During spring break of my sophomore year of college, I was in the hospital with a flare up of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. It was during this fever haze that I had somewhat of a moment of clarity.
I originally planned to find an internship in New York City and commute back and forth. I changed my mind, though, and decided I would do something more low-key and decided to get a part-time summer job. There was an abundance of frozen yogurt shops and fast food joints where I lived and I figured I’d do something that could give me flexible hours so I could enjoy my summer and make some money.
When a new burger place opened around the corner, it seemed ideal. I could walk to work and serve milkshakes and fries from behind a counter. In my head, it all seemed like a good plan. When I think back on it now, it seems like I had a romanticized version of working at a local fast food chain, especially since I had chronic arthritis pain in my knees and in my hands. At the same time, I felt I had the right customer service skills to thrive in a restaurant setting and it would fit my summer schedule. I was definitely in for a rude awakening.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t learn how to work in the food industry, but I definitely wasn’t a natural. Certain elements beyond my control started to bother me, too. We were denied any employee discount or breaks for food. My manager scheduled me for eight-hour shifts but denied me legally required breaks. My coworkers said their complaints were ignored. I started to wonder if I was in over my head.
My boss was a young dude that asked me invasive questions and made me feel rather uncomfortable. All of this was in just about a week.
Quitting makes me feel terrible about myself, especially when I don’t give it more than a week.
I made a decision that tore me up at first, but ultimately was the best move for me. I quit my job.
However, I began to have panic attacks about going to work.
I didn’t feel comfortable and I didn’t feel like it was worth putting up a fight when I could easily remove myself from the situation. My arthritic knee was inflamed from standing for hours on end without any relief. It wasn’t worth the physical suffering or the emotional discomfort, and the people that love me helped me to see that.
How could I put so much pressure on myself when, just a few months before, I was in the hospital? Where was the girl who wanted to skip in the sunshine to work and have a relaxing summer?
I felt consumed by pressure but the only person putting pressure on me was me. Quitting was not a sign of failure. It was a sign that I was listening to my body and trusting myself. I’m thankful I had the privilege of a supportive family and the ability to quit my job. Things began to work out when I reached out to my university and was able to secure a part-time office job on campus.
Quitting worked out for the best that summer. Sometimes it’s hard under so much pressure not to be “quitters,” but we have to listen to our bodies and take care of ourselves. I’m challenging the notion that quitters can’t be winners- maybe sometimes, they can.