Getting off the gravy train
February 10, 2016 11:39 AM   Subscribe

I want to quit my stable and perfectly good job to do: nothing. Am I an idiot?

I've had the same job since I graduated from college in 2010. It's a social-science research gig tangential to the international development world. Mostly I sit in a cubicle and try to get useful information out of messy survey data. Some light stats and programming are involved.

On paper, it sounds perfect. Nobody cares or even notices when I come in or leave, and I can work from home whenever I want (but rarely do, since my commute is pretty easy). I can take a paid day off with no warning. The internet is unfiltered and my cubicle private enough that I can waste time with confidence. I get good healthcare, vacation hours, even matching contributions to a retirement account. My salary is not amazing but adequate, and I recently got a minor promotion and a raise. I travel two or three times a year and my passport is full of stamps from the warmer and poorer places of the world. There's free coffee at the office.

The downsides are less tangible. Nearly all of my department is in a different state, so I don't really have any human contact other than through the phone and minimal small talk with my cube neighbors. I will sometimes go two or three days without speaking to anyone. Juggling the Very Urgent requests from half a dozen project managers who aren't talking to each other can be tiring. I never intended to work in this field, and I'm convinced that the actual work we do is either pointless number-crunching unread by anyone important (at best) or expensive indulgences purchased by the lords of neocolonialism (at worst). In the end, I'm just tired of it. Some days I feel like I'm slowly dying every minute I'm here.

Not that I'd want to, but I'm not sure I would be able to get the same kind of job again - everyone else in my position has a Master's or better, and I just sort of snuck in somehow.

A year ago I applied for Dream Writing Job on a whim and (to my surprise) got an interview, kicking off a long and frustrating process in which I was rejected, accepted for a trial contract, rejected again, invited to re-apply with a larger portfolio, and then rejected one last time, after producing pages and pages of unpublished material. It was exhausting, and left me unsure whether I was good enough but unlucky, or not good enough but somehow lucked into an interview. During that process, though, I realized that I was fantasizing about quitting my old job as much as I was about starting the new one.

While I wait to find another dream job to try out for, I'm going through the usual late-20s What Do I Do With My Life crisis. I got a serious digital piano recently, and if left to my own devices I'd be playing it eight hours a day, but I'm not so dumb that I think I can do that for a living. My girlfriend suggested that it could be a nice change to just do some kind of part-time barista or bookstore type of work, which sounds appealing, but I have no real experience there.

I have a pretty good pile of money saved up, and my expenses are low, so I wouldn't need to find something right away, but I'm concerned about losing my health insurance. I finally found a doctor I like, and was recently prescribed medication I expect to take for the foreseeable future. I'm too old to ride on my parents' plan. I got seriously ill on my way back from my most recent work trip and landed in the hospital for a night, and that $5,000 bill would have been a real bummer if insurance hadn't covered it.

Have you left a good job for no particular reason and with no specific plans? How did that go?
posted by theodolite to Work & Money (43 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think one of the hardest things people struggle with after a break in employment is being able to say what they did during the time off. Interviewers are going to want to know how your skills are up to date.

So assuming you will eventually have to go back to some sort of formal employment, I suggest you plan ahead for this situation. Be able to say "I was fortunate enough to be able to take time off work. But I stayed current in my field by doing X, Y and Z." X, Y and Z being things like contract work, volunteering, continuing education, publishing a paper in a professional journal or website, etc.

I think we are heading for a significant economic downturn so the idea of quitting a job without an offer in hand sounds pretty insane to me. So I guess if you feel like you absolutely must quit instead of just finding a better job now that makes you happier, sit down and write out a very specific budget. Living expenses, health care costs, emergency fund. Figure out how long you can live. Then subtract at least a year to allow for job hunting taking longer than you think. The old saw about it being easier to find a job when you currently have a job is completely true.

WRT healthcare, honestly, if quitting your job will make you eligible for assistance with paying for healthcare, that's a pretty terrible thing to do to your fellow taxpayers. Helping poorer people pay for healthcare only works if those who can contribute via taxes, do their part.
posted by Beti at 11:57 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I wouldn't go so far as to call you an idiot, but yeah... this is a bad idea.

Look at these upsides: "Nobody cares or even notices when I come in or leave, and I can work from home whenever I want.... I can take a paid day off with no warning. The internet is unfiltered and my cubicle private enough that I can waste time with confidence. I get good healthcare, vacation hours, even matching contributions to a retirement account. My salary is... adequate, and I recently got a minor promotion and a raise. I travel two or three times a year [to] the warmer and poorer places of the world."

Let me tell you - not a lot of jobs get that good in this world. You seem to know that it might be tough to get another job like this down the road - think good and hard about the fact that the next job you get might be way, way worse in many important ways. What if your next job was equally boring and pointless, but had a face time requirement, locked down internet, and worse pay? That could be you in 2 years - especially if you're not really making any plans to prevent it from happening.

Also as someone who's been through that phase of my career, I can tell you that the amount you currently think of as "a pretty good pile of money" is quite likely to seem like peanuts in a few years once you start to want a house, a kid, maybe a realistic retirement plan. Like the fact that a $5K hospital bill would be "a real bummer" for you - that is not a good, stable place to be. I mean there's no shame in it, lots of people in the US are in that position, but you shouldn't make it worse by quitting to do nothing.

I get that feeling fulfilled in your work is important, and I'm not saying you should stay in this job forever. But you should use this opportunity - which is, after all, a place of enormous privilege - to make really really sure you can move on to something better and more fulfilling. Don't just walk away because "meh" - you actually have a long way to fall if you're not careful.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:58 AM on February 10, 2016 [29 favorites]

I will say the "dream jobs" you're describing are not lucrative. What you're describing sound an awful lot like hobbies, due to the fact that most people who pursue them can't afford to survive solely on what they make from them.

A good job is hard to find and instead of fantasizing about all the fun you could have if you didn't have to show up at an office every day, think about how stabile and secure you are thanks to that job.

You're paying down student loans, (or are entirely out of debt,) you have a tidy nest egg. The world is your oyster. If you're bored learn new stuff. See what the next move would be and work towards it with training, certification or some other schooling.

No one ever looked back on their youth and said, "Gee, I wish I was working a minimum wage job and learning the keyboard. Instead of being financially secure."

It's a fantasy. Buy a lottery ticket. Power through it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:04 PM on February 10, 2016 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Work from home more often and play the piano while doing it.
posted by AugustWest at 12:05 PM on February 10, 2016 [28 favorites]

Best answer: You are probably aware that I was out of work for a bit over a year--started unintentionally but then I decided to ride it out for a while. It was really nice to just kind of quit real life for several months. I did exactly nothing of value with my time. Watched a lot of movies, hung out with my dog a lot, determined the exact number of days I can go without showering before disgusting even myself (it's four, for those playing along at home) and it was generally pretty awesome.

Things to keep in mind:

-health insurance was no problem because grabbing a plan on the marketplace (thanks, Obama.) was dead easy. You should poke around at plans (which you can do without filling out an application by browsing here) and see which ones let you keep the doctor you like. It's 2016 and we have the ACA now--there is no reason for you not to have health coverage.

-dental coverage is another matter entirely.

-I talked to far fewer people while farting around at home than you do on an average workday, so if seeing other people ever is a priority for you you should actually figure out something to do with all your free time.

-money, you should make sure you have enough.

If you're looking to escape and do ANYTHING, you should temp. If that's something you're interested in let me know and I'll hook you up with my person. Just send me an email if you decide to pull the plug.

THAT SAID, I made peace a few years ago with having a job that provided me no personal fulfillment whatsoever. I have my Girl Scouts, I have my dog, I have things outside of my job that make me happy; a job just gives me money enough to make sure I can keep doing them. It's not the most romantic idea, but I've come to realize I don't really care what I do because nothing that pays money seems particularly interesting enough to me to put more than the bare minimum of effort into it, and if I can put the bare minimum of effort into something and get paid for it, hey why not.
posted by phunniemee at 12:08 PM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

You HAVE a dream job. Work on finding ways to fulfill yourself while keeping it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:14 PM on February 10, 2016 [31 favorites]

Best answer: Most people think of burnout as something that comes from having too much to do, too much stress, etc.

But there's another kind of burnout that stems from not having enough to do, not being challenged enough at work. My guess is that you're burnt out from insufficient challenges.

People think it's crazy, but I've encouraged folks in your situation to ask their managers for more work - or at least more complex work, anything that would challenge you more. It'll make your days feel more meaningful.

Sitting and relaxing on the gravy train feels safe until you start to rot from boredom. It absolutely works for some people but it's not for everyone.
posted by jasper411 at 12:16 PM on February 10, 2016 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I'm concerned about losing my health insurance.

You might want to look into what low options exist in your state (because this is a very state by state thing). In Vermont if I was not employed I could get seriously subsidized health care that would be the same stuff I have now, just less expensive. You may have those options. When I left MetaFilter I was only heading to a super part-time job, no real safety net other than a lot of money in the bank. It worked out okay for me. I did a year of catastrophic-only health care which was a mistake (I was still making just too much money to get subsidized care) but I don't think leaving the job was a mistake.

However there's definitely going to be a sense where it's unlikely that I will ever find a job that is that good a lifestyle fit again. I have done other jobs since them. All of them were worse. Which is not to say that MetaFilter was perfect, but some of the things that were me being "Ugh I don't want to DEAL with this" were just sort of ... things about working, not about this job. And some of the things that I thought were just normal stuff about working (loving co-workers, people generally agreeing with my politics and ethics) turn out to be a lot harder to come by.

So it might be worth seeing if you're just grousing about the fit not being perfect when it is in fact about as good as you are likely to get. And also thinking a bit about yourself and whether you are likely to be more fulfilled in your life not having to go to a job that you don't find fulfilling? For me, while I miss my coworkers and have some "You walked out on the best job you are likely to have" feelings I also would have done the exact same thing knowing what i know now. It's only a job. Different people have differing relationships to work generally and it's worth spending some solid time figuring out what your relationship to the idea of work is. It's easy to say "Oh I should play more keyboards" when you have a ready excuse not to.
posted by jessamyn at 12:19 PM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

You're describing the PERFECT day job.

This is the kind of job that people have while they're writing their first novel, or making a video game, or getting into screenwriting, or starting a webcomic, or any number of other things that CAN turn into a career but have a minimum of 3-5 years of obscurity and discouragement built into them.

Honestly, it's kind of too bad that you got this job right out of school, because that makes it REALLY hard to have like...the gut-level understanding of how good of a deal this is.

If the job isn't making you actively unhappy, if it's giving you the time to develop other skills or investigate other careers on your own time, I would absolutely stay. And I'm saying this as a full-time freelancer.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:19 PM on February 10, 2016 [44 favorites]

Please don't do this.

I was in a similar position years ago, I took a job that was OK, but not challenging, at the top of the track but no real chance for advancement without going into management (urgh!)

I was a bit depressed, but started looking at the good parts. Good pay, good hours (I love weekdays off!), overtime eligible. It's about 35 hours out of 168 in a week. That's a lot of time to live. Got another degree (they paid), I have some hobbies, volunteer at the animal shelter a couple of days a week.

Life is good, the job's... OK.
posted by Marky at 12:19 PM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Keep your job, and look into how you're using your time. You travel 2-3 times a year to other countries? Dude, people will KILL to have that time and luxury. Work from home? Drool-worthy.

I might as well give my little "when I was unemployed" story, since you asked for anecdotes:

I left my first job two years ago, after being there for 4.5 years. Hot startup (well, not a startup anymore since it IPOed while I was there), great benefits, awesome teammates, good salary (I was actually underpaid, but didn't know it back then). But it started getting a little bureaucratic there, and I wasn't enjoying my work anymore. I kind of had a post-job plan - I was going to get into comics and really start working on my graphic novel - but it never happened.

The first couple of months were CRAZY. When you've been working for years, with a daily routine on weekdays, and then suddenly you don't have that routine anymore, and every day is a weekend basically, your body and mind can get super-thrown off, especially if you don't have a post-job plan. I spent hours every day just dozing, or poking through my comic books, or browsing the Internet, or taking a walk when I couldn't stand being indoors.

After those first two months, I finally wrote down a schedule of things to do: wake up at 9am, jog at 10am, sketch from 1pm to 3pm, etc. I'm the type of person who needs a well-established routine to function correctly.

For the rest of my "fun-employed" time, I had a blast. I went to museums when everyone else was at work or school, I sipped lattes at my favorite café and sketched, and there were always empty seats. I went to Hawaii to see my best friend without worrying about counting PTO. And I had "schedule-free" days sprinkled in to be a slob and eat nachos all day while binge-watching Netflix.

HOWEVER... I had a lot of money saved up. I'm frugal by nature, and if I was spending the same amount of money per month that my coworkers were spending, I wouldn't have jumped ship. Before I left the job, I spend SEVERAL MONTHS looking over my finances, double-checking my expenses, setting up a budget, and reassuring myself that I can leave. I'm also the kind of person who likes doing things alone, so if you're a socialite, you might have trouble because your friends are working while you're not.

I did eventually get another job, but here's where the no-job gap can bite you. That gap for me was nine months when I started job-hunting. It took me three months before I found my current job, because (a) I was rusty from not working, and (b) I really had to sell myself harder to make up for that gap. And this is in software engineering, one of the hottest industries right now where every damn startup is looking for engineers... and it still took me three months to find a job.

All of this is to say... if you want to leave your job and not work for a while, you better have a damn plan, and you have to be 100% okay with the risk of not finding a job for a long time, if the economy tanks.

Ok I think my post went long enough.
posted by curagea at 12:30 PM on February 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

I have walked away from a perfectly good job- and so far it's been great (but I only did it after I knew I had a backup plan for health insurance). After some time off I decided I wanted to go back to school. Sometimes you just don't have the mental space to figure out what you want to be doing when you're still caught up emotionally in the day to day of the old job. Sure, ideally you'd have something lined up, but if you've got some savings, why not just do it now? How often in your life will you be in a position where you can try making a change for the better like this with a safety net (savings, a roof over your head, and a hobby to fill the time)?
posted by Secretariat at 12:35 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I did this.

I volunteered for a redundancy at a very well-paying but kind of soul-sucking job and skipped outta there. I absolutely loved having the time off, but would I do it again? No.

The key reason is that it took a lot longer to find a job than I anticipated. I was planning to be out for 6 months, but it took a year. And the key reason it took so long was that I was looking for a career change, which it sounds like you are as well. When you are changing careers, it just takes longer - you don't have as many contacts in the new field, you don't have the experience, you aren't credentialized - in short, your future employer would have to kind of take a chance on you, and that makes the odds longer. Not undoable - I did it and I'm sure you can too, but it is definitely a harder road.

Here's what I would recommend: take the downtime at your current role and map out your next steps. If you need to get credentialized, start taking classes. If you need practice, do it now. If you need to expand your network, start reaching out. Get to a level where you have a really good feeling for what the next step is, and then quit. Best case scenario is to get a new job before you quit this one that will allow you to take some time off before you start. I worked with guy who was able to defer his new job for a couple of months, and he had 2 months off during he summer with his kids. Best time of his life.

Good luck!
posted by widdershins at 12:51 PM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

You HAVE a dream job. Work on finding ways to fulfill yourself while keeping it.

I think this is it. As other posters have said, you are not an idiot for thinking of quitting, but I don't think you should actually do it, either. Chill out at your job and use your free time to research and apply for other jobs, grad programs, or whatever.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:05 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You are describing my exact situation so closely that when I read it I questioned whether I had somehow written it myself. Anyway, I have been feeling very under-utilized lately and it's been frustrating. For awhile I clicked through a lot of imgur. Hours of imgur. 8 Hours of imgur. It made the day slower and I became more and more burned out. I thought about being a bartender and making jewelry.

Someone posted recently about how to stay more productive while at work and I took a lot of it to heart and tried to incorporate it into my day. I started making new projects for myself, introducing myself to new people in different online capacities, and now I have a way bigger network while at the same time using my work hours at maximum potential. I've started working as a collaborator/editor for a zine, volunteering at a non-profit, and just signed up for my first community garden plot. I'm also up for consideration at a few companies that I am super excited about and that's because I took the time to round out my resume while working at my current job.

It seems like the right idea to quit sometimes because it's not challenging and feels like those hours could be spent doing something more worthwhile elsewhere. In reality, usually looks more like Netflix.
posted by Marinara at 1:05 PM on February 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

Have you left a good job for no particular reason and with no specific plans? How did that go?

I think the part that makes me nervous about your question is the phrase "no specific plans."

When I graduated from college, I started work in a mail room to pay the bills and a few months later found that I was a bankruptcy consultant for corporations navigating Chapter 11. I quit to become a writer, and it basically worked out after years of ups and downs.

But when I quit, I had a definite plan for what I wanted to accomplish creatively within a certain time frame, and then a general plan for what to do for money after that. (Needed, as it turned out.) I guess you have to ask yourself, are you quitting to screw around for a while or are you quitting to accomplish something creatively? Either is fine, but make it clear to yourself which you are doing. Your job sounds pretty rare, in terms of perks and freedom. If you're quitting to screw around a while, consider this decision very carefully. You've already lucked out. By the law of averages, your next job is probably going to be worse and/or harder to find. I've seen friends quit jobs to generally "be creative" and the time just leaked away on them.

One compromise: start writing at work. Instead of taking internet breaks, periodically set your phone for 20-30 minutes (whatever you can get away with) and write for that period. Come in an hour early, disconnect the internet, and do a writing sprint until everybody else gets in. If you find that this is enough writing for you, stick with the program until an opportunity pops up. If you find that you need to write full time, make a specific plan for that, then quit.

Short version: Only leave a job for no reason and with no specific plans if you have a reason and specific plans.
posted by Forbidden Equine Dentistry at 1:11 PM on February 10, 2016

Best answer: I'm going to go against the "you have a dream job" grain a bit here. The part of the post that jumped out at me was going days without talking to people. Personally, I think the best part of any job is working with a bunch of smart people with compatible values that I can shoot the shit with every day. I prefer to work in an office with a great team, I would find an office with limited social interaction to be the anti-dream job as well.

Have you thought about hiring a career coach to guide you towards your next move. You could work with this coach while still at your day job. Firm up what it is you really want to do and then go do that. Just quitting without an idea of what to do is a recipe for hurt.
posted by crazycanuck at 1:16 PM on February 10, 2016

I'd recommend working on getting as efficient as possible at your mandatory tasks so that you can take advantage of the freedom and downtime to work on your passions and look for a better aligned job on the side. Also, take advantage of any training and professional networking you can do to make yourself feel less isolated.

Finally, if you do need to get out of there, see if you can take a leave of absence or something for a few months, rather than quitting outright. The economy is not great and leaving yourself without a decent way to pay the bills is not a good idea.
posted by rpfields at 1:40 PM on February 10, 2016

Response by poster: You travel 2-3 times a year to other countries? Dude, people will KILL to have that time and luxury.

It sounds pretty great, right? I thought so too. But maybe it's your fifth or sixth trip out. You're doing the same four-day training session, alone, in three different towns in the African interior. It's supposedly a study of some bullshit project to improve cash crop yields, but you know you're really there to collect data that an ag multinational can use to prevent its sharecroppers from selling to anyone but the company. The food is mostly awful and from time to time it makes you horribly sick. On the eight-hour drive from one town to the next, your driver roars through a village at fifty miles an hour, hits a dog, and laughs.

I appreciate all of the advice so far. It's true that I have it pretty good. But I might have underplayed how deeply sad I am in spite of all the of those wonderful things I mentioned. It's not that I want the freedom of unemployment (which I don't - I would want to find something to do part-time at minimum), it's that I don't know how much longer I can keep doing this. My tiny taste of Dream Writing Job - visiting an office full of what felt like my people, enjoying what I was writing and trying my hardest to make it great - threw into relief how unhappy I am here. Maybe the responses here are right, every job really would be worse than this one, but to me that's a grim thought.
posted by theodolite at 1:41 PM on February 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I have walked away from a lot of "dream" things. I gave up a National Merit Scholarship to a big university and attended the local college for a couple of years. Then I quit college and did the military wife thing. And I later got divorced when everyone was telling me I couldn't and shouldn't because I had been a homemaker a long time. And I later quit a job at a Fortune 500 company in order to go be homeless, a state that has lasted a helluva lot longer than I anticipated.

Do I wish I could have accepted the scholarship and attended the big university and had the big career I thought I would have and all that stuff that everyone imagined it would be if I just stuck it out? Yeah, sure, I wish I had that life. But that life was never going to exist. I knew it when I gave up my scholarship and I know it still. That was not real.

I was molested as a child and I have a medical condition that I was born with which was not diagnosed until my mid thirties. I am clear I dodged a bullet -- many bullets, in fact. I literally walked away from a death sentence. And it just doesn't matter that other people THINK I could have had some dream life. I really never had a shot at a dream life, in spite of all the superficial appearances.

No one can really answer this one for you. This is not the kind of thing anyone else can advise you on. This is the kind of thing where you look into your heart of hearts and you see two paths into the future. One path: Stay at what other people see as a "dream job." How does that future look to you? The other path: Quit. How does that future look to you?

Which future strikes you as darker? Which one is the one where you will have no regrets, even if other people think you did something idiotic?

This is one of those things where you need to feel confident that you will still be glad you did X, even if the road it takes you down is far harder than you expect it to be and everyone around you tells you that you fucked up.

And only you can answer that.
posted by Michele in California at 1:52 PM on February 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Hey , theodolite, it sounds like you've outgrown that job, and that's fine. It's clearly time to move on, which is totally reasonable for your first job out of college. But I think what people are suggesting here is that you should use the fairly remarkable amount of freedom that you have in order to do something that will set you up for something more interesting in the future. Write and submit to places. Research other jobs. Set up informational interviews. Watch instructional piano videos. Maybe plan and take a longish vacation somewhere.

I think the most important thing is that whatever you do, do it with intention and not just to get away from your current job.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 2:09 PM on February 10, 2016 [17 favorites]

Sorry to hear how unhappy you are. If that's the case, then this job probably isn't feasible for you in the long term. So maybe it's time to start plotting your escape.

It sounds like writing is your thing, which is a tough career to count on. But is there any way to start looking for a job more generally in the industry your Dream Job was in, even if it's low-level? Then, once you develop your writing skills, it'll be much easier to slide over to the writing side because you'll already have your contacts in place. I'd suggest starting to look before you quit, and at least get a sense of how difficult it'll be to transition before you actually tell them to take their numbers and shove them.

Good luck.
posted by Forbidden Equine Dentistry at 2:11 PM on February 10, 2016

Best answer: It sounds like you might be depressed and want a new job. So get a new job. Your next job doesn't have to be Your Dream Job. If you like it less than you like this job after a year, you can walk and find a different job. You might be making the perfect the enemy of the good here.

Also, as someone who just went through the process of applying and interviewing for jobs for over a year, your job sounds great as a launch pad to apply for new jobs. You can search for jobs and work on applications at work. You can go on interviews without having to come up with bullshit excuses to justify your absences ("uh, I have to go see a *different* doctor today"). And if there are things you need to do to be a more competitive applicant for your dream job, work towards doing them in your down time at work. I've taken online HTML and CSS tutorials at my desk during down time at work. I did freelance writing while at my desk at one job. Even though I'm not sure those things actually helped me get a new job, they made me feel good about myself, like I was actually doing things instead of just filling a seat 9-5.

Basically, I think you should really try to take advantage of this job. Besides the things mentioned above, look at your benefits. Are you using them? Are you getting the full retirement match? Do they offer professional development that you can use? Are you using your vacation days?

I agree with some of the other answers here in that quitting with no plans sounds like a bad idea. So make some plans, set some goals, and apply for new gigs, even if they're not Your Dream Job. Working towards goals will improve your outlook.
posted by kat518 at 2:13 PM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Until I hit 30 I switched jobs every couple of years. I got bored and wanted something new so I moved on. Nothing wrong with that! It's fun and freeing to quit! But why wouldn't you line up another job first? It doesn't sound like you're independently wealthy or have a viable plan for freelancing, and it does sound like you have the free time to look for work.

After 30 I had too many financial responsibilities to do that kind of thing and have been in a gig much like yours for 9 years. It is pretty sad and disillusioning on a lot of levels. I deal with it by (a) remembering it's just a day job and not my life, (b) using downtime at work to do other stuff I want or need to do, (c) on occasion, get motivated to write up some of my research to get published in a journal, which in theory could help my future employability, (d) look and apply for grants through my office that are more interesting to me than my current projects, and (e) develop relationships with my coworkers so I enjoy spending time with them (which I know is less of an option for you).

I've also lowered my expenses so I can get by on less money, and reduced my work hours accordingly. Can you negotiate for part time hours at work? Or if there are regular slow periods during the year, request unpaid sabbaticals at those times?
posted by metasarah at 2:34 PM on February 10, 2016

Sounds like you have a morality issue with this job. Yes, that is very soul sucking. But you also have some wonderful benefits. I would look at this with a bit of a longer term plan on mind. Use the 'free' time to work on what your dream is. Keep checking in every six months and reassess. Give yourself a timeline of x years (one, three, five). Also, work from home and work from coffee shops if you can. Home will allow you to develop whatever it is you want to develop, and coffee shops may help build a bit of community for you on the meantime.
posted by Vaike at 3:41 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I suggest maybe getting a part-time job right now, while you're still working your full-time one. Also, definitely take advantage of being able to work from home and, since you mention you're financially secure, look up your local community college for anything that might interest you and take a class.

During my twenties, I worked for five years at a cubical job that paid really well, I could go days without speaking to anyone and I was able to work from home two days a week. I actually really loved it, but it was easy work and I started getting really restless, so I picked up a part-time fashion retail job as a sales associate during the last two years while I still worked at the full-time job.

That really brought me out of my shell, helped me become more alive, challenged me, and got my brain in gear. I quit my cube job, kept the retail one, and worked for a temp agency for a year. That was financially stressful, but the agency gave me all sorts of different and interesting jobs to go do and exposed me to new branches of business and opportunity.

I then decided to start taking classes at my local community college. At first I had a degree in mind, then lost interest, and now I take an evening class each quarter on a subject that fascinates and excites me. I also quit temping and asked the agency to find me a permanent job. They got me into an awesome admin job that utilizes all the things I learned through the old job, the retail, the temping, and the classes I took towards the anticipated degree.

To each one's own, but I'm really glad I moved on.
posted by E3 at 5:04 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

1. I would sell my soul to the devil and burn for all eternity to have your job. I'm serious. There are so many worse jobs out there, you have no idea. I would seriously love to not have to talk to people, and you apparently have one of the few jobs in existence with quiet and freedom. You won't have that in virtually any other position.

2. Trying to get another job is nigh impossible any more. I wouldn't recommend quitting unless you were seriously going to blow your brains out if you stay one more day. I have a friend who's now working on her second year of unemployment because employers want the perfect special snowflake and she's never perfect enough for anywhere. This is going on all over the place now. Nobody wants to hire you unless you've 100% already done the job before, so if you want out of this into something else, uh, good luck. IF you insist on doing this, make sure you have at least two years (not one year, two years)' worth of salary saved up or something crazy. The odds of you regretting that you quit a good job when you can't find another one again are high.

3. Writing is not a career I'd recommend trying to get into, they are the most expendable people on the planet these days. Guess how I know.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:56 PM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

Make a commitment to do something else. Is writing your dream job? Tell someone you're going to deliver an article to them in a month. Then use all your downtime to do that. Or take on a demanding volunteer position and use your work time to do that.

I've also been in a job that was a "dream job" like this one -- not a lot of work, not at all meaningful, where I drew a salary and benefits without actually contributing anything useful to society. And I agree that while it sounds fantastic in theory, it can be soul-sucking. The times when I enjoyed that job were when I was devoting my energy to something else, and doing the bare minimum at work. It's like how actors wait tables. It's not their passion, it's their day job.

So I agree with the advice here to use as much of your work downtime as you can to pursue something you're interested in. I think this kind of job can make you lethargic. That's why I suggest making a commitment, having some external pressure to get something done that's meaningful to you.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:07 PM on February 10, 2016

I have worked with many people who have a stable well paying job and yet still do nothing. Often to my chagrin.

At the very least, you could start the doing nothing (or near to it) while still collecting a paycheck, while you figure out your next step. You may be surprised to find how few people notice.

I've done the "leave the apparent dream job, to do nothing" thing before. Twice both times I learned a lot thru the experience. But neither time was it something I couldn't have learned by consciously dialing back & checking out until I'd come up with a different opportunity.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 6:56 PM on February 10, 2016

That 2 sentence description of your travel routine was fascinating. You should write more about your industry and why it sucks. Start a blog about what you've learned, or look into grad school programs that might allow you to make changes in NGOs or work for the UN or whatever the heck you do. Quit your job, or stay but either way figure out how to use what you've learned to be leader rather than a cog.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:00 PM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

And seconding fiercecupcake. Sounds like an ideal place to figure out your next step. Don't fall for the trick that if THIS job is not fulfilling you, there's something wrong with it. Fulfillment can be found in a lot of places, most outside of work. Use your situation as a tool. A means to an end, not an end in it myself. Work to live, don't live to work.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 7:01 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The first rule of wing-walking is don't let go of one thing until you have a good grip on something else. Applies to jobs, too.
posted by Capri at 7:09 PM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Tons of good advice above, but I feel like there's a bit of a tone of "working life is the pits, just suck it up and be glad you have a decent job" in this thread, and it's not really that bad. You don't have to just suck it up and get ready for a lifetime of being unhappy at work. You don't have to settle for grimness, or for a job that is objectively decent but makes you unhappy.

Definitely don't quit yet, for all the reasons people have mentioned. But don't give up on wanting more, either.

Actually, you are in a really good position - you have an idea of what Dream Job is! Lots of people feel similarly unfulfilled but don't have a specific vision of what would be more fulfilling. Start making really active plans to get Dream Job or something similar - set aside time to write, get advice & feedback from people in the writing world, all the other good suggestions upthread. That will help make you feel more energized about dealing with work doldrums for the short term, and will set you up to actually GET Dream Job in the medium-term. You can do it. Don't give up on it.

And yeah, do the work from home + play piano thing.
posted by aka burlap at 8:08 PM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Quit your job tomorrow. I can't say it more eloquently than this article - 10 Reasons You Have to Quit Your Job This Year So I'll keep it short. That article saved my life. It gave me the confidence to quit a stable job that was making me miserable even though logic told me to stay. You're too young, with too much freedom and too many resources to accept staying at this job. It sounds like you have passions in life and are confident enough you can find another job. All of those things make me confident in telling you to leap. Now is the time in your life to take chances - plus, uncertainty is kind of exhilarating.
posted by iguana in a leather jacket at 11:00 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have done the "leave the soul-sucking job without a backup plan" thing before so I'm not 100% against it always, like I think some people are just on principle. But this really sounds like the ideal setup for you to leverage the freedom and stability of your job to hunt for your next thing. I would suggest hanging on to the job for now while ramping up your search for your next thing. Maybe that can be looking for Dream Job, maybe it can be trying to pick up a part-time barista job on the weekends to see if you like it and have any aptitude for it, so you can figure out whether it's a realistic next plan for you.

You don't have to stay there forever, especially, if it gets so miserable that carrying on is ruining your mental or physical health. But if that's not the case then I would stick it out a while longer, maybe see if there are any adjustments you can make in the meanwhile - maybe your 'work from home' can happen at a coffeeshop or library so you have at least some incidental human contact? Maybe you can beg off the next trip or two? - to help you stick it out until you find something that's a better fit for you.
posted by Stacey at 5:50 AM on February 11, 2016

Best answer: I quit a well-paying low-stress career-track job in my mid twenties in order to become a bicycle courier. I worked as a courier for 5 years and then was an unemployed house husband for another 3 years. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. But now, here I am, in my late thirties, with two kids and no meaningful retirement savings.

I'm happy with my life, and I have been lucky enough to make rapid strides in a new career, but I definitely recognize that earning very little money for 8 years has set me back quite a ways in terms of having the stability I would prefer to have now. My peers are buying houses and that's still a ways off for me. On the other hand, I wrote two novels and launched a magazine during that time, and landed a literary agent because of it. These are things that I'm very proud of, things that have helped jumpstart my new career, and things that may (or not) pay direct financial dividends in the future.

So, I mean, I guess my advice is to ask yourself:

1. If you have a plan for keeping sane and being productive.
2. If you can live with looking back in 10 years and realizing how much more stable and secure you would be if you had taken the other path.

If the answer to both is yes, I say do it.

I'm definitely happier now than I would be if I had stayed in that same job I had when I was 25, slowly climbing the organizational ladder. But a huge part of what made those years feel worthwhile was that I was creating things with substance that I could look back on as a big part of my life's work. As I said, I wish I was more financially stable now, but I'm also very glad that I did what I did when it was possible for me to do so, rather than wait until I had started a family and it was no longer an option.
posted by 256 at 7:50 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Necessary caveat: The economy and job market was very different in 2004. I don't know how much that should matter.

(Oh, and I lined up the bike courier gig before I quit. In fact, at first I just dropped down to 40% time and couriered three days a week.)
posted by 256 at 8:23 AM on February 11, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for the reality check, and for sharing your stories and advice. You've given me plenty to chew on.
posted by theodolite at 8:27 AM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

So. As you can tell from my recent askme, I did what you're considering. I have a bunch of money saved up and quit my job.

I'm going to encourage you not to. It was the right choice for me, but from what you've described it doesn't seem like the right choice for you. You are in a great situation to be lining up your next gig while at work. I was in the kind of environment where I was closely watched and micromanaged so I wasn't able to do so (plus the job was adversely affecting my health, which was most of the reason I quit)

Power through. Your next gig will be better.
posted by raw sugar at 9:54 PM on February 11, 2016

Best answer: Wait, Dream Job let you in the door and almost hired you? You know where your tribe is? I say get all your dental work done, save a little more, quit, and get writing. It's your time.
posted by gillianr at 10:04 PM on February 11, 2016

Potomac Avenue: "look into grad school programs that might allow you to make changes in NGOs or work for the UN"
Hi, I work for the UN. My job sounds a lot like theodolite's, except that working from home and flexible working hours aren't really a thing here.
posted by brokkr at 4:03 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Most people would die for your job! Do NOT leave it. Enjoy it and use it to do something better eventually.
posted by stepup at 7:54 PM on February 12, 2016

I just wanted to add that I've had "boring" jobs in the past and I started a side business during one of those jobs that had a lot of downtime, then that side business started me down the path that led to a completely awesome job in a completely different field. So I'm definitely in the "use the time you're getting paid to try something new" camp. And also definitely see a therapist, and maybe also a career coach!
posted by ukdanae at 12:07 PM on February 14, 2016

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