I've worked full-time in information technology for 15 years. Started in 2001, and just kept going. It was never my plan. Although I did intend to major in computer science my first semester in college, I quickly dropped that plan when I found out they had no courses on the internet or networking. There was no IT major at the time. My interests were broad, so I jumped around majors from Japanese & East Asian Studies, to maybe Classics, to possibly Linguistics, and finally settled on Geography. By the time I settled and graduated, I was already a part-time student working full-time in IT, and would have had to take a significant pay cut to become a park ranger, GIS technician, or whatever else it is geographers are qualified to do. The money was good, and hey, I was a techie. So I kept going.
I started as a desktop support person. Then a business analyst turned application developer. Then an IT manager, in a chaotic environment, at much too young of an age. I got my masters degree in the midst of my growing career, still seeking and searching for what I would "do". I tried out working at a user experience agency, a public library, and then returned to my familiar environment - higher ed. I was growing more and more dissatisfied with the limitations I found in my environment. But, I kept going. So with my new daughter barely 6 months old, I kept going, and took a new job, a new role, in a new environment. Another step forward.
In retrospect, the timing may not have been ideal (this is an understatement). But, it did help catalyze one thing in particular. I needed to stop keeping going. And so (with luck, and family support, and due to much privilege) I stopped. I know many people who wish they could just stop, even for a moment, just to catch their breath and think through their options, but they can't - or at least, they think they can't. I was one of those people. I simply thought I couldn't stop. Gotta keep going. Never a good enough reason to stop. Always a million reasons to not stop.
It's only been a few weeks since I left my job. I'm trying out the stay-at-home dad gig, as well as the aspiring entrepreneur gig (which hopefully will let me continue the stay-at-home dad gig). You can see the past and present on my LinkedIn profile. It still feels like a vacation, although my daughter is about to start walking, and she has a devilish grin which I just know means "danger's gonna be my middle name", so pretty soon it's probably not going to feel like a vacation. By the end of the year, I'll assess our financial situation and see what's possible, and whether I need to return to work full-time sooner, later, or best case - never.
But aside from all that, I have to tell you, ever since I left my job, on my own terms and timeline, I feel different. My perspective is different. For those familiar, like Zoolander level different.
And it's all because I stopped - even if turns out to be just for a moment. So I just have to tell you, if you are thinking that you want to stop, maybe take a pause, reassess your career path and goals, possibly try something else out... it's worth it. Figure it out. Do it. Try it. Life is short, so your career is even shorter. It's hard to imagine what it's like on the outside when you are on the inside. You think you know, and you rationalize your choice to stay inside. But once you are outside, you might find yourself thinking completely differently, and not necessarily because you've had an epiphany or a zen moment. Just because the view looks different. So, in the words of Tim Gunn, "make it work". In the words of Nike, "just do it". In the words of the Internet hive mind, "make it happen". And in the words of Daft Punk...