by Ann Friedman
I quit my job in December. After spending the past four years at The American Prospect, where I was an editor about 90 percent of the time and a writer the other 10, I decided I wanted to flip that ratio. Since then, I've been on a 5,000-mile road trip--a tour of friends' couches across America--from D.C. to the Midwest to California and many places in between. Right now, I'm in Phoenix. I plan to spend the rest of this week writing about the difference between reading about the rest of America and actually visiting it.
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Today I want to talk about quitting. Folks in different parts of the country react very differently to news that I have voluntarily left a stable job. Back in D.C., the response was very you go girl. And that was the narrative I adopted, too. Probably because it's a happy one: Finally taking some time for my writing! I don't even need a whole room--just a laptop and Honda Accord of one's own! So gutsy and modern!
My tone started to shift when I was home in Iowa for Christmas. I ran into three women I hadn't seen since high school and watched their faces cloud with confusion when I proudly told them I had left my job to be a freelancer. "So you're looking for work?" one asked. Well, yes, I attempted to explain, but not, like, a full-time job. One-off writing assignments and part-time editing gigs, that sort of thing. At least for awhile. She looked at me like I had two heads. I was describing the sort of work that folks in and around my hometown use as a stop-gap during unemployment. Work they are grateful for after months of waking up and scrolling through job listings.