I Quit My Job During the Last Recession & I’m Terrified I’ll do It Again

quit my job

On Monday, September 1, 2008, I gave notice to my employer. I quit my job to travel the world

Three weeks later, I dropped off a carload full of stuff for storage at my parent’s house and boarded a plane to Buenos Aires.

I had saved enough to spend a year traveling the world. My plan was to return at the end of it and easily find a new job. 

I was happily devouring famous Argentinian steak, drinking Malbec, and taking walks along the Rio de La Plata when the stock market crashed on September 29, 2008.

This was the first market crash that began the Great Recession. While it seems like many years ago, those who were scarred by it remember the (seemingly) endless market lows, coupled with an extreme unemployment rate that didn’t seem to end.

When I returned from my trip (sooner than a year after I left), I searched and networked but still couldn’t find a job. I ended up in law school. 

By the time I graduated from law school (deep in debt), the market had settled, and I became gainfully employed.

But, it was a painful four years. Coupled with the memories of hunting for a job and deciding on law school, I now also regret the market gains I missed out on.

If I had still been working during those years and regularly contributing to my 401(k) instead of incurring law school debt, I would be much further ahead in my financial journey than I am now.

But perhaps what sticks with me most about that time is the fear that I will do it again.

That’s right, as I begin to take real steps to take another sabbatical, I’m terrified that I will quit my job just as the US economy is entering another recession. COVID has been a painful time for our country and world, with the economic impacts being a small factor compared to the greater impacts of death, inequalities, and disparate impact on women.

I am hopeful, but not confident, that it will not lead to another recession.

We all know that the market has ups and downs. Every so many years, the market will drop, unemployment will rise, and things will seem really, really bad. And let’s face it, things are worse than really bad. They are truly devastating for those who are unemployed, hungry, and homeless. 

So that’s where I’m stuck. I’m worried that if I quit my job (or negotiate an unpaid sabbatical), we will enter one of those down cycles. Then what? 

When we are facing fears, sometimes the best thing to do is to ask ourselves, “what would be the worst thing that could happen?” 

I could quit my job to take a sabbatical, planning to return to the workforce a year later and not be able to.

Then what would I do?

This post is part of our Sabbatical Sundays series. To read more, click here.

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