Why I Just Quit My Day Job

There are things you do for love and things you do because an authority figure tells you to do so.
And every once and again, you get to do something selfish; a moment that makes all the other moments bearable.
On Aug. 6, 2010, I quit my day job.
And am moving to New York.
The idea is to spend a year writing, without the daily grind of working for a metro newspaper. Friends have asked if that book inside me finally comes out of this. Let’s be hopeful, but what I’m really looking to do is write a couple of decent short stories that find publication.
This is one of the most selfish things I’ve ever done. Quitting a good job in a great newsroom is no small task. Especially when the nation’s unemployment rate is stuck at 9.5 percent and there are people clamoring for jobs.
I need to do this for myself. But it’s also part of a promise I made my dad before he died of cancer last September.
“Go do something with some of my money,” he said.
I’m 47 years old. I have no wife, no children, no mortgage, no debt. The lease on my loft is up in September. My dog, Trinity? She will travel with me and will become an urban dog.
In arguably the greatest city on the planet.
Soon, I will pack up my stuff, pare my life down again, and put most of it in storage. I’ll wait for my friend and future roommate, Q, to come pick me up in a yellow Ryder truck.
And I’ll be in New York, probably Brooklyn, by Oct. 1.
There are two questions I get most often: “Aren’t you scared?” and “Do you have a job?”
I feel…invigorated.
With pop’s generosity, I have enough money to live in the city for a year, I’ve made a sensible budget. But yes, I will have to work. This isn’t a case of blowing pop’s entire inheritance, being the playboy of Manhattan. My parents taught me to be my own person; they also taught me to be frugal. In fact, later this month, I’ll be writing Edward D. Jones a rather large check for my retirement.
I have set up a couple of freelance agreements, handshakes at this point, and have a couple of nonprofits that need my help. And whether I become a nanny or a dog walker – or most likely a handyman, as I’ve already have contacts to do just that – I will get to donate several hours to sitting at the laptop writing and being out in New York observing, picking through sparks of inspiration that the city brings out naturally.
Admittedly, this decision isn’t for everyone. I get blank stares. I overhear conversations.
When I proposed my plans to my siblings, I braced for impact.
They got it.
“I’m really glad you’re going to go follow your dreams,” my brother wrote in an email. “Mom and dad would be so proud of you.”
“I am so excited for you,” Third Sister said. “It’s totally something you would do.”
Over sushi recently, I laid out my plans to First Sister, with whom I have a very close bond. I talked with my hands, chopsticks pointing here and there, and she stopped my and lifted her glass of wine.
“You’re going to be just fine in New York,” she said. “You’re going to be a success.”
That’s yet to be seen.
But I’ve got a whole year to be selfish.
And figure it out.


Jay R. Thurston said...

I admire your decision Thom, follow your dreams. May New York inspire you like never before! Despite all the lifestyle changes, you will still have Trinity at your side to remind of the place you came from.

Jen said...

WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Just a *wee* bit happy that you're doing this. Life is short, follow your dreams. Sounds so trite, but it's trite because it's TRUE. I think this is going to be a really great adventure for you. You would have spent your life wondering "What if?" had you foregone the opportunity.

Looking forward to seeing how your writing develops off the clock.

BEST WISHES, Cousin!!!!!

Bruce said...

From what poor souls do you get blank stares? Those who've had their dreams and adventurous streaks squeezed out by the grind if life?

Me, I'm jealous. Make the most of it.


Third Sister is very excited for you! I know that you will be a huge hit in NYC. I think you have 2 angels giving you little push eastward, Love you Bro!

Katherine (Katen) said...

I find it interesting that you describe this decision as "selfish." It seems to me that taking the chance to do what you feel a need to do is, well, necessary. But, I'm married to a guy that worked "long enough" in the tech industry to be able to go back to school for his...some sort of degree. I knew going in that it was unlikely that he was going to stay a code monkey for very long.

But, anyway, very cool. Good luck to you, and here's to hoping your year will be productive!

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

You're so fortunate to be able to do this, so enjoy it. I have a feeling something magical will happen.

Thomma Lyn said...

Unabashed SQUEE! Thom, how *marvelous.* I'm thrilled for you. I have a wonderful feeling for you about this -- I look so forward to seeing your (very well-read) novels on my bookshelf. :-D

quin browne said...

We will be fine

Thy have IKEA here.

Uncle E said...

Nice. Go get 'em. If you run into Alan Vega, say "hi" for me.

J.C. said...

There is nothing selfish in this decision. I think it is, and will be, an affirming experience. Go you!

Unknown said...

Best Uncle Thom! I know you will be great and Grandma and Grandpa would be proud!!! Looking forward to updates about New York!

Love you.

Laura Eno said...

Good for you! If you don't follow your dreams, you're just marking time.

Noah the Great said...


Rachael Cassidy said...

I CANNOT wait to read your scribblings from NYC. Awesome.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Congratulatons! That is truly brave and awesome, and what an adventure!
Hope it's everything you dream it will be.
And I do hope you get to author the book of your dreams!
Best of luck!

Marg said...

Like everyone else what else is there to say but that's a fantastic decision you have made.

Ryan Sabalow said...

Make the most of it, Thom. Sounds awesome.


A Brady said...

My daughter left the Northstate (CA) to go to college in NYC and fell in love with it. She lives in Queens.

You are heading there during their nice weather period. Have you spent any time during the summer? Hot and Humid and smells that you can't even imagine. But my daughter insists that the rest of the things that NYC has to offer makes up for it.

Explore. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

I kind of wondered how long it would take you to make your decision after your visit, or did you really make it while still there?
I won't pontificate on the gaping hole your leaving creates in the city of Sioux Falls, nor the wonderful addition to the uniqueness of the Big Apple. You and Trin will have a great and successful time! In the meanwhile, we still have twitter, and blogs, and Facebook! Good luck my friend.

Alex said...

Awesome, man. Just awesome.

maglomaniac said...

What,well to start with am 24.Have a well paying job have no monetary stakes or liabilities.But 1 thing I always wanted to do was to write,write like I had never written.
Now that one thing was the only thing I feared would wane away,I thought I would lose it somewhere.
But after seeing you Thom I feel no dream is small enough,no block is big enough.
One day I too would pack my bags just to write.
Maybe it comes soon.
All d bst buddy:)


Hal Johnson said...

Thom, I'm glad you're doing this, because I'd be happy to see you find a bigger audience. Whether your stay in New York is for a year or a lifetime, breathe in every moment.

Donna said...

Good lord, if I knew you had funds to live for a year I would have screamed for you to go a long time ago!!

There's no doubt in my mind you have great success ahead of you.

It's about freaking time!

Large Marge said...

Oh god, not a Ryder truck.. that's what all the TERRORISTS use ;-)

Daily Panic said...

Hey, playboy of Manhattan! Please don't stop the blog so that you can take me with you!!
This move is going to be amazing!

All around there is constant change and I have come to accept that sometime the ocean currents can take you places that you never imagined, once you quit paddeling against the waves. Best wishes, my friend!

Katy said...

Good for you Thom. Life is too short and you never know what will happen until you try. I'm dreaming of a move to Hawaii myself.

Best of luck!

gautami tripathy said...

I wish you all the best. You will do fine. A positive attitude can really tride us over.

Frankly, I can relate to this. I have been working for almost 19 years. I teach in a state ownwd school. If I work for 20 years and quit my job, I get retirement benefits. I have been thinking of doing that for some months now and am on a look out for something to do with writing. I have offers too but I am not likely to quit before October 2011.

I am in my early 40s, no husband, no kids, no liabilities. I own a house, now fully paid. So that gives me certain security and with retirement benefits, I should do fine too. I too wish to move to Bangalore from Delhi and will make my dreams come true, hopefully before 2012.

In a way, you post made me more determined.

pia said...

Woe and Wow Thom--that's wonderful.
I know a lot about giving up certainty for the unknown, and am never sure that I do the right thing but change keeps me young and striving

I'm of the "NY is at its best during heat and adversity" school--and you will be moving during adversity for sure

That was wise of your father. Everybody should do something wild and different especially when they don't have kids and other encumberances

Matt Merritt said...

Wow! Following your dream. That's awesome (and a huge loss for the paper). Good luck, and I can't wait to see what happens when you devote all your energy to your writing.

ms pie said...

thank you for sharing the next part of your journey... you have spoken from the heart and i for one am so happy for you and your father who gave so freely with love... it is probably magical just like you spoke of turning to a dream that is coming true... look forward to hearing updates as you grow closer to your departure... a big moving van sounds like an adventure and also so happy to hear doggy is going too!!

VL Sheridan said...

Hey Thom-

Best of luck with the move. Once you get settled, if you feel like meeting for a cup of coffee, drop me a line. I live near NYC.

rob kistner said...

Congrats and good luck. NYC won't provide solace to write, but it will provide unique stimulus. I lived in NYC the summer of 1968, crashing 'unregistered' in the Chelsea Hotel with my rock band -- a strange and wonderful time...

Nara Malone said...

Good luck. My job quit me this spring and so far the writing supports me. Good luck to you with yours.

Nimue said...

Am happy you are doing this .. and soon i want to read you in a book and say, i know this guy !! he used to visit my blog ;) good luck !

Julie Jordan Scott said...

BRAVO!! Yay!!!

So happy for you. I have this wild fantasy of moving to New Hampshire, the same town where May Sarton lived. I have a year to figure out how to do it (before my middle daughter starts high school.)

Its possible... vaguely... and reading stories like yours stoke the fires even more.


b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

You can do it for all the rest of us...NYC is the best choice ever. Congratulations.


R.S. Bohn said...

Thom, your post brought tears to my eyes. I am so happy for you. Whatever this upcoming year brings -- it will be perfect for you. Congratulations, to both you and Trinity (who is about to get a whole new UNIVERSE of scents to explore!).



Dee Martin said...

Ah Thom, what an adventure. You will be a success whatever happens. What you take from the experience will show in your writing for years to come. Vaya Con Dios friend and best of luck. I will so be living vicariously as the stories appear...

JP/deb said...

What an exciting and wonderful decision!! Bravo.

Sharp Little Pencil said...

OK, Thom, I get it now. GOOD FOR YOU! I did the NYC a couple of times (jazz singer) with varying success (mostly due to being married and having a child). You are footloose - YOU GOTTA CUT LOOSE! FOOT-LOOSE! Really, man, you have to have cajones to spare and I applaud your effort. You're a good writer, Thom, and I can see you a year from now renewing your lease. And won't that be a happy day? Amy