I’m 33 years old. I’ve got several bills to pay and I just quit my job of eight and a half years with no real plan for the future. Life is good. I hope.
If you know me personally, this news probably comes as much of a surprise to you as me. Twenty-four hours ago I didn’t think I would be sitting at home now unemployed. And yet at 4:30am I found myself punching out for the last time and getting in my frigid car to drive home.
Over the last four years I’ve been a CNC lathe operator on third shift, working 11pm to 7am five days a week. If you don’t know what a lathe is, it is a high torque machine that spins material around at the ends so that it can be turned down. On a wood lathe a person might make a baseball bat or table legs. The lathe I operated turned down steel bar. CNC just means that it is computer controlled and not manual. About 90% of the parts I made were pins of some kind of another. Sometimes with snap ring grooves and milling at the end like this:
Sometimes something super boring like this:
There is some amount of training involved in selecting the right tools, calling up the program, and setting up the machine. There’s even more training involved in learning the programs. But for the most part I ran high production jobs. Put a part in, push a button, watch the machine make the part, take the the part out, put another in, repeat. Inspect every tenth part to specifications.
It’s monotonous work. The night drags on. Prior to being a CNC operator I had been a shift supervisor, office shipping clerk, and product handler on the warehouse floor. All of those things are more interesting and varied than running 600 pins in a night.
The last two years or so I’ve been having regular mini-episodes. Not quite panic attacks, not quite waves of depression, but something noticeable nonetheless. More often than not they would occur on a Thursday. It’s been a long week, there’s still one more day to go. Fridays were not so bad because you knew you were done for the week as soon as the shift was over. Most of time these mini-episodes brought on the thought, What am I doing here!? I can’t believe this is what I’m doing with my life! And usually they were very short episodes, a minute or two long, and I could talk myself down on the way to the restroom or vending machine. This past Thursday my mini-episode started early at midnight and lasted four hours. As I was looking at a part I was inspecting, a part that I have probably made 20,000 times before, all I could think was that I didn’t want to make one more part. I wanted to go home and I did not want to come back.
So that’s what I did. It’s still surreal in my mind. Every synapse in my brain was screaming, What are you doing? How are you going to pay your mortgage, your credit cards, and your student loans? This is not a reasonable course of action! And yet my mouth still said the words to my supervisor, “I think I have to quit.” And my body still walked out the door.
Now most of my friends and family know that I have been miserable at this job for the last five years or more. I’d undertake a half-hearted job search every once in a while, but nothing ever really grabbed me and sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. I’d had an idea a few times that if I just quit with no plan that it would light a fire under my ass to make something good happen for myself. When I would share this thought with others, it wasn’t met with much optimism.
In some ways I feel like a spoiled brat. A good honest (sort of) job wasn’t good enough for me? I have a roof over my head, a Netflix subscription, and a motorcycle in the garage. All of that isn’t enough to satisfy me? I have to be content with my job duties and hours, too? People are dying in civil wars in other countries and I throw away my only steady income because I’m not satisfied? I guess so.
So now what?
For a while now I’ve been dabbling in entrepreneurial pursuits. I say dabbling even though I’ve been putting a lot of hours into these pursuits because I’m not seeing them pay off just yet. I’m probably not following the steps correctly and I may have to read The $100 Startup again. I think step one was don’t quit your day job until your side gig is booming. I’m thinking about doing some private tutoring. Maybe I’ll get back into substitute teaching. And maybe I’ll crack and find another lowly job in warehousing and manufacturing because that’s considered my field of experience in the real world. Unfortunately, my Love Poems and UFOs Kickstarter campaign is not off to a huge start, but it was never really intended to be an income earner as much as a portfolio booster. This morning I sold the last bit of stock in my personal portfolio. Shortly I’ll be listing some items for sale on eBay and craigslist to help me get by. And I’m going to try to churn out some art and promote my Etsy store. Other than that I guess I’ll be reading the want ads and looking for something promising.
There are no guarantees in life. The only thing I am certain of now is at the end of my life I won’t wish I had stuck it out longer at that job. That being said, I’m not sure I would recommend this course of action to others. It’s a small miracle I got to my car without throwing up.