Before I started my company 17 years ago, I worked full time at various jobs.
Now, to put the “various jobs” thing into perspective, this was 1996-2000 and the very beginning of the internet. My first jobs, in fact, were to make interactive CDs working as both programmer and interactive designer.
The things I could tell you about working with the limitations of technology back then. Monitor sizes. Most people didn’t have audio. Bandwidth limitations. And 16 bit colour. Just wow.
There was one job in particular I worked at that stands out for me. Not because it was good but because it was exactly the opposite.
The owner of the company was demanding and rude. The hours were incredibly long. People would quit so often it was like working in a revolving door company. With no offense intended for actual revolving door companies.
I stuck with this job for a good, hard, six months. And I stuck with it because I felt like leaving would be the same as quitting or giving up. That I wasn’t strong enough to deal with the challenges that came with it.
It became personal for me. Often my days were 14 hours and I was earning, even for then, a shit amount per week.
When I finally left to work at another company, it was a relief. The other company wanted me, pursued me and I felt like I was running towards something not away from it.
But now that I’m older, and more experienced, I’ve changed how I look back at this job and my attitude about it. And it’s an important shift.
I tell my younger self that leaving isn’t a sign of quitting. It’s not letting the other person win. It is not defeat.
Leaving that situation was always about winning. I won because I chose myself.
I chose to decide that my happiness and well being needed to have a place in my list of priorities. That maybe, shockingly, it needed to be pretty fucking high on that list.
That leaving a situation, job or friendship or whatever, is never a sign of weakness but of strength.
And there is no shame in saying, this is my line. This is where I say no. This is how I take care of myself.
This is how I love myself.
And if you’re in a situation like this, sticking it out for whatever reason, maybe it’s time to flip things upside down. Put yourself on the priority list. Pretty fucking high on that list.
Because sometimes quitting is a love letter to yourself. And it’s always a sign of strength.