Quitting the 9–5 (probably won’t feel how you expect)

“Man, I felt awful yesterday”, I thought, on the 6A to work.

And then the feeling returns, like a stowaway smuggled in the memory. A heaviness in the jaw, the tension before you cry.

Come on.

I slept well and got up early and went to the gym and drank a pint of water. I did everything the listicles said!

I mentally click and drag today into the recycle bin. (What gets recycled?)

The 96 is the second half of the commute, but thanks to the optimised morning there’s time to spare. I sit in my favourite cafe, too miserable to vision board.

The place has an aspirational urban aesthetic, still a novelty in time-warped Belfast. Concrete, wood and yoga mats rolled up under arms. Ascetic like a monastery.

I check the time. I don’t want to go.

A sign on the counter advertises part-time vacancies. Coffee’s a foreign world, but they need someone to do the dishes. I do the sums, tally what can be eliminated, and try to calculate the monetary value of the lump in my throat.

In the empty space, an escape plan swells.

***

The morning of The Notice, and the anxiety shits are bad. I corner my manager by the hot drinks machine and it spills out like a confession.

ImgonnatakeabreakfromfulltimeworkIgotajobinacafeIhavetoresignthanks.

I slip The Notice in front of HR. He looks up. “It’s actually a month’s notice, and you forgot to sign it.”

I retype. This isn’t really how I imagined The Great Liberation going.

3 days working, 4 days off.

“What are you going to do with all that time?”

Hmm. I’m going to walk around and breathe in the city chill, light like a ghost. I’m going to read all day and go to matinees and maybe even get people to pay me for things. I’m going to start a business and write a book. I’m going to claw back something that’s been given away, to people like you, a bit at a time. I’m going to be free.

“Oh, whatever I want.”

Later, after unexpected developments, I’m offered my manager’s job and a salary bump.

I think of Tim in The Office Season 1 finale, and how Dawn looked at him when he took the promotion.

Yeh, that’s gonna be a no for me dawg.

***

My impending exit has lent me the mildest air of celebrity in the office, like a convict who has managed to trick the parole board. The news does, at least, provide a topic of conversation other than unceasing surprise at the concept of a calendar (“can’t believe it’s only Tuesday!”).

A safe space forms around me, and colleagues whisper half-confessions: fair play, I wish I could do it; this place is getting worse; I’ve been thinking about it for years now.

I’ll come back for you! (I won’t)

The novelty is nice, but it doesn’t feel rah-rah. It’s… a little scary?

A defensive measure. An act of self-preservation.

***

Whatever happens, the important thing was making A Decision.

That’s 1.

6 and 7? Hard to say.

Just, you know, not this.

Something else,

please.

***
Conor is Film Editor for The Thin Air, follow him @csmythrun. He wrote about depression and the movies here: