I write out four words now that I thought I would never say: “I quit my job.”

The last two months have challenged me, taught me, grown me, torn me, and confused me. I had previously engrained in myself that I would never quit any commitment to others or to myself. It isn’t who I am. I do not let people down, I do not end a task before it is complete.

Yet I just did. I did the one thing I convinced myself I would never do.

My heart still yearns for an extreme confidence that I made the right decision. I argued with myself since pre-service. I would tell myself I had to leave. I would beg myself to stay. I wrote pro/con lists. I met with my supervisor and dialogued my concerns with her. I prayed. I asked for support. I examined every option and I battled them against each other. I knew the reasons why I had to stay, and I knew the reasons why I had to leave.

The truth is I know I would have survived with both decisions: I would have been able to provide positives for whichever one I chose. I would also wonder what the other decision could have lead to. Staying and quitting would have both provided pros and cons that I would have to live with.

And that’s when I realized I had to make a decision–one that would end up being “okay” either way.

My decision was to take a new direction.

Over my eight weeks at work, I learned so much about myself and this world. I heard stories I couldn’t wrap my mind around, and my heart cried for the students to experience deep love. I witnessed some of the most poignant pain. I learned how the early years of children’s lives have the largest impact on who they become. I learned that I want to be an influence on those early years, I want to show kids love that they may not receive elsewhere. I met incredible, selfless people. I saw the advantages and struggles of the mental health field. I learned what it was like to know I touched a student’s soul. I learned what I can and cannot handle.

I learned that I am meant to do this work but in a different place, that this company was not the only place I could make a difference.

Throughout the two months, I experienced the importance of a life-work balance. I had many sleepless nights. I experienced hours of psychological and physical fatigue after shifts. I knew what it was like to constantly ruminate on the things I had witnessed and heard. I realized that sometimes no matter how hard I try, I cannot separate work from life–that sometimes work transforms into life.

It wasn’t until I realized how much I was sacrificing for this position that I knew I had to make the ultimate decision. It pained me to quit because that meant giving up on my character– the person I had always been, the person who followed through to the end. However, quitting also meant giving up my pride. There were times I told myself I had to stay because leaving would be embarrassing. I imagined what other people would say and think. I didn’t want people to judge me for leaving the position I had been ecstatic about since March. But this meant I wasn’t staying for me. I wasn’t even staying for the students. I was staying for the imaginary criticizers.

And that wasn’t worth it.

I know deep down I could have survived 11 more months in the position, and I was facing work day-by-day. This seemed like the perfect perception and plan at first. However, I realized I wasn’t living each day fully. I was living one day after the next, praying that they flew by so that those days would turn into months and the months would add up until the completion of my term. I was living as if I had an unlimited number of days and that rushing through 13 months of my life had no effect. However, life is not guaranteed. When I recognized that staying would mean I hoped to rush away over one year of my life, it didn’t make any sense.

I want to live day-by-day, but I want to live cherishing those days instead of hoping they fly by and pass like the wind.

Making this decision was one of the hardest decisions of my life. It took a lot of time, a lot of prayer, and a lot of thinking to finally choose an answer. Through the process, I was forced to reflect on what I now know about myself. I may have quit my job, but I am not a quitter. I quit because staying in the position meant I was withholding some of the other aspects of my character and life that I really valued.

I made a hard decision. It wasn’t easy, and it probably won’t be for a while. I may continue to think about it. However, I know I am not embarrassed. This was a decision I needed to make.

And I did.

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