Slowly Sipping Coffee

Thoughts on leaving my corporate career

Last Friday was my last day at my corporate job.  My last day badging in and walking through a sleek lobby past countless security guards and ascending to an upper floor of a shiny downtown office building.  And, it brought with it a bunch of thoughts and feelings I wasn’t expecting.

Now, to start off, for the most part I liked this job. It paid well, I had a great boss, the work was easy and stress was low.  It was a very comfortable job.  There were many things I didn’t care for – all the pointless acronyms and initiatives, endless meetings, and just enough HR baloney to get my blood rising.  I did work that was interesting, although mostly unchallenging, and I was held in fairly high esteem, despite my introverted nature.  But to sum it up – I didn’t feel inspired by the job anymore, and that is why I left for a new challenge that I think will be more fulfilling (teaching). 

Now, I have no regrets about this career move, I have no doubts it is the correct move for me and the family, despite a paycheck 1/3 the size as before.  Whatevs.  If you are reading this blog, you probably already know that money isn’t everything.  But I still feel melancholy about closing another chapter in my life.  I worked with good people, and caring people, and despite the best intentions, I know I will not see many of them again.  We all have busy lives.

Mostly what I think about is how much of myself I put into this company.  Nine years may not seem like a long time to some of you, but its about a quarter of my life.  For the last nine years, I have spend more time thinking about this company than I have my husband, my parents, my friends.  I woke up 5 days of the week for 9 years thinking about how I could do a good job, how I could improve the company. (Mr. SSC sidenote – I’d say it was closer to 7 days a week, she just doesn’t want to admit it)  I’ve spent nights staring at well logs as wells are nearing their target, holidays on drilling rigs, I’ve even pumped breastmilk in a closet of a seismic boat in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.  I have given them more of my energy and dedication than I have given anything before.  And you know what – within days I will not exist for this company anymore.  A few people will remember me, but to this corporation I am just a file to be closed out, and by the end of the month, I will be nothing but an ex-employee in a database.  Meanwhile, I bet that I will think of this company every day for years and decades more.  It makes all my time and effort seem insignificant.  And with the amount of my life I have put into this job, that makes me feel like all that effort was for naught.  Yes, yes, I have a nice bank account and my experience at that company helped land me my dream job… I’m just trying to make a point that while I poured myself into this company for years ahead of anything else in my life, I had a relatively small impact in the corporation.

This realization makes me think of how much of ourselves we pour into our jobs. We define ourselves by our work.  There is something about our society where the first questions you ask someone at a party is “What do you do? Where do you work?”  not “What are your hobbies? How do you spend your free time? What makes you smile?”   Asking such personal questions to a stranger would almost seem off-putting.

Anyways, all the thoughts just confirm for me that we have chosen the right path.  The path of choosing family over luxury vehicles.  Of spending quiet weekends at home watching our kids play with sticks instead of  with endless toys we buy to ease our guilt of constantly working.  We have found that what really makes us happy is connecting to one another. I love that the choices we started making a  few years back make me feel alive.  I don’t have to escape reality, or constantly ‘reward’ myself to make myself feel better after every work week.  I am happy that we discovered the path to FI, we made a plan and we are getting close to reaching our goal.

I am also happy that we are far enough along on our FI journey, and have a big enough cushion that I can take a low-paying job that will challenge me, give me more free time with my kids, and allow us to have family dinners.  I am just a little sad that I gave 9 years away before getting to take this next step in life.  But I am glad that it was only 9 years I had to give.  It feels so good to have my life back on my terms.


56 thoughts on “Thoughts on leaving my corporate career

  1. The Green Swan

    Good for you! I share a lot of those same feelings, I’m just not ready to make the jump yet. Very admirable to go into teaching as well. That’s a passion I also share and one day would love to give back by teaching the next generation. Congrats!

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks! Yeah – it was definitely a giant leap, I hope it works out. I’ve just always dreamed of teaching and working with students. It was interesting, although my salary is down to 1/3 of what it was, so many of my coworkers seemed jealous and lamented how they would love to teach and dream of it too… someday

  2. Mr. PIE

    So happy that you have finally found your balance and priorities. It is the same for us.
    Having worked in pharmaceutical research for >20 years, we both have come to the realization that the stress, tirednes and lack of time eats into living more than we ever imagined. And trying to pursue two career paths with kids? Well, family life has to take a back seat. And that also for us is the last straw.

    As much as I think there is no more noble a career than in Healthcare ( whether you are a doc, nurse, or scientist looking for that next wave of innovation), we are calling time on our careers there..

    It’s the absolute reality that we are all bit-pieces in the never ending churn of corporate talent acquisition and business growth. Someone will take our place, perhaps a new hire. Or more normally, our mountain of work will be dissipated across existing employees. That is how businesses proceed. It’s also scary that someone younger will take the reins and start the cycle again of work, work, work…..without knowing a different path is often feasible.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Looking back, I do wish I had been able to part some of my FI knowledge to some coworkers there, to help break that endless cycle. And I agree – I think no matter how noble your career – it will always take from your family. It is just disappointing that there seem to be so few jobs that we could give it our all and make the world a better place, without sacrificing the family’s needs.

  3. Kate

    I’ve experienced many of the same emotions as I left my job two weeks ago (ironically, I left a teaching job). The closing of a chapter, the veritable ending of friendships, the wondering if all my efforts were for naught in this job…it’s a lot to process. Wishing you success and fulfillment in your teaching career!

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks! Well – I know the other teachers look at me as an overly enthusiastic newbie. I’m actually replacing a guy who told me he just didn’t have the heart for it and he needed a year or two break. I am sure eventually this job will starting taking more from me than I want to give, but I’m hoping I can hold that at bay for a while.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      I could consult if I want to, up to ~ 8 hours/week. I don’t know if I will, but I am keeping my contacts open in case something fun comes up.

  4. Harmony@CreatingMyKaleidoscope

    Congrats! This post is so similar to what I will (hopefully) be feeling about 5 1/2 years from now. I tend to feel pretty melancholic myself when leaving jobs and everything they include. However, you’re making the right decision for yourself and your family. Work steals so much from those we love, whether it’s time in the office or time spent mentally consumed by responsibilities. You can take your sense of achievement with you – the pride for your accomplishments.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      That is true – I am proud of what I did at my job. And I know that I will meet new great people, and get to help out a younger generation when the school year starts. And that feels good.

  5. Thias @It Pays Dividends

    Congrats on your last week! You are definitely right that we put so much of our worth into our jobs. It is hard not to since a large part of our lives are dedicated to it. I’m glad you are moving on to something new that you are excited for! Congrats on getting life back to being on your terms!

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks! I am excited to see how it goes. I even picked up some corn on the cob because tonight Mr. SSC will come home from work at a reasonable hour on his new schedule and we can have a big grill-out on the back deck to celebrate out first weekday family dinner in a long time!

  6. Stockbeard

    These feelings seem natural to me. They happened to me when I left my first job, then my second one. This was weird in particular for the second one, because I despised the job and most of my colleagues’ attitude (not the people themselves, but rather how inefficiently they worked). Yet when I left, I felt genuinely sad to close that chapter of my life, and, as you mentioned, the fact that most likely I would see these people again.

    So far it’s been true: I haven’t talked to them ever again, even people I really liked in my first job. But hey, some of them are just an email away… for when *I* will have more time :)

    Enjoy your new life!

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks! I think some of it is just leaving your comfort zone for something new. You tend to just think about all the good things you will miss and gloss over all the crappy days at the office you had, or people that just get on your nerves. I remember reading/hearing somewhere that humans have a great ability to just remember the good – that we view the past with a more optimistic and positive perspective then when it was actually happening.

  7. amber tree

    Good that you know what you value and that you act upon it!

    “money isn’t everything” –> that is so true. After a day off with the kids, I realise it even more.

  8. Erik @ Hippies de Land Rover

    Wow! you made iT!! :)
    I’m so happy for you, there are some god things about corp. world, good money is one of them. Bad thing: you have to trade your time for that money and as you mentioned, at the end of the day you’re just an ex-employee It doesn’t matter how much of your time you gave, it will only matter to you and what that left you with. I hope it was worth the ride!


  9. ThePersonalEconomist

    Great milestone, are you having some time off in between?
    Guilty with thinking about work too much, especially outside ‘work time’. I’m getting better but my husband does have to keep me in check :)
    Best of luck being a newbie. Such fun.

  10. Todd

    Congrats on pursuing teaching – it’s quite the turn of events and I’m excited to see how it alters your FIRE goals/timeline.

    Your post made me realize how fortunate I am to have a job/work environment I truly care about. I work for a company that when I started were 15 people in the office and is now up to 140, where I’ve had the opportunity to contribute a lot to the growth (hiring/training/onboarding). I’ve been able to parlay that into a future role that will take on the shape of a full time trainer at the company, getting to teach the staff how to be better at their jobs/develop their skills. Additionally, my VP, the GM, and CEO of the business all sit within 100 feet of me and have doors open at all times.

    I’m saying all this not to make it seem like I have such a great situation, but rather, it’s important to maintain perspective on situations. I feel like I CAN contribute to my company … and feel like this will be the hardest part of cutting my career short – I know that I will miss being part of something I would have help build and the people whose careers I will have gotten to help develop.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      You are very lucky! I am hoping that I feel about my new job the way that you feel about yours.

  11. Elephant Eater

    Great post!

    I remember when I first started reading your blog when you wrote the post about being a bit bummed about not losing your job and it inspired me to write about being trapped in comfort. I completely related to the thoughts in that post and thought it was your best writing. This one hit home even harder as I am less than a year away from leaving my job and think about that last day regularly. I can’t wait to walk out that door for the last time and move on to the next phase of life. At the same time, I’m sure it will be a sad day as I like many aspects of my job and most of my coworkers. I’ve just reached a point where I can’t stand the idea of how much of my time and energy are drained going there every day.

    Enough rambling. Just want to wish you Coffee Sippers the best as you start your transition to your next phase of life.


    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks so much! I went to my new job to fill out some paperwork yesterday, and after meeting some of the other teachers that were around, I felt like they were already trying to get me to volunteer for so much more than my job description. One guy was asking me about my planned side projects and research, and was like “What do you want to do with this job?” And he seemed surprised when I said that I wanted to focus on teaching.

  12. Matt @ The Resume Gap

    I’m so happy that you’re making the change. Congratulations! I had similar feelings walking away from my own job, where I felt like I had really poured myself into the work 100% for years. It’s been months now, and I still refer to the old company with a “we,” not a “they.” Yet, as you described, they do fine without me. I’m sure they rarely think of me — even the people with whom I worked most closely. Like you said, I think that just reaffirms the decision to move on. I’m not a core part of the company’s identity, so they sure shouldn’t be a core part of my identity. I’d rather be defined by the things that really matter to me — my family, friends, and community.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks, it feels really good to know that the feelings I had are ones that many others seemed to experience also!

  13. TheMoneyMine

    This is really cool that you feel that way and able to get your dream job because of your journey to FI. That’s more tangible and probably more exciting than $$ in a vanguard/personal capital dashboard. Congrats again for making the jump.
    I can relate on the time spent at work, which initially felt like an investment, but as you say, once we’re gone, we’re just an entry in an old-employee database.
    Your transition is an excellent example of the power of the FI journey. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and super happy for you guys!

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks! Yeah – without being in the latter quarter of our FI journey, I doubt this would be possible. And I picked that up with several colleagues at the company I left – that they would love to have a job like I was taking, but they just couldn’t afford it.

  14. Brian @DebtDiscipline

    Congrats on taking this leap! So true about what we put into our jobs. I was let go from a soul sucking job of over 20 years last year and I still often think of it. I was trying to place why I still have thoughts of it. It wasn’t a fun place and I’ve moved on to something better now, but as you said I spent about half my life there and gave so much. No wonder I still think of it often. Just glad to be on the other side now. :) Thanks for sharing.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks. Wow. 20 years – that would be hard to get over. But it is great you have something better now! Twenty years is too long to work somewhere you don’t love (or mostly like)

  15. Our Next Life

    Congrats on officially taking the big leap, Prof SSC! :-) I can relate to what you felt in leaving — I’ve been in my job for 14 years, and while I’ve definitely done good work and been well paid, I don’t know that I can pinpoint anything that will be my legacy with the company, or something I’ve impacted enough to be memorable. The company is small enough that some people will remember me, but yeah, it’s hard to find anything tangible beyond that. It IS a sad feeling, isn’t it?! But, in your case, you’re now crossing the precipice and about to start your dream job. So exciting! I hope that you’re able to shake off these mixed emotions quickly and focus on how awesome it is that you are in a financial position to take such a big pay cut without slowing down your progress, and then of course get excited about the job itself. We’re super excited for you! xoxo

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks so much. As the days go by, I am really starting to enjoy all the time I have now – and the kids are already gushing over how much they like family dinner.

  16. Dividendsdownunder

    Congrats on making the move into the job that you really want to do Mrs SSC. I hope you don’t regret working at your old place because 1) regrets suck 2) it allowed you to get a long way towards financial independence. I’d much rather earn lots and invest that (and let compounding do its thing) rather than the other way round.

    Even though you aren’t Australian, thanks for going into teaching. Every child should have someone teaching them who WANTS to teach them – it really makes a huge difference in the class, kids can tell when teachers don’t care. Thanks for teaching the next generation of the world’s population :)


    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks! I don’t regret my old job – it was a wonderful learning opportunity, and it did help pad our bank account to allow me to take the pay cut for teaching. On Monday I went in to my new job to fill out paperwork, and ran into some of these teachers who really have lost their desire to teach. I just kind of felt sad for them, and their students. Hopefully, my students will pick up on my enthusiasm and help create a great learning environment!

  17. Tyler @ I Am The Future Me

    There’s a friend of mine who has been retired for a few years now. He told me about how he worked from this company for almost 40 years before retiring and just 1 year later he had gone back to his old job just to stop in, and most of the people there didn’t even know who he was.

    I’ve worked at my current job 10 years this year and if and when I leave I’m sure it won’t take long for the same to happen to me. It’s so important we do what is truly important not just think about work all the time. I’m really happy for you .

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Wow! Only one year later! I’ve had a similar experience – I used to work at a smaller office, and when I was there, I would say I knew most people and most people knew me. Well, the turnover and internal moves has been so high the last couple years, that when I saw an org chart for that office, I hardly knew anyone. I was shocked.

  18. Kara

    Tour line that you feel torn between it taking 9 years to get to where you are, but also that it ONLY took nine years is really powerful. Because that’s it, isn’t it? Unless you are the 1% of the world’s wealthiest and never have to think about money at all, you do have to make some sort of trade. Your life for money, for at least some time. I think it’s bittersweet. I’m so happy you’re moving onto work you’re more passionate about, and in general, a lifestyle more in line with your dreams. You’re inspirational!

  19. Lois Wingerson

    Such a great response from readers! You clearly touched a chord.

    This is good practice for the RE part of FIRE, of course. Retiring after a 40-year career, I feel the same way about the entire city of New York. (If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere, goes the famous song. But what if you “made it” to your own satisfaction, and then gave it up voluntarily?)

    You leave behind not just the corporation, but your identity as a certain kind of person.

    The best salve for that painful nostalgia after retirement (as you already know) is finding the new identity that will give you the same quality of validation and community that you felt in your career, but without the validation of the salary.

    From what I can see in your blog, this will be no problem for you! Meanwhile, I hope you find teaching very fulfilling, and bravo for you.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks! You know its interesting – its been almost two weeks now, and I am starting to feel like I did lose a little bit of my identity – but I am realizing that I now have the chance to adjust my identity and make some improvements. It’s been fun thinking about how to take myself and my life to the next level.

  20. Ray Ray

    Nice Job!

    It is too often that people are scared to chase their dreams because they are too comfortable where they are.

    Good luck with teaching. :-)

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks! Now let’s hoping teaching is at least half as rewarding in real life as it is in my mind!

  21. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    Powerful post, Mrs. SSC!! I spent 15 years at my prior corporation when I left at age 36, and it’s so true how they forget you immediately despite your amazing sales records or whatever. We’ve chosen to have me home and homeschooling the kids since then, and they tell me often how thankful they are for my constant effort at raising them and educating them. I may not get a paycheck from the kids, but knowing I’m doing my best to educate them in everything makes the job well worth it. The very, very best of luck to you as you follow your heart!

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks! I’ve had the chance to walk the kids to school the last week, and it just feels right. I am sure I made the right decision – it will just be sad not getting to make my usual Vanguard monthly investments anymore. But, I do like how I am around for more hugs from the kids!

  22. Prudence Debtfree

    This is verging on spiritual, Mrs. SSC. What a great post. If you zoom out a bit more from your experience, it becomes a metaphor for life. In the end, we die – and within a generation, we are essentially forgotten. So what do we do with that perspective? Exactly what you’re doing as it turns out. It’s tough to find that balance between earnest devotion and holding on lightly – ready to let go and submit to the transition of moving on in the fullness of time. Zoom in again, and this is your time. Thanks for being transparent in your transition. You’ve got a cheering section wishing you very well, eager to read the next chapter.

  23. MyMoneyDesign

    Congratulations! There simply are not enough of us in the world with as much courage to do the things we’d rather be doing – especially before becoming FI. Good luck on the next phase of your journey.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks! It was a scary leap, and it feels unresponsible since it slows down our race to FI, but sometimes you got to follow your heart instead of your brain – which is very counter-intuitive for highly logical folks like myself. I’m learning you can’t make all decisions on a spreadsheet.

  24. Ty @ Get Rich Quickish

    This is a fantastic post; really hits home. Congrats on taking that next step!

    I’ve been a cog in the machine of a megacorp for the past decade and very recently it has started to feel like a job, more than a career. I no longer enjoy work; I resent it. I’m sick that tomorrow is Monday. I hate that I hate it. I’d love nothing more than to put in my notice tomorrow morning, but as the sole provider of my family that’s not a very responsible thing to do. So I’ll keep plugging away at my current job, keep looking for the next one, all the while doing my best to reach FI as quickly as possible.

    Thanks for the motivation to keep grinding.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      It is so hard to just feel like there are no options but to plug away. I felt that way for a couple of years, and just the mind numbingness of that made me really do some soul searching to find a new path. I am sure eventually you will find a new position that will stop you from dreading Mondays!

  25. Fervent Finance

    Thanks for sharing! Since I began this FIRE journey I think I’ve stopped giving corporate world 100%. I’m probably at about 90% right now. I kill it on my projects, but don’t really give any more effort to extra-curricula activities. I’ve learned that project work will get me paid and promoted, so you won’t see my signing up for any committees and recruiting events. I’m trying to balance my full-speed ahead path with having some fun on the way and not giving my soul away to my employer which I see so many of my coworkers doing. It hasn’t hurt me yet since I’m sitting in the Midwest right now, instead of NYC. Best of luck on the new job! I bet your thoughts about your old employer will go away quicker than you think.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks – my thoughts of my old employer are fading quicker than I expected. Which is nice. Part of it is because Iam so excited about my new teaching gig, I am spending so much time planning for the fall – and it is fun to be excited about work again!

  26. Financial Samurai

    Exciting! Cherish the moments. Even though you’ve left doesn’t mean you can’t consult or do side gigs during your free time.

    Freedom is worth way more than money! I do not regret ever leaving in 2012 after 13 years in corporate America.



    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Thanks – I am keeping the idea of side gigs or consulting in the back of my mind. Its been almost 2 weeks now since I left, and it honestly feels really good. It feels odd to have so much free and productive time during the day, and being able to set priorities myself.

  27. Taylor

    Ahhh, congratulations! I can’t wait to read about your new job and all of the exciting changes that await :)

    Also, I am positive that you made a huge impact at your company, especially with your colleagues (probably more than you even know)

    Once again, CONGRATS!!

  28. Brittany Murphy

    Thank you for sharing! Good reminder to keep a good balance as I work a 9-5 on the path to FI.

    I read this as I stuffed my face with chips in the small gap of time I had between meetings at my 9-5. Because I do really enjoy what I do, it’s very hard for me to not think about it all the time, put too much stock into it, and define myself by it. I have to constantly work on my perspective and just relax and try to enjoy the experience for what is while actively prioritizing the rest of my life so I don’t wake up and wonder what the heck I’ve been doing for the past 30 years.

  29. Francesca - From Pennies to Pounds

    I think that’s a very courageous step, that some people never work up enough nerve to take. Some people go their whole lives without following their dream, so I think you’ve done amazing! 9 years is a long time, so I know what you mean, but congrats on doing it now :-)

  30. Julie@ChooseBetterLife

    “There is something about our society where the first questions you ask someone at a party is “What do you do? Where do you work?” not “What are your hobbies? How do you spend your free time? What makes you smile?” Asking such personal questions to a stranger would almost seem off-putting.”
    …so that’s why I get all those weird looks… :)
    Congrats on this big change, and here’s hoping you’re smiling more now.

  31. Amber

    I’m really glad you brought up the idea of being defined by our jobs – it is so true. It’s actually something I’ve written about this idea before.

    I’ve actually started replying to the party question “so, what do you do?” with something like, “I’m a blogger, a partner, a lover of music and cats, I mountain bike in my spare time and I love to travel.” People usually say “uhhh… I meant your job.” It’s pretty funny. I like to challenge the way people think.

    Anyway, congrats on this amazing step in your life! :)

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