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Open Letter to Your Boss When Quitting Work to Go Travel

by Tereza Jarnikova Sep 17, 2012
So long, and thanks for all the coffee.


I regret to inform you that it is not working out.

Don’t get me wrong. There are many, many things I enjoy and admire about you. Take the unlimited coffee, for instance. Unlimited coffee is nothing to be sneezed at. At my present rate of caffeine consumption, I have calculated that by providing me with free coffee, you save me at least 68 cents worth of grounds alone a day, not to mention the trouble of making it, and the savings are far greater if I consider the cost of a double-shot-mocha-cappuccino at one of the fancy coffee places down the street.

Nearly overdosing on caffeine every morning gives me a sense of purposefulness, of productivity. I appreciate that it is fair-trade and shade-grown, even though I know that this is only due to the partnership between a certain famous coffee corporation and our corporation, and that you brag about our fair-trade, shade-grown coffee at every PR meeting, press conference, Employee Appreciation day…really, any chance you get. Still, I appreciate it.

I love the orderliness of Excel spreadsheets. I love knowing that D17 is right above D18 and that E19 will be to the bottom right of D18. There is a comforting predictability to it. Also, did you know that you can plot multiple graphs on the same x-axis, and that if you play around with the colour scheme for a bit, you can get it to look like the Reading Rainbow? Because you can. I did this yesterday and presented the resulting graph at a progress meeting, and while I don’t think anyone noticed, it made me feel whimsical inside.

Really, things are going well. But still, I have to leave. For one thing, I don’t have enough cardigans.

I love that on the new iPad you loan us, it’s very easy to play Minesweeper while also jotting down new product specifics at the morning development meeting. Thanks to you, I’m learning multitasking and exercising my brain through mid-level cognitive logic puzzles, which I like to think is staving off the neurological diseases I could otherwise get in old age.

I love the doorman, Hal. Hal’s always nice to me in the mornings. We regularly make small talk about our days. He showed me pictures of his kids, once. They’re five and seven, and they’re really cute, and his wife is beautiful. Every morning, Hal makes me feel like a human being before I open the first Excel spreadsheet of the day.

There are many little things like this, ways you brighten my day. You have great smiles, all of you. Despite this, I have to leave.

I can hear your voice in my head. Why? You ask. I can see the frown lines at the corners of your mouth as I type this. You didn’t see this coming, I know, and I’m sorry. Things appear to be going well. I bought a new set of ballpoint pens recently. I just got a minor raise, and I moved from the cubicle in the middle of the floor to the cubicle on the corner, which overlooks the courtyard, where there are flowers, and even though they are marigolds (chosen for their hardiness and not their beauty), they make me smile.

Really, things are going well. But still, I have to leave.

For one thing, I don’t have enough cardigans. I very much appreciate that our office culture permits somewhat casual clothing and that I don’t have to wear a suit or heels (heels, frankly, would have been a dealbreaker), but I still don’t have enough cardigans. I only have one, which wouldn’t be so bad if it was some respectable colour like gray or black, but it’s rainbow-coloured, and if I wear it everyday (and I have to, because you crank the A/C to -15 even when it’s sweltering outside), people will talk.

You say that this is such a surmountable problem that it cannot even be considered a problem. Cardigans are on sale at Target for $11.99 right now. I know, because I heard the office ladies talk about it for 15 minutes at the copier yesterday. But that’s the thing. I don’t want to buy a cardigan on sale at Target for $11.99 and, what’s more, I really, really don’t want my life to get to the point where I get so excited at the prospect of buying a cardigan on sale at Target for $11.99 that I can sustain a conversation about it for 15 minutes.

It’s not that dark yet, but it’s getting there.

For another, office bonding time largely consists of rehashing NFL results and yesterday’s episode of The Office. I don’t own a television. I don’t know why; I forgot to buy one when I moved here and I don’t want to now. This means that I’m relegated to the sidelines in these conversations and reduced to laughing awkwardly at the jokes of the cute new guy in HR and trying to make eye contact. It makes me feel like a freshman in high school again.

I am leaving to go to Mongolia. Have you heard of yak milk?…But yak’s milk isn’t the point.

Furthermore, I cannot remember the last time that within the context of this job I created something (Reading Rainbow graph notwithstanding) that was in any way creative or beautiful or directly useful or good for any one person or for the planet at large, and frankly I have not yet let go of the youthfully idealistic idea that if one is not creating something that is in any way creative or beautiful or directly useful or good for any one person or for the planet at large, then one is missing the point.

This is why I am leaving.

I am leaving to go to Mongolia. Have you heard of yak milk? Cow’s milk doesn’t hold a candle to it in terms of nutrition and taste. But yak’s milk isn’t the point. Mongolia has one of the world’s lowest populations per square km. They have these really terrible winter storms called dzud there and sometimes all the yaks die. Dzud is also not the point.

I hear the sneer in your voice. You think I’m throwing away something that by all objective standards many would count themselves extremely lucky to have. You give me stability, you give me pleasant moments, you give me the corner office, and you think I am throwing it all away for some self-indulgent, naïve dream of being a “free spirit”, whatever that means anyway.

And I am. I am extremely conscious of the fact that I’m not the first or last to do something like this. I also know that maybe in a few years, I’ll find you again — or, if not you, then someone like you — and then I’ll be happy with a corner office and daily talks with the doorman. Maybe I’ll even — who knows — have a job where I create things more satisfying than Reading Rainbow Excel graphs. But for now, I am leaving. I am sorry. It’s been fun.

You can keep the pens.

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