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04.11.2005

In Which I Quit My Job

Joshua did it, Jason did it; and it seems I get to do it, too. Maybe now we can call it a trend.

I started working, in the sense of receiving regular paychecks in return for sitting in an office, in the summer of 2000. At the time I was living in Vermont in what is called a cottage house (a tiny two-room outgrowth of someone's garage), a place I shared with my mother. The ceilings in the place were seven feet no inches high, and heating was provided by an ugly metal column along one wall, covered with dark-brown faux wood pattern sheet metal. When the heat came on, it would make a clattering noise and fill the room with tepid, oily air, blowing papers around.

I slept on an inflatable mattress in the back room; my mother worked four-day weekends in New Hampshire and slept on an arrangement of cushions in the front room when she was home. Each morning towards five o'clock, I would awaken to find my elbow or knee poking into the floor, and have to crawl out of bed to blow additional air into the mattress to get a few hours' more sleep. When I woke up later, it was frequently to the sight of the landlord's three-year-old son pressing his unwiped nose to my window to see if I had brought a girl home.

It was not my finest hour.

I spent my days laboriously hand-editing two hundred identical HTML pages, one by one, working on the first of innumerable French internet business plan translations, mailing slides to art shows in places like Fort Myers and Sausalito. In late May, I got an email from a local small business doing Web design; the founder had seen my (horrible) painting site and wanted to know whether I was up for some contract work. It sounded awfully good to me.

By June I was working there full-time; by August I had taught myself Visual Basic and had singlehandedly built what is possibly the worst desktop client ever created for managing an online store (I wrote my own credit card encryption! Using XOR!). Six months later, I was hired as a sysadmin by my former college boss at an educational technology center, a job that somewhow transformed into doing development on an expanded-recall search engine.

Last fall, a program officer at the foundation that funded the search engine headhunted me (again far outside my competence), and it was off to New York City in a vertiginous step up. The job was a plum, a great opportunity, and a bridge too far. I didn't do it well, and it made me very unhappy. And then opportunity knocked.

Today I gave my two weeks' notice. If I pull this off right, the job I'm leaving will be the last one I ever had, and although I don't think I did it justice, I'm proud to have it capping my microcareer.

If I don't pull this off right, it should still make for a few months of entertaining blogging. Stay tuned, you can't lose!

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