Savings? Check. Star signs? Checked. Esther O’Moore Donohoe talks about the labour behind quitting a job you’ve had for 12 years, ignoring horoscopes and listening to her gut.
When it comes to horoscopes, I am a non-believing believer. That is to say, when I need some guidance to confirm a decision I’m about to make, I’ll take a glance at the stars. If my weekly forecast read, “Aquarians do not play by society’s rules” I’d take that as confirmation that in fact, yes, I should eat the expired selection box I found shoved at the back of the hot press, immediately. If, however, it read, “Venus is in Saturn’s orbit and under no circumstances should you eat gone-off seasonal chocolate” I’d tell myself it was all a load of old nonsense as I tenderly unwrapped a Curly Wurly.
Over the past few months, the frequency of my visits to various online astrologers has gone through the roof. Did you find more gone-off food in your house you wanted to eat, Esther? A great question, to which the answer is yes, but not the reason I’ve been clicking on my star sign with gusto. You see, I wanted a stranger on the internet with no knowledge of my life or circumstance to tell me with complete certainty that I should hand in my notice and leave my day job of 12-plus years.
Now, lest you think I am the type of person who makes major life changes based on random star signs, of course, I’m not. I also looked for messages in the clouds. “It sort of looks like a squirrel eating a can of beans, but they could also be spelling out ‘Do it EO’MD’.” My completely non-scientific or logical quest for a definitive answer did not stop there, however. I listened to an endless stream of podcasts on manifestation, watched The Secret and Googled “People who left their day jobs and went on to incredible success” at least 13 times a day. And bafflingly, I got no closer to making a decision.
It’s not that I didn’t know what I wanted to do. In fact, I knew with every fibre of my being, and well-worn WFH tracksuit bottoms, exactly what I wanted. But leaving a secure job to work as a freelance writer/podcaster/voiceover/whatever else anyone else will pay me to do, is bananas. I mean, just who do I think I am – Prince Harry? I have bills to pay and a Leap Card to keep topped up, just like everyone else.
Naturally, I was scared – of course, I was. Leaving a work routine, colleagues I liked and crucially, a reliable wage paid straight into my bank account every month are not things to easily walk away from. But no magical manifestation spell or knight in shining armour was going to make the decision for me, so I had to stop ruminating, take action and make a plan.
Over New Year’s, I sketched a delicate exit strategy on the back of a Christmas card. I told no one about it except Frank, the ficus plant that lives in my WFH office. I confided in him that I was definitely and absolutely going to leave… at a time yet to be determined. Would it be in the spring? End of summer? July 2023? I wasn’t sure yet, but Frank’s reaction was emphatic – he said absolutely nothing because he was a house plant from Lidl. Still, I chose to interpret his silent stillness as an endorsement.
I made a website. I did short online courses after work on sexy things like cash flow management and listened to podcasts on freelancing. But the sexiness didn’t stop there. I also worked out my tax return early and broke down how much I’d have to earn monthly to cover my non-negotiables such as eating. They say you make plans and God laughs, but collectively, these little steps gave me a sense of control over what I was doing and built up my confidence.
Cut to May this year. I had taken two weeks’ annual leave and thought of little else but pulling the trigger on my grand plan the entire time. Sitting in on a meeting the Monday I got back confirmed that the time was now, right now.
I felt like a contestant on the dating show Take Me Out. The more they talked, the more I wanted to turn off my light and get out of there. Right after the Zoom, I emailed my boss and asked her if we could have a chat at some stage during the week, which we did, the very next day. In all my resignation daydreams, I never imagined I’d do it over a Skype call, especially having worked there so long. But that’s what happened. She was understanding and supportive, and I was surprised I didn’t cry. It was only when, immediately after our call, I emailed HR to officially let them know when my final day would be, that it hit me and I started to weep. After thinking about it for so long, it was finally done. No turning back now.
As I write this, my laptop is resting on my knees as my friend drives us west for a few days’ break. I am no longer an employee. The security swipe and lanyard I haven’t used in a year is back in Dublin, piled on top of my old work laptop and keyboard. I have logged off Teams for the final time and have left the work WhatsApp group forever. Does that feel good? Oh yeah, it does. Am I nervous? Of course! Do I worry about being able to meet my financial commitments? Abso-frickin-lutely. Nothing is certain. But in spite of all this, my gut tells me I am making the right decision for me right now, whatever the stars say.
When I first told my mum I was thinking about leaving my salaried job, I could see a beat of worry flash across her face. She then thought about it, asked a few questions and said, “I think it is time for a change. I think you can do it. And if worst comes to worst, you can always get another job.” And she’s right. I’ll always find something to do because I live in the real world with real-world bills, so I’ll have to. I know I’ll figure it out. But before all that, I need to head out and get myself some Alka Seltzer, stat. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten all that chocolate.
This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2021 issue of IMAGE Magazine.