“I Quit” Two Luscious, Liberating Words

They are, to me, the two most beautiful and cathartic words in the English language.

I quit.

The message they carry, for both you and your soon-to-be former employer, is freighted with Shakespearean significance.

Oh, the beauty of those five liberating letters! Behold luscious independence! And like the rose, even by any other name, the moment still feels just as damned sweet.

Lyricists have nailed the sentiment with lines like “Take this job and shove it” and “I’m outta here” and “Givin’ the boss man his walking papers.”

My favorite, from a blues song: “I got to be leavin’ ya, now.”

Quitting a job is not about defeat. It’s about not taking it anymore, about recognizing your value. It’s about stepping into the unknown, leaving a bad situation for whatever comes next.

Leaving something barely tolerable for something perhaps truly great.

And it’s truer now than ever.

Today, U.S. employees are leaving their jobs in droves, in a quest for more money, flexibility and, yes, more happiness. A record 4 million people quit their jobs in April alone, according to the Labor Department.

And a recent post-pandemic study shows that another 40% are considering such a move.

It’s being called the Great Resignation.

People are rethinking what work-life balance means to them. They’re reassessing those soul-crushing commutes and precious family time lost forever.

So they’re resigning, walking away.

Quitting.

We’ve all quit jobs.

And man-oh-man, does it feel good.

The very act of job-quitting represents a tectonic shift in life’s power dynamic — and how many times can you achieve that?

See, we’re all born powerless.

Did our parents even consult us before bringing us into this world? Once here, we’re told what to do, where to do it and when to do it. Then our teachers and professors and sometimes even spouses take over.

Our bosses, however, are most often our worst enemies.

They alone can make us feel more like chattel, like slaves tied to the oars, coyly suggesting that we just “shut up and dribble.”

When your boss tells you to do something, no matter how nicely, no matter what time of the day or night, you do it.

You swallow your bile and say “Sure,’ or “Done.”

Or worse, “Thank you, sir! May I have another, sir!”

Even though inside you’re dying.

Because at work, we’re all inhabiting our own cubicles from hell.

I used to have a newspaper colleague who, each time she got on the phone with a demanding out-of-town editor with another unreasonable demand, would murmur her assent.

Then she’d hang up and announce to our small office:

Shoot me now!”

She later quit, came back, and quit again.

When you quit, you take control, most often from someone or something not used to relinquishing that sweet, delicious domination.

A fellow journalist I know once worked at an art gallery, for a tyrant she hated. He talked behind her back and belittled everyone else who worked for him. The employees traded stories; they all knew the score.

So one day, she quit.

Months later, she was waiting for an elevator inside some city high-rise and the door opened and there he was, alone in the elevator.

It was a reunion neither anticipated, nor wanted.

He began babbling, “Barbara, how great it is to see you! How are you doing?”

She stood her ground, waiting there, looking him in the eye, without saying a single word.

Then the elevator door closed.

She didn’t get on. Because she had moved on.

Little Mussolini and his opinions didn’t matter anymore, what he said or thought or schemed was now less than meaningless, less than zero.

As my relatives like to say, “He was dead to her.”

Along with quitting jobs, we’ve also been fired.

Laid off, let go.

Oh, they hate to to do it, they’ll say. But here’s your last paycheck and there’s the door.

And newspapers are the biggest thieves of human dignity.

Consider the emergency meeting in the city room where entire staffs are fired, only to find security guards waiting back at their desks, to escort them out the door, so they don’t steal any company pencils on the way out.

Well, saying I quit beats these bastards to the punch.

You all have your best “See ya!” stories, no doubt.

Here’s mine.

He hired me, then hated me.

Back then, I was working at a newspaper on the West Coast, as a writer in the features section.

After a few years of seeing my professional ceiling descend like a compactor at the auto salvage yard, I applied for work with the Los Angeles Times.

Most people are stealthy when they apply for other jobs.

Not me.

Sigh.

So, I went around the office, blabbering.

“Hey, I applied for a job at the LA Times!” I told anyone who would listen.

My candor backfired.

Months passed without word.

“How’d that Times thing work out?” colleagues asked.

Then my boss went on vacation.

That’s when I heard back from the Times, did several interviews, took my drug test.

And waited.

The offer was there, I’d been told, as long as I was clean.

On the morning Barney the boss returned to work, my desk phone rang.

It was the clinic.

“Everything looks fine,” the nurse said.

I got the job.

Now I just had to tell Barney.

His desk was just across the way from mine and he was busy that day, shuffling papers, retaking control of his little fiefdom, stepping on toes and necks anew.

Before I could get his attention, he sidled up to my desk.

“Got a minute?”

I sure as hell did.

I followed him to a small glass cubicle (from hell) and took a seat.

As I looked on, he presented red-penned copies of stories I’d written in his absence.

“This is inexcusable,” he said, tightening the noose of his power.

He went on, and I let him.

“You need to buckle down here, mister. Apparently, you’re not going to get that job at the LA Times …”

Finally, I stopped him.

“Barney,” I said. “I got the job.”

He paused. I think his mouth even dropped.

“You did?”

“I did.”

I let the words settle.

“So, I guess we don’t have to continue this little evaluation, do we?”

Then I got up and walked out.

I quit.

John M. Glionna is a writer and freelance journalist based in Sin City.

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Former Big City Journalist turned Sojourner

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John Michael Glionna

John Michael Glionna

Former Big City Journalist turned Sojourner

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