Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Plan "B" is For Bonus and Buh-Bye

My friend Bubbles has been strongly recommending, for many months now (approximately 17), that I establish a countdown to my departure date. She was in a similar position to me - a lawyer at a firm doing work that she hated and feeling miserable because she was not doing anything about which she was passionate - and establishing a concrete departure date helped her get through it. She set her departure date early on. If I recall correctly, she started counting down when she had about 170 days to go. She's a planner like that.

Just knowing that she had a clear endpoint gave her the strength she needed to face work each day, and to plan for the future. I think it made her feel less purposeless, or at least like there was a purpose to the temporary purposelessness of her job. I'm projecting, of course (Bubbles, feel free to jump in), because I feel so, so purposeless, and I'm looking for anything that can help me get back to having a sense of purpose. I think a countdown might be just the thing.

Until this point, I was not ready to start counting down. Mainly, because things have been in such a state of flux. It's been hard to get my bearings and hard to plan ahead, partially because the days at work have been so grueling (particularly in June when I billed over 360 hours), and partially because I've been looking for jobs and have had the hope that I might get an offer. Operating under the constant, though tentative, hope that I might get a job, I've had no idea whether I would be faced with the decision/opportunity to leave in the immediate future, and I've struggled with mixed emotions of excitement, nervousness, and fear about the unknown.

Recently I applied for a job with a human rights organization that I really liked. I had a good interview, I enjoyed meeting the people, and I put all my cards on the table in a way I hadn't before, telling them earnestly that I would love the opportunity to work for them, and that I would work incredibly hard. It was such a sincere plea and clear show of enthusiasm - I would have given me the job on the spot. I'm smart, kind, empathetic, passionate, creative, dedicated and, if I do say so myself, pretty to boot (not that that means anything in this context, but I need a little pick-me-up at the moment). Why wouldn't they hire me?

The job was not perfect, in part because it was more organizational and would not have allowed me to do any direct service to asylum clients. Part of me was nervous that I would, if offered the position, accept the position and then, upon starting it, feel a disappointment similar to that I feel each day here - the disappointment of not doing something that I truly love, of feeling like my skills and talents are being wasted, like I am not doing what I'm supposed to be doing, whatever that may be. I want to find something I genuinely love, and I do not want to jump from one fire into another, especially not when the first fire comes with a healthy cash bonus and the second might not even have benes. However, despite these anxieties, overall I thought it would be a great opportunity that would get me out of this firm and get me into the door of a terrific organization that does excellent work, and I wanted to get the job offer.

I also, passionately, wanted the option of being able to walk into Dragon Lady's office to tell her that I was quitting in 2 weeks. I start salivating at the thought of it.

Alas, I'm not going to have that opportunity, at least not just yet. Last night the Director of the human rights organization called me to tell me that they had decided to offer the position to someone else. She also told me how impressed she had been with me, yadda-yadda-yadda, but the punch-line was that they thought someone else was a better fit for the job. That's my fourth ding in a row. What gives Public Interest Jobs? Why don't you want me?

I would have been thrown into the Pit of Despair by this latest rejection - and don't get me wrong, there were definitely a good sprinkling of soul-searching tears last night (but no emotional eating of ice cream pints - go me!) - except that I, forward-thinking, travel-loving girl that I can be, had already come up with a Plan B. That's right! I decided a few weeks ago that if I did not get this job, or if another fantastic opportunity did not present itself, that I was going to commit myself to staying in this deplorable, soul-sucking, vacuous, demoralizing job until January, quit immediately upon receiving my bonus, and then go on a two or three-month trip to anywhere in the World (a little part of me actually wanted to not get the job, just because it's been a dream of mine to go on a long trip like that for years). And I mean quit immediately. As in, 8:00 am on the day after I cash my bonus check, good bye Dragon Lady! Here's my two-weeks notice. Eat your heart out, Sugar. Toodles. It's been real. See ya!

I never thought that plan - staying in a place of toxic misery for a bonus check - would be for me; I never thought I'd sell my immediate happiness for any price. I think I probably looked down with disdain upon people that I thought were doing exactly what I'm now planning to do, until recently.

It turns out I would sell my immediate happiness for my future happiness, and that's what I'm going to do folks. I'm a practical Capricorn in that way. Try as I might, I just can't shake the feeling that to quit now would be impractical and stupid, and that I should be able to suck up a few more months now - during the one time in my life when I'll actually, definitely make some money - so that I can have a little bit more financial security and flexibility in the future. Is this stupid? Am I whoring myself out for my firm's bonus? When I look in the mirror, that's not what I see. I don't see someone who has "sold out." I see someone who has worked extremely hard at this place, who has tried to do as much genuine good here as possible, who feels like she is owed something for the 7 months she's already put in this year for all the firm's hallowed paying clients, and who is trying to plan smartly for the future. I also see someone who is having a rough time, but who knows she's strong enough to sacrifice a little bit longer for a greater good.

And after all, I've been here 20 months already. What's 5 more? This goat can keep climbing this mountain, however harsh the environment for 5 more measly months. Prue said this would happen. She's wise like that.

After some complex adding and subtracting (of holidays, planned vacations, and weekend days - I was thinking positive), I figured out that, assuming I stay here until January 19 (two weeks after I hope and pray I will get my bonus), I have exactly 106 Work Days left until the day I quit. Whoo-hoo!

It's going to be tough to hang in there, but I know I can do it. The countdown begins today.

106 days to go.


Bubbles said...

For the record, my countdown was approximately 315 days (I don't remember the exact count). I had vowed, shortly after turning 27, that I would not be 28 and still working at N & E. I had a montly countdown calender, a weekly countdown calender and a daily countdown calender. I am now just a month and a half shy of working at my new job for the same amount of time that I was counting down leaving my old job. It seems like a million years ago and, at least once a week, I spend some time being grateful for my new life.

I am very glad you made the decision.

Pas said...

As one of my sort-of bosses used to say (as i worried myself to a panic about finding a post-fellowship job), you'll end up where you belong. Maybe not next month, but some time in the not-too-far future. I belive this is true. As long as you have the ambition to move in the right direction (e.g., quitting your job), you'll get where you should be. Congratulations on moving forward.

wood said...

I'm proud of you.

Gypsy said...

What a great plan! I don't think sticking around to get your bonus is selling out. It's just smart.

Good luck!

Buttercup said...

Bubbles, Pas, Wood, and Gypsy - Though I'm not sure I've done anything to be proud of (I was rejected after all), thank you all for your comments!

Ally Bean said...

good for you. you're on your way now.

Tracy said...

Go girl! That sounds like a shrewd decision. I can't wait to read the post entitled, "Buh-Bye, Dragon Lady!"

Bean said...

Finally!!!! You have set a date where not only you will quit this horrendous pain in the ass job, you will move on in your life to uncertainty and happiness! Sorry bout the jobs, but that's their loss, the right job just hasn't found you yet so hang in there and if not, Plan B sounds fabulous! Love you!