This is a guest submission by Sally from

I don’t mean to brag or anything (okay, maybe I do – just a teensy bit), but this whole ending-the-grind thing? I’m, like, an expert at it.  You see, I haven’t held down a single job longer than three years since I was eighteen. (Which was some time ago, so stop asking, okay?) Yep, I go through jobs like some girls go through boyfriends or shoes or cupcakes. (Okay, so I have been known to go through a few cupcakes in my day, too.)

It’s totally not what you’re thinking. It’s not that I can’t hold down a job because I keep on getting fired or arrested or something. It’s just that… well… quitting is kind of my thing.

Of course, quitting jobs every year or so was not exactly in my life plan when I first graduated from college. (Which was also a little while ago. Sheez, some people are so nosy!)

Nope, I was going to have a career — as a writer. Yep, I’d get paid to put words down on paper and stuff. I wasn’t exactly sure how I would go about becoming a writer or how I’d get paid or even what I would write about, but I wasn’t worried. I had just spent four years slogging through creative writing workshops to earn my bachelor’s degree in English. That had to be worth something, right? (Stop laughing. I was twenty-two years old at the time and prone to writing melodramatic poetry about dead flowers. What the heck did I know?)

A Slight Detour…


But, before embarking on my career as a fabulously overpaid writer (I said, stop laughing!), I was just going to take a little detour – to Asia. In college, I had spent my summers working in pubs in the UK and Ireland while on student work visas and had fallen in love with traveling.

Well, not quite with traveling, per se. I mean, don’t get me wrong or anything, traveling is fine and dandy. But I wasn’t particularly crazy about sleeping in hostel dorm rooms with strangers or showering in my flip-flops or living out of a backpack. Heck, I didn’t even own a backpack – all my luggage had wheels. (Yes, I am that princess.)

But I did love living abroad, and I wanted another chance to give it a go — this time in a country that would be a bit more of a challenge.

Prior to graduation, I applied to the JET Program, a program for recent college grads to teach English in Japan, and got a gig at a high school in a tiny fishing village on the coast of the Japan Sea. It would only be a year. I figured my career could wait for a measly twelve months, right?

It’s been thirteen years since then (yeah, yeah, you do the math), and my career is still waiting.

Sure, I’ve had lots of jobs. After my year in Japan, I returned to the States to work in an office in DC. After less than two years of that, I went abroad again – this time, to teach in Brazil. After Brazil, I moved back to my hometown of Buffalo, NY, and got another office job.

That stuck for almost three years until I returned to school to get my degree in education and went back to Japan again – this time to work at a university in Kobe.

My job in Kobe was probably the closest thing I’d ever had to a “real job” – I was well-paid and had excellent benefits, professional development opportunities, and a pension plan (the only hitch – I’d have to retire in Japan). I was well on my way to that career-thing everyone was talking about.

And Then I Quit

Yep. Again.

After three years, I was tired and burnt out. I needed a break.

I spent the following year traveling and volunteering throughout Southeast Asia. By the time my year was up, so were my savings.

So in February, I got a job in China, teaching at a university in Wuxi, an industrial city about an hour away from Shanghai. My job isn’t bad as far as jobs go  – I only teach sixteen hours a week, I have Fridays off, and I get two months off between semesters. I don’t get paid much, but I make more than enough to get by in China where the living is cheap.

It’s the perfect job, really.

Except for the fact that it’s still, well, a job.

When my contract came up for renewal this past month, I was tempted to quit — like, really, really tempted. I told all my family and friends that I was leaving. I mentally started packing my bags. (Okay, so maybe I did drag my suitcase out of the closet and start packing it. Hey, packing takes time! It’s important to get a jumpstart – like, a two-month jumpstart.) I almost emailed the administrative office at work to tell them I wouldn’t be renewing my contract.

And Then I Changed My Mind

I decided to stay.

Why didn’t I quit? After all, I am pretty good at this quitting thing. (Not to brag, of course.)

Well, I realized that for the past thirteen years, I haven’t just been quitting jobs, I’ve been quitting my dream. (Okay, okay, I know that sounds, like, way hokey, but just bear with me here.)  By going through jobs like they were cupcakes, I hadn’t been giving myself a chance to focus on what I really want to do with my life — writing. Instead, I’d been too busy planning my exit, packing my luggage and stuffing office supplies into my purse. (To any of my former supervisors who may be reading this, I’m totally kidding, and, uh, I don’t know what happened to that case of Post-it notes, I swear.)

When I signed the contract to stay another semester, I made a pact with myself. I promised to use the next eight months that I have in China and all the free time that my job gives me to focus on my writing and myself and not just on my escape route.

And then after my eight months are up, I’ll quit.

After all, it’s kind of my thing.

Sally is a writer, teacher, traveler, performer and all-around scaredy cat. She has been working, living and traveling in Asia since 2007. She currently lives in China, where she teaches English, blogs about cookies and dreams of quitting… again. You can check out her blog and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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