One of my goals with this blog is to motivate others to share their experiences. I think there is value to this, especially if you think no one would care about your story. The fact is, there are people out there who will care. And it can mean the world to know that they are not alone in their experiences. So I’d better set an example and share my own.
I recently left my job at Paperless Post as a Data Scientist/Data Engineer. Paperless Post boasts a gender-diverse workforce and a refreshingly cooperative culture. Smart people work there who encourage your ambitions and generously share their knowledge. The company tries hard to make its employees feel like first-class citizens without implicitly enforcing a particular culture. I had friends across the company with whom I could chat about anything from tea to opera to history. I absolutely loved the team we hired. My teammates were very intelligent, kind, curious people with diverse backgrounds, skills, and interests. (Also, only one of the four was a man. I was proud of this. I didn’t make the final hiring decisions, but my input carried some weight.) I was working on important projects and made our team visible throughout the company.
So why did I leave?
I don’t know the true answer to that.
Over the two months since I gave my notice, my answer to why I left has continually changed, though it was always honest.
Initially, I felt that I had accumulated too much exhaustion and with it negativity, and I was blocking progress more than I was helping. So I had to remove myself to allow the team to move forward without me as a moody bottleneck.
Then I felt that actually, I was doing more than anyone to help my team, but I wasn’t being allowed the authority I needed to be as effective as I could be. So I had to remove myself to find a situation where I could realize my full potential.
Then I felt that management was honestly trying to fill the gaps and inefficiencies I pointed out, but I was too impatient to see their efforts through. I was too insecure and weak-willed to express what I and the team needed with sufficient assertiveness. So I had to remove myself to save myself from frustrations of my own creation.
Then I felt that even if I could choose the projects I would spend my time on, the needs of the company were out of step with my interests. So I had to remove myself so as not to waste the company’s resources with my disinterest.
Then I felt that everything could have been fine, but I was such an emotional wreck (as evidenced by my rapid weight loss) that I needed more than a vacation to regain my sensibilities. So I had to remove myself to save my team from absorbing my pessimism and to save myself from falling into deeper depression.
And so on.
What do I feel now? I think when I gave my notice, all I knew was that I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t going to get much happier. And I wasn’t even sure of that much. I think all of the reasons I gave people had truth, and yet none was really true. There is some research that indicates intuition can actually outperform thoughtful analysis for sufficiently complex problems, particularly when there isn’t much experience to rely on. I think my situation was a case of this. My gut had been telling me to quit for a long time. It took me a while to listen.
At least, that’s how I remember things. Memories are funny that way. They keep rewriting themselves. My retelling is honest, but is it true? Like Nabokov’s humming Humbert recounting a fictional fiction, how much can I trust my loose, wet memory?
So all I can give is a story. And that story will change again in due time as I imagine myself gaining some hitherto unrealized clarity.
But I have no regrets. A month ago, I was physically weak, anhedonic, and two steps from tears at any moment. Now I am healthier, visibly happier, and I have a clearer sense of what I need out of life and a career than I have ever had. I can see where I am, where I want to be, and how I’ll get there. I’m past much, though not all, of the fear that I held before. I knew before that I would be ok. Now I believe that I will be ok.
Not bad for a month’s worth of work.