When To Leave your Job

Jesus changed from carpentry to full-time ministry work when he was thirty.  (Luke 3:23) But what about us?

The past two months, I have written about trips, diets, running, and more.  All the while, I’ve been waiting to write this post.  This post that I started to write two months ago.

There was one final question to our “work” trilogyWhen are you called to be content in your work, and when is it time to try something new? 

Remember back in December?  When I posted about work, the nature of work, and whether or not there was such a thing as a perfect job?  Well, the reason I was musing over those first world problems was because I was feeling restless in my career as a teacher.

You see, I didn’t study education in college.  I didn’t take “Teacher Cadet” in high school (yes there is such a thing).   I didn’t even dream of being a teacher when I was a kid.  But this is where my life took me, into the classroom.

It happened like this.  For four years in college, I studied political science, Asian studies, and how to run a full-time ministry with Young Life.  I imagined I would have three career choices:  Lawyer, International Politician, or Young Life staff person.  The first fell apart after an internship.  The second looked less glamorous after 3 months in China, and the third?  That was my dream job.

The dream of full-time ministry work died with the rest of the world’s finances in the 2008 recession, so, instead, I considered Teach for America.  Surprisingly, the doors into an inner-city public school kept opening, while the other doors kept shutting.

Two years later, I had been through the ringer.  Learning to manage classrooms of defiant kids, creating rigorous curriculum, training other new teachers… it was challenging, emotionally draining, and at times I wanted to quit.   The next step seemed obvious.  Maybe my career should continue at a private school.  A Christian school.  Maybe there I’ll feel fulfilled without the daily trauma.

Well, folks it turns out the old adage is true.  The grass is greener on neither side.

Which brought me to December, and all the questions I was having about work.  Was I just expecting too much from a job?  Should I just sit down, be quiet, and enjoy the 140 minutes of planning time I get in my new cushy gig?  Why did I feel so restless?

With two weeks off, I set out to answer my questions: should I learn to be content, or decide right now to leave teaching?  I met with people who had quit their cushy jobs.  I talked to people who rightly chastised me on my lack of gratitude.  I got in a fight with my mom.  I wrote on this blog.  I read this article entitled “Don’t Chase Your Dreams Yet,” which I highly recommend.

And I came to an answer.  I needed to learn to be grateful and content.  

With that in mind, I stopped writing on my blog about work.  I started a new challenge with paleo.  I decided that maybe I would start that lacrosse team after all.  I walked back into the private school with a smile on my face and excitement for what the second semester might hold for me.

And then, my principal called me into her office.

Picture this.  It’s Friday before the long Martin Luther King Weekend, and I’m sitting in a dimly lit room.  My boss’ look says, “I hate what I’m going to have to tell you.”

You guessed it.  Because of the tight budget, the school is finding ways in which they can be more efficient.  Translation: Claire, you need to find a new job for next year.

Ouch.  It hurt.  I cried.  And I remembered this blog post I never wrote.   I had decided not to leave my job–and then here I was, being told I had to.  Would it have felt better if I had been the one in control?  Would I have been more excited about the future?  No.

I am convinced that this is God’s will for my life.  That the pangs I had been feeling throughout the fall was his hand moving in my heart–preparing me for what was ahead.

So, the question:  Should you be content or is it time for you to leave?  That’s really two different questions.  Should you be content?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Is it time for you to leave a job you’re unhappy with?  I don’t know.  But it’s time for me.