life at the moment. Before I met my husband I spent a lot of time out of work doing all sorts of things. I spent 2-4 nights/wk at my favorite hobby (I have a place to go that for a set fee each month lets you come up to 6 days/wk and hobby as much as you want), volunteered in a couple of different places, etc. Being single was good but I was lonely sometimes, so I would be out 5 or 6 nights a week doing stuff. When I got married, I started having to figure out how to balance other stuff with wanting to spend time with my shiny new husband, and while I was still working on figuring that out, COVID happened. The first few months were incredibly difficult, but I’m now used to spending most nights at home with my husband and our critters. Instead of being out 5 or 6 nights a week, I’m out maybe 1 night a week and have friends over another night a week (I have 2 very close friends that I met while hobbying at that favorite hobby, and we found a way to safely hobby together this year). My work is still in a good place and I’m happy with it, but trying to figure out what to do with my non-work time is the issue I’m trying to figure out right now. Which probably doesn’t help the OP, but maybe there are others in a similar situation?

    1. HereKittyKitty*

      Hello! Kind of in the same boat there. Before the pandemic my partner was finishing grad school and out of the house a bit and I was out of the house at a full-time job and I was taking at least once outside class a week and occasionally having an after-work happy hour with coworkers and he would be doing games and such at night with his friends. We got married last year so he could have health insurance and then, you know, lockdown happened and all our outings were canceled! I realized when I went to my sister’s in May that was the first time we had even left the house separately in over a year! Finding our footing has been shakey. We’re so used to having each other around it feels weird when we’re apart, but at the same time, it’s good and healthy to be apart and have your own thing going on! He’s been doing more online games with his friends and I’ve been taking those times to sign up for classes in the evenings after work. So, for example, I did a local pottery class once a week for the past 2 months. I also took up other solo hobbies like crocheting and such and even went to a party recently all by myself! So I think we’re slowly working things out. I guess this is to say, yeah I totally get the feeling. I plan on signing up for more classes, so maybe take a look at your local center for the arts/library/community college, etc, and pick something that takes you out of the house a few times a week?

  167. GreenDooor*

    I know two people who have been using this time to finish Master’s degrees for fields unrelated to what they do now. I know one person who made a dramatic industry shift (from IT to being a chef). Another who took early retirement. It’s a pandemic! Lots of people died, many more have been left with seemingly permanent health issues. The way we interact with each other, the way we educate our children, and our idea of what a “safe workplace” is were all flipped upside down. OP, you are not odd, crazy, or out of line for contemplating a major life change. One of the upsides to this pandemic is that it’s been a great time for self-reflection, reevaluating our priorities, and starting work on new goals – and rejecting what no longer matters or what isn’t working. If you’re ready for something new, go for it!!

  168. Canadian Librarian #72*

    I left a permanent, full-time research librarian position in a law firm library. I had benefits and a good salary (around $CAD 58k). But it was an incredibly high-pressure, stressful environment where my department was barely noticed or acknowledged by the firm as a whole, except when budget time came around, and I felt a real lack of respect from our patrons (lawyers and law students). We were understaffed, and then even more understaffed after COVID layoffs. I also hated a lot of what I had to do (a fair amount of business intelligence stuff), and just way overburdened with current awareness and media monitoring. It was a truly grueling job on the worst days, and eventually I realized I was crying at work more days than I wasn’t, despite having great coworkers on my team. So I quit this spring.

    I’m now working two part-time contract jobs, one as a reference librarian at a university library and one as a research assistant at a different university (a non-library job). I have no benefits, but I can’t express how much happier I am. I’m doing work I genuinely love and care about, and I feel good about my future. I actually feel empowered now to make proactive choices about my career, whereas before I felt chained to my miserable stressful job because it was “a good job”, as it was full-time permanent with benefits, but those aspects of it weren’t worth the drudgery, anxiety, and stress. I have no regrets whatsoever.

  169. Berlie Girl*

    I am 50 and run my own business (for 20 years now) that I put a lot of hours into. I have recently started doing 4 8=hour days instead of 5 days. The activities I enjoy are active ones, kayaking, camping, hiking. I find that the two weekend days a week are not enough time and I don’t want to wait until I can retire as my health might prevent me from doing the things I love doing. So an extra day a week makes a huge difference in finding the time to enjoy life right now. Eventually, I want to scale my business down, even more, to allow more free time. That might mean outsourcing some work and making a little less, but as long as I can live comfortably on the income I can bring in on less hours, I am going for it.

  170. Mainah*

    I just took on a challenging new role at my remote job only because I knew they were paying to learn skills that I could use to start my own business. The past 18 months have been brutal, but liberating. I no longer care about so many work issues that used to drive me nuts.

  171. Relax Relate Release*

    My priorities have definitely shifted but my problem is that I’m not sure what I want to do next. I do know that I don’t want to return to an office full-time (I’ve been working remotely for over 5 years) but I’m becoming bored with my current job and industry. Unlike many people the past year has been very good to my financially and I’ve been able to pay down a ton of debt and by this time next year should be completely debt-free except for my mortgage. I have a child still in college for another 2-3 years and I’m still 10 years away from regular retirement age so quitting work completely is out of the question. I would like to transition into part-time, flex or temp work that would allow me to travel and work remotely from anywhere so I’m exploring my options in those areas.

  172. moneypenny*

    Our company sent us home around April 1 and we’re not back yet, with no plans to be until “at least” September. They’ve moved us to a hybrid model with some days in/some days out but I would like most days out with the occasional day in. Our open office makes it impossible to have conversations with clients that aren’t full of background noise and activity, and there are very few private areas to take calls in peace. Many coworkers moved away during the pandemic and are now working remotely, and that’s the way many like it. If I had to commit to going to the office, it’s likely I’d prefer only to go when absolutely necessary (for meetings) or maybe once every two weeks. Nothing beats the quiet of working at home.

  173. Full-Time Creative*

    I am all for people reevaluating their priorities and figuring out what really matters to them. However, a word of warning from someone who’s been a full-time creative since long before the pandemic: not only is it NOT easy in normal times (as others have said), but our industries got hit by 2020 a lot, lot harder than most of my friends in office jobs.

    It has been so incredibly stressful. I spent months of 2020 on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Contracts were getting cancelled. My income dropped like a stone. Creative careers are not financially stable in the best of times and many of our industries were hit the worst. Our unions and organizations were scrambling to get aid to people and it wasn’t enough. Everyone I know who depended on some element of live audiences or performance saw their income disappear overnight. But not only them — writers, photographers, artists I know saw massive difficulties. Artistic careers you might not think would be affected still got smashed by all the economic effects of 2020. Belts were tightening all over the place and the people who employ us were getting their budgets cut left and right. I had to apply for government assistance and I am still struggling. My industry has not recovered.

    In fact, 2020 made me start looking at stable office jobs for the first time. The grass is always greener, eh? But I desperately want to never feel the way I did in 2020 again. I realize that many people lost jobs during the pandemic, but I felt like my income loss was magnified many times by the inherent instability of working a creative profession. I couldn’t tell whether things might be coming back or not. I couldn’t tell if I should start job hunting (which for me would have constituted a major career change) or keep hustling for work in my usual industry and hoping I could find enough…and hoping my savings wouldn’t run out before then. Being a full-time creative has always had some element of stress to the instability, but 2020 made me straight-up hate it.

    So I’d say that if you’re quitting to pursue creative goals and you’re framing it as a decision to make do with less income / quit with spousal support on board / take time off / a re-prioritization, then sure, I think that makes a lot of sense, and all power to you! But if you’re quitting to try to go into creative pursuits as a career change, then I would sound a note of caution about being realistic about the difficulties. I’m not saying don’t do it, but understand the bad parts, *especially* here in 2020-2021. A lot of creatives are still out of work, and in many of these industries there’s still not enough work for the people who were already here pre-2020, so if you’re trying to jump into one of these career tracks, you may be joining a lot of out-of-work folk who have a decade of experience on you. (It depends on which creative industry, of course.)

    Know that burnout is very high in creative careers also. (Maybe even higher than in office jobs? I don’t know — I feel like it’s certainly talked about more in my creative circles than in my other social circles.) Doing a creative pursuit as a profession can also suck a lot of the joy out of it — this is a problem many creatives have. Depending on it for income can also link emotions about art with your ability to eat this month…not everyone is up for that, especially with implosions like happened in 2020.

    Again, this is not to say “don’t do it.” But know what you’re getting into. I spent about 65 hours/week working in 2020 (much of which was unpaid, e.g. hustling for more work) and my income was probably a quarter of what it usually is. Some months I had no income at all. It’s also not nice to hit milestone birthdays and feel a complete lack of financial stability or ability to improve one’s comfort / quality of life.

    Anyway, these are just things to take into account in your calculation. Good luck.

    1. DownWithJPP*

      I used to be a creative position and always wondered if I sold out by going corporate and having a more ‘boring’ job. This past year told me that I would not handle that well…even if my job can be dull some days, my mental and physical health like stability. Creative careers are NOT for the faint of heart!

  174. HigherEdAdminista*

    I am definitely in the group who has been reevaluating all facets of my life since the pandemic. I am in a very comfortable position where I am. I make a decent salary. My work isn’t bad and I feel I get to be helpful at times, and use some of my education. My colleagues and bosses have been good. My benefits are good. But yet in this industry (higher education), there is a strong push against working from home for staff, at least in my institution. I have been told our upper administration basically think we have been having a long vacation since last March.

    Working from home honestly improved my life. It isn’t even the things like, oh, I can throw in a load of wash on my lunch hour; I honestly rarely do stuff like that; it’s the lack of commute. I was losing probably 2.5-3 hours a day on commuting. Now, I’m getting more and better sleep. I’m exercising, often twice a day. Mental health struggles I have had my entire life became more manageable. I could see this expanding and enriching my life in many more ways if I didn’t have to worry about it going away.

    I’ve thought long and hard about moving closer to the office, but the fact of the matter is my housing if I do that will not be as nice and will be more expensive living closer to the campus. I will not be any nearer to my friends there (in fact, I will be further or equal distance from all of them), and I will be much farther from my family. One of the lessons of the pandemic for me was to treasure the beings I love, and while eliminating my commute would be great, I also don’t want to lose my home and community. This past year has shown I can be very successful working from home and the idea that I might not get to do that regularly because it looks better to someone else for me to sit alone in my office is ridiculous. In my position now, I will be fighting for increased flexibility and I am planning to work on finding a job that is as good as my current one and allows for working from home if I can’t win that fight.

    Being at the top or being the boss has never been an interest of mine, but this year really cemented that. I want to live well and enjoy my time. I want to reconnect to my creativity. I want to prioritize my health and well-being. I want to spend time with the people I love. Work was something I was basing a lot of my identity around because it was easy and felt safe to do that, but my goal for the next 3 years is to have work not be one of the top five things I mention when discussing who I am. I don’t want a default identity anymore; I want to enjoy my time, enjoy my people, and not be so wrapped up in work. Work never ends. I can do a great job on something and get acknowledgment for a bit, and then its onto the next thing. Life opportunities… those are the things you can miss out on and not get back.

  175. MissDisplaced*

    I was very fortunate to remain employed during the Pandemic and overall my enterprise level company handled things well and we’ve been WFH this whole time. The office is open to those who need/want to go in, but no decision has been made yet about everyone coming back in. Word is that it’s likely to be a hybrid of some type.

    Even with things being mostly ok, I’m casually looking for other opportunities and I see a lot right now! I like my team and work, but there are often so many hindrances to doing my work in such a big organization. I think I’d be happier in a somewhat smaller company where I could do more and have more empowerment.

  176. anon for this*

    I’m considering it, but the pandemic is only one of several reasons and I’ve been considering it a while. (I am slow and plodding about these things. I don’t love that, but it’s not damaging enough that I want to put huge effort into changing it.) There have been sweeping changes at my workplace. Some of them are great (new colleagues!) and many aren’t (de-emphasis on bordering on devaluation of my area, ballooning workload, near-constant crisis mode).

    I still love what I do and the people I do it with and for, and my working conditions are fine, but I am running out of patience for the workload issues and the devaluation of my knowledge area.

    The other thing that’s getting to me is the situation with the planet. Like several commenters above, it matters a lot to me that what I do help the world. There isn’t anything that needs more effort and investment than keeping the earth habitable. I… want to spend my work life on that, if I can find a way.

    Complicating factors: I’m old and unfit enough that I wouldn’t last long at most obviously-relevant kinds of manual labor. I don’t have any education or training that’s on-point, either, and I’m climbing out of the recent-divorce financial hole, so paying to retrain isn’t presently a viable option. I do have transferable skills that could help an organization doing the work, so I’m trying to build up a list of job titles and organizations to keep an eye on.

    I suppose you could say that the pandemic made me re-acquaint myself with my personal ethics and drive. Here’s hoping I can take that somewhere.

    Alison, you may quote this if you wish.

  177. Charlottemousse*

    I have but also because I went through a major life event in having a child during the pandemic. Pre-COVID and pre-baby, I was in the office Monday through Friday, 8-9am to 6-8pm. Now that I have been going back into the office since May of this year, I’m working in the office approximately 9am-4pm Monday through Thursday and working from home in the evenings and Fridays. I think this arrangement is working out so well for me and my family (and my work). I’m able to see our baby for dinner and keep my hours (billables, I’m an attorney) on track as a more focused and motivated employee.

    1. WellRed*

      This doesn’t sound like much of an improvement which makes me glad I didn’t pursue law but glad it works for you!

  178. dragonfly*

    I don’t dislike what I do, but I was bored pre-COVID, and I’m still bored now. Working from home just further exacerbated non-communication / neglect (as of today, my supervisor and I haven’t even texted, messaged, or emailed each other in 3.5 weeks and haven’t spoken in 6.5). My problem is not knowing what to do with myself beyond getting a part-time job and getting out of debt faster. I did contact my alma mater about completing certification in a field that interests me, but it requires full-time in-person attendance. My schedule when we return to working on-site full-time is staggered in a way that almost entirely prevents taking in-person classes. Feeling very stuck.
    On a positive note, I typically really enjoy the volunteer roles I play in a non-profit, especially being able to help remotely, so I have that going for me.

  179. Susan Calvin*

    I swear I’m not just being contrary, but I think the last year has actually made me like my job more – I’m still annoyed at many things, related to corporate management, our customers, and project governance, but where in 2019 I was seriously looking into getting out of consultancy-style jobs, I now realize I actually miss 2 hour drives to customer sites, being at the airport at 7am and questionable hotel breakfasts. So there’s that.

  180. Llama Wrangler*

    Yes, my outlook has changed. I am retired and used to teach at least eight fitness classes a week. When everything shut down I realized how burned out I was. I now teach one; in time I might take on a second one. There’s no way I’ll go back to my previous teaching load.

    Someone who worked at the center where I worked quit after things started to re-open. Why? When everything shut down, she and her family realized if they stopped eating out so much, she could quit her part-time job (on top of her full-time job) and they could spend more time together as a family. It was an easy choice for them.

    Similarly, I was just talking to my hair stylist. He and his wife originally didn’t think she could cut back on work when schools closed – until Covid eliminated their $2300 per month childcare cost. By cutting back on a few other non-essentials, they were able to reduce her work hours so she could take care of her kids during Covid. Sounds like they too are going to stay on that plan for a while.

  181. healthcare worker*

    Absolutely. I work in healthcare as a “non-essential” worker (creative arts therapy) and prior to the pandemic had created a wonderful mix of contract therapy work and part-time jobs related to my creative arts medium. I loved everything I did, but I was constantly on the road and constantly looking for potential work opportunities/clients in order to make a decent living. Of course all of that work screeched to a stop as soon as everything shut down. After more than a year of only working a handful of hours every week, I recently accepted a FT job in my field. It’s much less flexible than my previous work, but I’ve nearly doubled my pre-covid salary and when I get home from work I’m DONE for the day. One of my biggest realizations from all that time at home was that I don’t want to be constantly hustling; I want to be relaxing, spending time with loved ones, doing things I enjoy, and getting enough sleep. I’ll be much more judicious in the future about how I agree to spend my time, because I don’t want to go back to how busy I used to be.

  182. buzzbuzzbeepbeep*

    I feel like people have finally realized that they have a CHOICE when it comes to work/life balance! Between increased unemployment benefits (in the US), forced work-from-home, changes in childcare/remote education, and now the increased demand for workers, employees have found that they can demand flexibility where they were probably too afraid or ingrained to imagine to do so. This will have ramifications for employers, companies, employees, everyone for decades. Perhaps even the very fabric of employment has been permanently altered. Not to mention the fear of death from a pandemic forced people to look at their lives and re-prioritize their wants and needs. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

  183. Bobina*

    While I kind of already knew it, my dream, which I’m being much more intentional about post Covid is basically to work part time (2-3) days a week and remote (so that I can be close to all the beaches and also family).

    It will probably take a couple of years to get to the point in my career whenI can do this , but that’s what I want to aim towards.

  184. just a cat*

    I’m one of the people who took the plunge jumped ship from my stable 9-5 job with nothing lined up and started up a creative business that I work on full time. Prior to the pandemic, I was already burnt out and holding a lot of simmering stress and unhappiness, and I finally quit because my mental health had taken such a hit. Burnout is no joke – even now I’m still feeling some of the aftereffects: gaps in memory, loss of time, random spikes in anxiety, inability to sleep, relying increasingly on alcohol and retail therapy to self-medicate. 2020 just exacerbated everything – losing loved ones, seeing friends/family lose loved ones, watching people scramble and stress over the fallout of the pandemic and the choices of their corporate bosses only solidified my decision to leave.

    In many ways, I’m very fortunate – business is good and I have both the experience and temperament to handle all the non-creative aspects of running a business (marketing, customer service, organization, etc.) I also work 11 hours a day 24/7 and make about a third of what I used to earn working full time. I’m ALSO happier than I’ve ever been before. No joke. Not to get all “pursue your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life” (HA!) on people, but there is a grain of truth to that tired phrase. I’m in a place in my life right now that I only ever fantasized about before, I’m able to control my time and prioritize the things that matter to me (spending time with loved ones, cooking, polishing my craft), and I look forward to what I’m doing every dang day.

  185. Senior Accountant (Public Practice)*

    I resigned to start my own accounting firm. I’m tired of timesheets so I’m going to start my own firm without them.

  186. TotesMaGoats*

    I definitely enjoyed the ability to walk out the door at 5pm and go to dinner or (lately) go kayaking with my family. Even though i’m often responding to email at night, being able to disconnect from my desk and not have a 45 minute commute is huge. Being able to sleep a bit later, snuggle my kid and toss a load of laundry in has been nice too. I don’t want to give those up. And what my team has proved is that we worked as well, if not better, during the pandemic. Much like the ability to get to-go cocktails from my favorite restaurants, I don’t want to toss the baby out with the bath water on other work things.

  187. Daisy*

    I would like to find a different job but with covid I’m scared to leave my safe job. It’s secure, I know I’m good at it and it’s stable. But I would love to find a remote, boring, data entry type job. The kind that other people hate. I love those jobs. However, I can’t find one. I honestly don’t know if they exist. They probably pay too low for me anyway. I used to have one at an insurance company but they went all automated and laid off most staff.

  188. Yellow*

    Go for it! With this caveat- Think seriously about how much money you think you’d be making in your “step down/step away”. Then force yourself to live on that amount through the end of the year. Put the rest right into savings and pretend it doesn’t exist. If you can live happily that way, then at the start of 2022, make the leap. Life is short. Enjoy what you have while you have it.

  189. Deirdre*

    I too left my job. I worked with wonderful people and it was crazy in the pandemic. As we moved closer to returning to the office, I realized I valued my flexibility too much. I have a small consulting company and am able to pick-and-choose my projects and am able to do my work in the location of my choosing.

    My partner also quit his job just this week. He will take the summer off and decide what he will do in the fall. Life is much too short.

  190. Full Time Funk*

    I’ve been dissatisfied in my position for years, but the pandemic has really pushed me over the top. Workloads at my company have gone sky-high, meetings are filled with anger and animosity, and telling my manager about it just turns into a discussion of how burnt out they are, and the issues are never solved.

    I’ve been working with this manager on a new project that has turned into a new department that they want me to lead. On paper this is a big promotion and what I’ve been working toward for years. But I’ve been doing many parts of this department head job for months, and in that time I’ve become disillusioned with the job, the company, and the industry. I’ve also started having some mental health issues, like panic attacks and depression, tied directly to work.

    I’m in a financial position where I could absolutely take some time off and reassess my priorities. But my manager has said over and over that this new department absolutely won’t work without me, they’d be ‘heartbroken’ if I left, etc etc. I know that no one is irreplaceable and all that, but I feel like it would be a huge betrayal of their trust (and the trust of my employees) to work so hard for this, then bail when it actually happens. Logically I know they’d get someone else and taking care of myself is the right thing to do. But emotionally, I just feel guilty AF.

  191. DownWithJPP*

    Yes, but probably not in the way a lot of others are thinking. I have a decent-paying job with good benefits and while there are some issues, the job is stable and I have been thanked profusely for sticking it out through a few rough years which has allowed me to earn a huge amount of trust from leadership. It has allowed me to find a better work/life balance – I can cook dinner more often, workout during the day, care for my garden and what my boss cares about is me getting the work done. That has made me put aside frustrations and the dreaded job search to keep my stability and better balance. I was ready to jump ship at the first opportunity but now I realize that climbing some ladder or making more money but feeling less secure in my role is not always better.

    1. DownWithJPP*

      I should add that while we will be going back to the office, it is in a hybrid capacity which is a dream for me. I hate having to get up and go into town daily, but have missed a bit of the city and getting dressed like a real adult so I am not ready to leave and give that up!

  192. Jessica Ganschen*

    When the pandemic started, I was going to school at a community college, getting my associates with the intention to transfer and get my bachelors. After a semester and a half, I figured out that I was not built for online classes and started looking for remote, entry-level admin work. I did luckily get a job fitting those specifications (largely thanks to advice from here), and it’s just… night and day. I log in, I start doing clearly defined tasks and projects, I log out, and I don’t have to think about anything related to work until I log in again the next day.

    Before this, I was always pushing myself pretty hard to keep going with school despite feeling like I wasn’t really suited for it. Now I’m thinking, well, I got this job without a degree, I have a contract thru September of next year, and it’s fairly likely that I’ll be officially hired in and/or promoted. Even if I’m not hired at the end of my contract, another year and a half of experience is nothing to sneeze at. It’s not particularly stressful, leaves me with plenty of free time for my creative/restorative pursuits, and gives me opportunities for upward advancement. Basically the only changes I want to make are moving into a position that pays more and/or is salaried, so that I don’t have to worry so much about making up hours or losing money due to holidays or appointments or whatever.

  193. TexasTeacher*

    I went back to full time classroom teaching after more than a decade being a stay at home parent. The last time I taught in the classroom, there were no smart phones, and I had no children. I could work lots of hours in the evening on my job, but also wasn’t expected to be reachable in those off-hours. Nowadays, it seems every staff member sees all their messages on Teams or email right away, and should respond to them. I did, too, last fall. Then I had to re-set my phone and decided to leave my work email off of it – a small but necessary step.
    As much as I think I could get more done, and probably should, I need to be present at home after school. If there’s an emergency, the admin has my mobile number, but I’m not checking emails and I’m only working on paperwork and lessons during well-defined times, because one can just go on and on, and it’ll never end. Firm boundaries and letting go of the shame of not working to the bone in a profession that encourages martyrdom are the lessons I’ve learned this year.

  194. Stable Green*

    I know this may be wildly out of line with everyone else but honestly…Living through the pandemic has made me *desperate* to get back to a stable career.

    I’ve been working part-time for a year before the pandemic, and was temporarily laid off during the initial lockdowns but brought back as soon as the additional benefits for unemployment expired in my state. Although I love my boss and my work (truly, it has been wonderful), and I am really fortunate in my circumstances that getting through the furlough was not nearly as stressful as it probably could’ve been…I still find myself desperate for the security and consistency that a full time job would entail. Savings got really tight, and I honestly just crave the stability and predictability of working 40 hours a week again.

    …That being said, I don’t know how much I actually feel capable of taking that kind of work on again. I was part time because I was going to graduate school, but I had to take a two semester long break from that during the pandemic and I am dreading the increase in work that will (probably) come in the Fall when I return to grad school. This last year-and-change honestly feels like it has broken me, so maybe I am just grasping for any semblance of stability.

    I also want to return to feeling like my life, my work, and my expertise having an impact in the world again! Instead of just being a body in the streets or a voice in an inbox, I felt like my career had the ability to make real, long term beneficial change in the world and I desperately miss that. I know that may not be true for everyone’s career paths, and that is fine, but for me, I felt like I was doing more good when I was working full time in my field than during the pandemic and I want to go back to that so badly.

    While I have enjoyed the creative ventures I stared during the Pandemic, none of them were activities I wouldn’t’ve done before, and I definitely want the money, retirement accounts, insurance and stability offered by working full time back.

  195. It's Me*

    OP: It sounds like you’re a thoughtful person who is aware how good of a situation they have and are afraid of looking like they *don’t*. I can’t tackle your reasons for leaving. What you’re headed toward sounds like something I can only dream of. But that’s what you’re aiming for. When it comes to what you’re leaving behind, think of it this way—as much as your coworkers will miss you, they’ll appreciate having a coworker who’s fully dialed in. And anyone who comes after you won’t think you’re selfish or ungrateful or crazy; they’ll just be grateful to have landed your job!

    Alison: This is something I’m in the middle of! My industry is seeing significant turnover because suddenly my coworkers are all going “This is too little money and too little thanks to put up with this much garbage” and they’re leaving—not just our company but our industry entirely. Me, I’m genuinely not sure what I would do outside my current industry, so I’m feeling very stuck (and very envious of OP! Go! Live our dream for us all, OP!)

  196. Robin*

    This has been a fraught question since March ’20 for me. I thought I answered it when I transitioned — same kind of jobs, different presentation!– but then I did the same kind of jobs, burned out, and am now coming up for air post-crash.
    I know what I want to do, and I have from a very young age. I want to garden, keep house, and make art by hand. The thing is, people making enough income off of that are rare. So I’m trying to get a job that can pay my bills in less than 40hrs and make art the rest of my time. Something like reception or office management. If the job doesn’t pay enough – which is likely – then I’ll pray my art makes up the difference. Thanks to my crash, I’m no longer able to work a full 40hrs. Fingers and toes crossed.

  197. Please remove your monkeys from my circus*

    I’m in the opposite boat of a lot of the commenters here (and the OP). I have the dream/passion/whatever job–which, in classic non-profit fashion, involves low pay, tons of hours, a whole lot of BS I definitely didn’t sign up for, and a ton of guilt at the thought of actually leaving to do something else, because despite all the crap, I sincerely believe the work my colleagues and I are doing makes the world better on a daily basis. But I’m also worried about how tiny my 401K is, because it’s not like I can afford to contribute more than I am, and my car is about to die, and if I’m going to work 60 hours/week, I’d like to be compensated for that in a more meaningful–and financially lucrative–way than “warm fuzzies.” (And yes, my therapist and I are working on the idea that, yes, I’ve tried to save the world for 15+ years, it’s OK to let it be someone else’s turn…)

  198. HereKittyKitty*

    I wonder how much of this exit is being driven by younger people, without mortgages, aren’t married and don’t have kids? I say that as someone who is also younger, doesn’t have kids (nor wants them), and is married. I also wonder how much larger the exit might be if our healthcare wasn’t tied to the workplace- you know?

    I was laid off in August and as much as that was an issue I also had the time to pursue a ton of creative things I always wanted to dabble in and take care of mental health issues that I just put on the back burner for so long. I was certainly job hunting the whole time, but I wasn’t necessarily struggling because my partner makes good money and we don’t have kids. I now have a full-time job again and I’m very excited about that, but I think my partner and I have also decided we want to save as much as we can and maybe take a sabbatical for a year or so whenever we want to and can. We /liked/ being at home together and /liked/ trying different creative things together even though we were stuck inside our apartment. We definitely want to do more fun things together in the future and I think our mindset has changed from “We work to pay bills and be seen as successful” to “we work so we can do fun things together, take trips and maybe one day take a break from work and go on sabbatical.”

    And speaking of sabbaticals, I’m hoping that and/or the 4-day work week will be something that becomes more prominent in the next decade.

    1. HereKittyKitty*

      Oh I also want to say I used to want to career climb, become a manager and maybe even a director one day! I was chasing mentorships and promotions and wanted to be the best I could be in my field. Now… not so much. Being laid off last year kind of washed that urge away and now I think I could stay in my role for basically forever and I have no desire to climb, be promoted, or run anything haha. I’ve talked to others in my field and around the same age and I’m hearing that echoed back… nobody really wants to career climb that much post-pandemic. They don’t want more responsibility, they want to stay where they’re at so they can keep a good work-life balance.

      1. 1234*

        This is so me. Except that I decided to skip the whole “career climbing” thing before the pandemic even started. Like you, I don’t want the headache of managing things. That work-life balance has been increasingly more important to me. I don’t want to work 60 hour weeks at one job.

    2. Victoria*

      The 4 day work week is what I want the most (3 would be even better but that will never happen)

      4 days work, 1 day for errands, 2 days to actually LIVE and enjoy my life……

    3. tooooast*

      Absolutely re: the handcuffs of employer-sponsored health insurance — I’m young, married, no kids, and health insurance is probably the biggest reason I haven’t taken a leap/break.

  199. Wool Princess*

    Going into the pandemic I worked a somewhat high-powered project management job and part-time for my family’s business selling wholesale craft supplies. The family business is my true real passion but the other job just felt like too good an opportunity to pass up (I was 4 months in when Covid got bad). 12 months of pandemic later I burned out hard and left the office job. I feel so much happier selling craft supplies that I ever did in the high-powered gig. To be fair I dedicate a lot more time to self care these days.

    OP, follow your bliss. It is a luxury to have the financial resources to make the leap. Take advantage and be grateful for the opportunity. It can be easy to let the common societal metrics of “success” rule our decisions, but at the end of the day your own standard of success is what’s most important.

  200. lockhart*

    Our company regularly has comp days for holidays. I work in journalism, so we need people staffing holidays and it’s usually me. I don’t mind, I don’t go to big parties or really care about holidays (and obviously nobody was going anywhere for a year anyway.) But I’ve been using those comp days for a three-day weekend and… I want to work 4 days a week. When I come back from a long weekend, I feel SO much better about my job, so much more motivated, and I feel like I do better work.

    The other bit has been the normalization of working from home. People understand that kids do things, dinner happens, etc. way more than they used to. Everything is just a touch more relaxed. I managed to get the full-time work from home OK before the pandemic, and there are definitely more accommodations made for people now that everyone is mostly working from home still.

  201. TeapotNinja*

    Do it!
    If you are good at what you do and you’ve been working long enough to create a good rep, you can always go back if things don’t work out.
    The right time to do this sort of stuff is before you have any dependents.

  202. Sam Foster*

    If OP has a plan to actually go for their dream and a fall back plan and timeline if it doesn’t work out I say go for it.
    For me, personally, an employer needs to trust me to know when I should be in the office and when I shouldn’t. If my manager feels the need to micromanage me then it is time for me to move on.

  203. Not the Usual Me*

    Due to the pandemic, my FT job reduced our salary by 25%. We are currently making 75% of what we used to make but also working 75% of our hours (for the most part unless there’s an emergency etc.) We have a hybrid situation where we can go into the office if we need or want to but for the most part, we can work from home. I never realized how much I could like working from home and how much I preferred not working 9-5 even with a reduced salary.

    I have more time and freedom to pursue my side hustle (also impacted by COVID but slowly and surely coming back). With my side hustle, I can choose which projects I want to take on. In the past, I would say money is money, work is work, who cares if I’m not interested in the Llama Project? Now, I’m more like “I prefer Teapot Projects so I will seek those out. I don’t want to deal with llamas so I won’t. There are enough Teapots Projects to keep me busy and paid.”

  204. anon for this*

    The pandemic has changed how I manage my work hours, but not in the way you’re thinking of.

    Early in the pandemic, my employer’s network wasn’t up to the job of having everyone work from home. Dropped connections were common, and it was especially difficult to log on first thing in the morning – the connection would keep failing over and over, sometimes for hours, before everyone could get connected. (They explained it to us saying it’s like re-entering an office building after a fire drill – everyone will get into their office eventually, but there’s a lineup for the elevators.)

    Setting an alarm to wake up to work is one thing; setting an alarm to wake up to not work and sit there pressing “reconnect” on the server log-in is another thing.

    So I stopped setting the alarm.

    I’d go to bed at my usual worknight bedtime, wake up whenever I woke up naturally, sign into the network, and my start time would be within the same range as if I’d been there pressing “reconnect” since 8 a.m.

    Not waking up to an alarm had astounding benefits for my physical and mental health, so I’ve run with it and have basically excised morning obligations from my life.

    My work consists of multiple tasks with various deadlines throughout the day. So I do the tasks due today, then do the tasks due tomorrow morning.

    Then tomorrow I’ll wake up naturally, do the tasks due tomorrow afternoon, and do the tasks due the next day’s morning.

    Some days I’m working a bit late to get the next morning’s tasks done, but that’s far better than waking up to an alarm!

    My work gets done on time, I’m as responsive as my manager expects me to be under the circumstances, and I’ve had a full night’s sleep every single night for the past 15 months.

    (Alison, please don’t quote me)

  205. DJ Abbott*

    I’ve done office work since the 90s and my position as data analyst was eliminated in December 2019. I was sick in January and just starting to get interviews when the shut down happened.
    I was mostly unemployed until May 2021, when I got a part-time job in a grocery store.
    It took a while, but having time to think and reflect made me realize I need a lot more interaction with people at my job. I felt bored and isolated at my office jobs. I’m better suited to customer service or an administrative job with a lot of interaction.
    It’s a change from the way I used to be. I started out doing data entry and maintenance in the 90s and was pretty good at it. But I had a temp job last winter entering data and I couldn’t stay awake. I’ve grown into a person who needs a lot more interaction.
    For the last few months I’ve been applying for mid-level administrative jobs and not getting anywhere. I don’t have the experience with travel and calendars, etc. they’re looking for. Working at the grocery store suggests I should look for a customer service job because I really enjoy helping customers.

  206. Kat*

    I’m currently writing my Masters thesis about some huge cultural issues in my industry that have affected me personally for my entire 20 year career (up to and including the way my employer has operated through the pandemic). It feels cathartic, but it also feels like my “life’s work” in this industry might be done.

    So it’s not directly related to Covid, but a combination of being burned out, feeling like a natural conclusion is coming, and also realising I have another 20-30 years of work before I can consider retiring. I live in a really high COL area but I’m considering how/whether I can drop to part time while I pursue something more creative and fulfilling. Maybe I’ll end up back in this industry full time, or maybe not.

  207. Liza*

    I literally quit what *was* my dream job prior to the pandemic, and am taking a road trip across the country to find a place that I want to live long-term. Prior to the pandemic, I would have waited to accept a job offer before moving somewhere, but why not be bold and see what else is out there? I am thirsty for great change and adventure in my life, and am thrilled, (and also a little bit overwhelmed to be honest), to do something this wild. I’m prioritizing meeeee and damn, does it feel good.

    1. Liza*

      I’ve also changed my mindset completely about work. Rather than getting bogged down into politics or being passionate about stuff that I have no control over, I’ve decided to treat work like a simulated video game that I’m really good at. I know, it sounds kind of silly, but becoming less detached has helped me tremendously with boundaries. I’m being very, very picky about what jobs I’m applying to, and carefully evaluating the company – is it ethical? Is there room for growth? Will I get paid for what I’m worth? Does my supervisor have a healthy sense of boundaries and respect? What does flexibility mean to them? Recently, someone I interviewed with not only described their team as a family (ugh), but also mentioned that they all read stuff about industry related issues after work for their own growth and then talk about it the next day, like some sort of horrible daily book club – NO THANK YOU, GOOD DAY SIR, I WILL NOT BE PARTICIPATING IN SUCH NONSENSE.

      1. 1234*

        I can understand the industry related issues being discussed once or twice a month but every day?! How do they even have that much time on top of actually doing work?

  208. Make a new dream*

    I have done exactly this – I resigned 6 weeks ago having had enough of working 6/7 days a week, 7am to 11pm with no life of my own whilst my 2 children grow up without me noticing.
    My job was my dream job, but I got burnt out through covid times trying to do it all Inc home schooling.
    I had planned some time out to recover, but the day after resigning, I saw an add for a new role – 35 hours (mostly when my children are at school) with evening, weekends and school holidays off.
    Interviewed for it on Wednesday and was offered it
    I am looking forward to the new challenges and change of pace with increased salary and benefits. It was a gamble (I could have been left with no job for a while – the market for what I do is super competitive) but worth it for me because I couldnt just keep going as I was.

  209. Cake Diva*

    Late to the party here, buuuut…

    It’s almost been the opposite effect with my job. For context, I work in a bakery of a warehouse/retail club/grocery chain/whatever you want to consider it to be. And because I didn’t finish college and I don’t work “typical” hours by many standards and I have to work almost every weekend (because that’s when the cakes get ordered), my career has been looked down upon by many people. Questions abound along the lines of “when are you going to get a real job?” or even worse “a big-girl job” (ugh ugh ugh, made worse by the fact that I’m almost 40 and have been in this career for over a decade now).

    And then… suddenly… my job was incredibly stable. We were crazy busy. Busier than holiday time. Remember all the toilet paper lines? That was a thing. But then those people also bought bagels and muffins and croissants and cookies… we had tons to do. We all got bonuses to our wages, for over a year. We were “essential”.

    My husband was jobless for most of the year and we got by on just my income and that instills a lot of self-confidence after so many years of having my job looked down upon with so little value.

    Now, I was lucky in that my company is known to care about its employees. I know not everyone in the grocery sector gets the wages and the bonuses and the benefits that I do. And I know that for all the talk of how “essential” grocery workers are, nothing really came of it in terms of the bigger picture. And to many, we’re back to status of “not a real job”, and everything that comes with it. But still, I can look back at the time and it cements that my career is a real job, and is worthwhile, even if other people don’t always see it that way. And I really love the work that I do.

  210. Laura Petrie*

    I hated the last job I had. I had an awful manager, had no power to implement change and I ended up doing low level operational tasks instead of the strategic management the role was supposed to be. I also had a very ambitious colleague who took over everything, so even specific tasks I’d been given were done by her. Add into that a badly organised restructure, hostile senior colleagues, demotivated staff and uncertainty about my job security. I cried so much at work and on my way home, my chronic illness was exacerbated by the stress of it all and I ended up on antidepressants. That job almost broke me.

    Needless to say when the opportunity for voluntary redundancy came around, I took it and haven’t looked back. I returned to university to study a healthcare related course and I’ve just finished my first year. I feel more like ‘me’ again and can’t remember the last time I cried.

    When I first made the decision to leave my job, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I’d been at my employer for 14 years and even though I was miserable, leaving seemed scary. I was given some great advice by a former boss, who has been a brilliant mentor. She told me to write down what I did in terms of skills rather than tasks and then think about the aspects I enjoyed. It helped me realise I wanted something people focussed and where I could really make a difference.

    I do miss the income I had but for me the change in how I’m feeling is more valuable. We knew we could manage on just my husband’s salary and can cut our outgoings if necessary. I have some savings, my redundancy pay and a tiny student loan and bursary. I really enjoy my lectures and absolutely loved my placement. I’ve also been able to start volunteering at two great organisations. I haven’t regretted my decision at all.

  211. Victoria*

    This pandemic has really made me see there is more to life than work, and I hope we start to move beyond the exception that everyone work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and the commute. It leaves precious little time to enjoy our lives, especially as we usually have to do errands and housework during our time off. But I fear nothing will change and we will be doing the same thing as 2019 in 2025. I’m only in my late 20s and the thought of doing the 40 hour work week over 5 days until I’m at least 70 makes me want to cry….but it’s also impossible to live off a part time wage if you are single like me. FML.

  212. agnes*

    I work as an internal coach in my organization. What I am hearing is not so much that people want to leave their jobs, but that they want the work/life balance they have found by working remotely. The lack of a commute gave them several hours a week of their life back, and the need to be intentional about meetings, etc meant that less time was wasted on work activities that did not add value to the workplace.

    And…not having to deal with office drama and the non-work related things that sucked up time in the workday meant that people actually could get their work done is less time.

  213. gentle weasel*

    I loved my job until the last year. The first six months of covid were fine, but then things started wearing on me. Initially I had been excited to work on more projects and assist (significantly) in handling important issues, which happened to be coinciding with the onset of covid, but after a few months the hullabaloo died down and I found myself with the same amount of work but on frustrating or less important issues, or assignments I didn’t want to handle (and wasn’t qualified to) but got stuck with anyway. I had stopped feeling like it was exciting for work to be a big part of my life and that I was making an impact there, and started feeling like I was living inside a to-do list of mostly thankless tasks.

    Partially inspired by some of the more important work I’d assisted with months before, I applied to school in the winter. I got my offer of admission last month. The decision to accept was difficult for me. The last year and a half has made me very homesick (more than usual) for the places I grew up in (I’ve not been able to visit), and my dearest wish is to have a small, quiet piece of land close to the friends I grew up with, and to grow my own vegetables and to let my cat spend time outside again. (To be clear, I don’t currently have the capital for this, but maybe I could get there if I found a job in the area…? It’s hard to plan these things from afar, and I’ve never been a homeowner before.) I’m embarrassed to admit that, when it came down to it, I accepted the offer of admission out of cowardice: I felt I couldn’t stand another minute of what I was doing, much less months, or a whole year, or even more time—but I knew no one could be upset at me for leaving with such a good reason; in fact, they’d have to be supportive.

    As Alison and her readers have commented on before, I found my mentality around work improved IMMENSELY once I knew I was leaving. But I still feel dubious about the decision I made. I’m worried I’m moving into an equally (or more) dysfunctional, more conservative field. I’m worried I won’t be able to express myself in ways that are important to me. But I guess I’ve got to give it a shot, and either challenge my own incorrect assumptions or, if they are correct, challenge the status quo. I’m also going to try to keep creative projects going outside of work to help anchor my sense of self, of personal accomplishment, and of self-education. I truly hope my degree will lead to better things, and that my fears that choosing this path will lead me further away from myself will prove unfounded. But I don’t feel I’ve exchanged “the daily grind” for “the dream,” even though I think other people might perceive it that way. Still, just the mental respite since making this decision has almost already made it worth it.

  214. Good Vibes Steve*

    I am lucky enough to have an interesting job that I love, with nice colleagues, well paid, located near my home…. and i still occasionally daydream about leaving it all to live off the produce from my greenhouse. I think to a certain extent it is a human need to not want to work for someone else.

    I’ve been increasingly looking at the FIRE (Financial independence, retire early) movement. I may not be able to retire by age 40 (I’m 35 right now), but the idea of at all going part time from age 50, or fully retire at 55… that’s very tempting. My partner regularly considers just leaving his job, and it’s more than a daydream at this point, probably a reality in the next 5 years.

    The caveat we put on it it’s that in can only happen when some very big expenses from our house (new roof, new windows, kitchen and bathroom renovations) are behind us.

  215. Amethystmoon*

    While I wish I could make enough money to pay rent and bills doing something I truly enjoy, it’s pretty much a pipe dream. I don’t hate my current job. It just has a tendency to get boring and tedious. I do enough things outside of work that I do like. But I’m not going to stop playing the lottery, either.

  216. Foxgloves*

    Interestingly, the last 18 months have really cemented that I’m actually in absolutely the right role for my life as it is! I work in online education, so I’ve actually seen my work become more highly respected, and incredibly profitable for my organisation. Before, it was seen as a bit of a “side project”, and I’m loving the new focus and vigour for my area of expertise!! I’m lucky enough to have flexible working, and I feel like I’m working towards something good. So yeah, maybe the opposite opinion to many, but the last year has made me feel great about my work, and how I spend my work hours :)

  217. sometimeswhy*

    Yes. Yes. Yes. In a couple of ways. (And I would prefer to not be quoted for publication.)

    The team that I lead has been working through this whole thing and it’s made me reevaluate how we operate. We’ve done a lot of distilling what’s important in our work to focus on that and omitting or at least pushing back on things that aren’t. We’ve also been paying attention to the things that have worked in ways we never would’ve tried were it not for this and are thinking about what we want to carry forward. There is no way we’re going back to “normal.” Normal sucked. This also sucks. But there are good lessons from both.

    On top of that (and this is probably the actual response the letter writer was going for) my husband decided to retire early-pandemic. It was a thing that our situation allowed us to do and he is literally taller for it. I’m a few years off still but we’re gently rearranging our lives so that I can follow him into retirement in 2-5 years if the changes I’ve been implementing at work don’t increase my job satisfaction (or if I feel like I’ve accomplished what I need to and now it’s someone else’s turn!). I will probably still work but my job won’t be the fixed point that everything else has to work around in our lives anymore and just thinking about that makes me happier.

  218. Domino*

    I don’t hate my job, but I’m also very uninvested in it; nothing is bad enough to push me out, but I’d still love to get laid off, you know?

    Before the pandemic, I already felt like life was flying by. Now? Holy crap. Time just… disappears. Nothing matters. Nothing happens. I work for the weekend, but when the weekends are the same as the weekdays, everything is a blur.

    It’s scary to know that I’m spending my life passively riding the conveyor belt of time, until it eventually dumps me into the grave. It’s more obvious with remote work and the pandemic, but if I’m honest, it was always the case.

    Being asexual, aromantic, not interested in kids, and unable to afford home ownership also means I’m unlikely to hit the traditional milestones that give shape and meaning to other people’s post-college, pre-retirement lives. If I’m going to grow as a person and feel like I’ve lived a life, I need to get serious about making things happen.

    So, with all that, I’m definitely thinking about changing jobs purely for the sake of ending this “chapter” and starting another one. I want to grow! I want new memories! The only thing holding me back is the comfort I’ve gotten used to as a salaried employee. But I suspect that comfort may be a coma.

  219. Heather*

    I know, utter same!

    I am legit staying in my current job (tho sending out feelers for MUCH better paying ones) due to benefits and the unlimited vacation so I can build up my creative plan and get out.

    My job really did not handle the pandemic well, a mix between lay offs and furloughs. I’m the only survivor! I’m fully remote and my position is “managed” by an over arching company and a board, and mostly hands off. It’s both a mixture of really nice but highly demanding and SO LOW pay. I refuse to work 50 -60 hours a week and still have to take a part time job to take care of myself. Especially when they messed up so much during the pandemic, and then have come out with a huge profit at the end of the year and I STILL don’t get a raise.

    I don’t get employers, man! They will be shocked when I leave and then suddenly offer me the proposed pay increased I’ve asked for several years. Then be shocked again when I don’t take it.

  220. Jesse*

    Yes. I realized I was being ridiculous about work. I didn’t need to be destroying myself to be better than entire teams of other people, because when my company tolerated barely any output from others, what they were saying was “We don’t care if you barely do any work.” So I was the only one holding myself to a standard of perfection, and that was pointless. Now, I’m fulfilling my role, and doing it to a level I feel ethically comfortable with, but it isn’t 100% of my possible output, because giving 100% was making me miserable.

  221. Rachel*

    I’m in academia and I’m just so burned out. It’s an industry that demands over identification with the job, that can place a lot of strain on your life, and certainly during the pandemic workload went way, way up with some of the changes underlying that seeming to be permanent. I love the idea but the reality of it just makes me miserable lately. But transitioning out of academia seems very difficult; it’s seen as a lifetime vocation. I still have the vocation but I don’t want to make all of the sacrifices. The pandemic made me realize how little I have left to give to other forms of service outside my job, and how my job doesn’t seem to be one of service anymore

  222. Quiet Liberal*

    I am burned out from the overwhelming workload of 2020 and 2021 so far, so much so that I have decided to retire way earlier than I had originally planned to. I used to really enjoy the nature of my work, which is mostly research, but because there is so much of it and I am the only one in the office who does the job, I find myself just racing through project after project with no real satisfaction anymore. The constant overtime is killing me. My boss knows my struggle, but only can offer that “Everyone else is overwhelmed with work, too.” I had planned on working at least part time until I reached full retirement age, but I’m outta there as soon as I turn 62. Thankfully, I am able to do this financially, but sad to realize that for the first time in my life, I dread starting my workday.

  223. NewEmployee*

    I’m in a weird position where I started my current job right at the beginning of the pandemic, like my first day was the day my office was sent home for 16+ months. The pandemic has exposed a great deal of ineffectiveness in our work and rigidity at a leadership level. It’s impossible to know what I’d think of the work without the pandemic, but overall it’s not the work I thought I’d be doing when I was hired and it’s extremely boring. Our department is making the slow transition back to the office, which we will do full time and had our remote capabilities taken away completely, and I’m looking for a way out. I’m dying for work I enjoy and an office culture that listens to employee feedback (like absolutely no one wants to go back to the office full time).

  224. Chickaletta*

    I think what I’ve learned is that, for me, wanting to be in the office or not has more to do with the job itself and the people I work with rather than just being in the office or not. This past year, I have really missed working in person with people, but hearing about so many people who don’t made me think about why that is. Thinking back to other jobs I’ve had, I realized I would have been elated to never drive into the office and see my coworkers in person ever again! I would have been one of those people begging to stay remote forever. But the job I have now is different – I enjoy what I do and I genuinely like and respect the people I work with. It makes all the difference in the world.

    In terms how many hours I work, most days I can do my job in less than 8 hours. That’s always been the case. Working from home therefore makes much more efficient use of my time because I can do other things when I don’t have work tasks; in the office I’m just sitting at my desk making up shit to do or walking around the building killing time.

  225. Happily Staying Put*

    In my field, it’s not uncommon to see massive turnover after a rough period. My colleagues have been trickling away and I feel as if I ought to be among them, looking for better opportunities. The thing is, I’m completely happy where I am! If anything, the hard times have given me a greater appreciation for my role and my employer. I’m staying in my current position, as strange as it seems.

  226. Nomoregrind*

    I am feeling so burnt out from this last year. I have been working up the nerve to ask my boss to reduce my hours from 40 to 30 hours. I’m not feeling optimistic about her agreeing to this but I feel like it won’t hurt to ask. I am planning to quit my job in the next year and start my own entrepreneurial endeavor. I decided I would love to set my own hours and have flexibility in my life and be around my family more.

  227. Retired Prof*

    My comment is not about the past year specifically, but about making a change in your life. I was at a similar place of dissatisfaction, and happened to see the movie “Spanglish”. Adam Sandler’s character says, “if you think your life is at a crossroads, then it is”. That line just smacked me. I had been dithering about whether I should change something, not realizing that the struggle itself was the message – I needed a change. I think you should listen to your struggle.

  228. Fezziwig Knots*

    Is there a way you can pursue your creative dreams BEFORE you quit your job?

    Maybe you take on some freelance work, attend a workshop, join a collective, etc. Take it from someone who stepped away from a poorly paid position with bad management and terrible burn out to pursue my creative degree and professional goals. I’ve been really happy with my degree, my increased skills and I’m better at my creative hobbies than I’ve ever been.

    But I can’t tell you how quickly your creative passions are dimmed when you have to start applying all the “real life” stuff to it. A lot of creative work requires the same boring, difficult, time consuming crap that all work does: marketing, sales, SEO content, time management, weird or crappy co-workers (editors, agents, etc.) Having those things applied to your creative passions can be really difficult. What seems dreamy and blissful to you now likely won’t stay that way. It doesn’t mean it’s all bad, but I argue it’s just as hard (in different ways.)

    It’s also a lot harder to hear “your painting sucks” than “this spreadsheet sucks” if you catch my drift. (IDK if you’re a painter, and I know I’m not, but you get what I mean!)

    I spent several years attending in person workshops in a variety of facets, did some freelance and took some internships, all while working full time. It ensured I knew what I was doing when I changed careers, but it’s still been really, really hard. I have yet to make a living from what I’m doing or even a FT salary. The difference between us, it seems, is my previous career and job was toxic and really unhealthy. If yours isn’t, I would strongly encourage you to continue to earn money in a healthy environment while you pursue your creative passions in the ways aforementioned! You said your job is supportive and you’ve been there for awhile, they’ll likely be excited to know you’re exploring this route.

    Best of luck!

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