Well, sort of.
No big life decision is ever simple. There are complex, multifaceted reasons for the choices we make. Sometimes the conclusions we reach are easy to explain, sometimes not, but they rarely occur without serious thought.
But I quit my job last month because I was getting fat. It’s almost that simple.
Not Biggest Loser large, not even my-doctor-might-be-concerned big, but certainly flush in the midsection. A little roll below the belly button. I could no longer even pretend I had any semblance of a six-pack. A pair of pants I bought over the summer sat unworn on my shelves because they refused to button. Those slim fit shirts slowly morphed into Euro club wear, something David Villa would don after a Barcelona victory.
I’m not vain—well, not that vain—but it was noticeable.
More importantly, I found the reason for the added weight—sitting down all day, snacking on free pretzel rods at my desk job—to be less concerning than what it symbolized: I was getting too content.
I had a good gig, was making good money, and had good opportunities to write elsewhere without worrying about whether I was getting paid. But it was too easy. I wasn’t really trying. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t improving. Writing had taken me to some amazing places—the World Cup in South Africa, a coup in Honduras, Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, 12-hour stints in the Saturday Night Live writers’ room—but I was stagnating.
New York is an inspiring place to live because there’s always someone—many more people, in fact—who are better than you. But it’s a difficult place to live for that exact reason as well. I sat at my desk, watching (reading, really) as people who were my peers wrote for new outlets, published incredible stories, founded magazines, and surged ahead. I’m proud of them—both those who I knew personally and those who I admired on Twitter, Tumblr, LongForm.org, etc.—but it was hard. I ate Hershey Kisses and grew frustrated.
The truth, I realized: I wanted to be a freelance writer, but I didn’t have the balls to leave. I did, however, have a little belly.
Twenty-nine is not old. But it makes you confront the future in a way that’s more concrete than you do when you’re 24. (Apologies as I veer dangerously into Thought Catalog territory, although, honestly, I’m pretty far down that road already. Would it help if I took this more meta?) The discovery that your generation is taking over, the creep of your friends up the career ladder, and a variety of other factors build this feeling. The constant apocalyptic talk in the media doesn’t help, either. We all inherit the earth, inevitably. Soon, it would seem.
So I quit, went to India to run a film festival for 10 days, and returned to freelancing.
I don’t have a solid plan, but I know I don’t want another office job, at least right now. (You have no idea how hard it is for people to understand this concept.) The general concept is to write, write, write, and hope some kid ambivalently eating lightly salted almonds at his desk job sees my bylines and gets inspired to leave. That would feel like success. I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but my gut told me to try. Literally.
This morning, I worked in my apartment for a few hours, went running across the Brooklyn Bridge, and got back to writing. I’m still carrying some extra pounds in the stomach region (holidays, you know?) but I feel great.
Which is important, because health insurance is remarkably expensive.