When I was in my 20s I left a job without telling my boss. He didn’t find out for a couple of weeks. It seems like a silly thing to do when I look back it at, but I felt like I didn’t have any choice.

At the time, I was hanging out with the wrong crowd and my life was more than a little chaotic. In an attempt to get my life back into some sort of order, I managed to get an office job in a large government agency. It was good to be earning some money.

The joy of having a job ends quickly

But the joy didn’t last very long. I was told that I’d be joining a team that had to look up data on a microfiche system and then print that data.

This was back in the days before computers. If you don’t know what a microfiche is, it’s defined as

a flat piece of film containing microphotographs of the pages of a newspaper, catalog, or other document.

There were around 30 people working in this department. We’d be given a box of microfiche tapes with some instructions attached to it. The instructions were along the lines of…

Find document 72/3475/b and photocopy it.

We then put the tape into a machine and scrolled through the microfiche. We had a screen to view the microfiche. When we located the document that was requested, we clicked a button to photocopy it. We then attached the photocopy to the tape and put it back in the box.

We did this all day, every day.

I usually managed to photocopy over 500 documents a day. I was mind-numbingly boring.

The boredom

Even worse than the boredom were the headaches and altered vision it gave me.

Imagine a screen with hundreds of documents. You scroll through them looking for one specific document. The documents are scrolling before your eyes all day long. Then this happens:

When you look up from the screen, the room is scrolling. It takes your brain a few seconds to be able to focus on the room properly. It gives you headaches. Every day.

My manager didn’t care

After almost two weeks of this, I told my manager that I couldn’t do it any longer. I asked to be moved to another department. He said that wasn’t possible. He add that I was actually lucky to be there. The reason being that once employees had spent two years there they usually got moved to a really good department.

The thought of photocopying over 500 documents a day for the next two years was just too much. I told my manager that I simply couldn’t do that. He said I didn’t have any choice.

Well, we’ll see about that. Of course I had a choice. We always have a choice in what we do.

I struggled on for a few more days while I wondered what to do.

That’s it. I’m leaving.

I woke up one morning and just couldn’t bring myself to go to work. So, I didn’t go.

That meant I wouldn’t get paid. In the UK you can sign on as unemployed when you’re out of work. You then get paid a small amount of money every two weeks. It’s not great, but it’s enough for the basics. You also get your rent paid.

So, I headed to the unemployment office and signed on as unemployed. I even got paid my first lot of unemployment money, which in the UK is known as “dole money”. Being unemployed is known as “being on the dole”.

No more job, no more headaches

All was well. The nightmare job was history, as were my headaches.

One day, the phone rang. It was the HR department from the job I’d left. The woman on the phone explained that there seemed to be some mistake that she couldn’t figure out.

HR department doesn’t know I’ve left

She said I was listed as being employed on their system but that the Department of Employment had written to them to say that I’d left. I told her that the DofE was correct. I had in fact left.

She then said that I couldn’t just leave. I had to give 4 weeks’ notice of leaving and also work for those 4 weeks. I told her that it wasn’t possible to do that because I’d already left.

She then claimed that I hadn’t left and that I’d need to go to work the next day and hand in my notice if I wanted to leave. I explained again that I’d already left and wouldn’t be going back.

She said that’s not how it works. She said I had to go back to work. I said it simply wasn’t going to happen. She said…

“Well, we’ll see about that. You haven’t heard the last of this.”

She was wrong. I never hear from her ever again.

Of course I have a choice

There was no way that I was going to spend 2 years working at a job that made me ill. I asked to be moved. My request was denied. Maybe I should have handed in my notice and taken 4 weeks off on sick leave. I didn’t. But I didn’t care.

The woman in HR was just doing her job, so I don’t blame her for all of this. But I find it funny that she was so confident that I’d be going back. She thought I didn’t have a choice. I always have a choice.

I guess I must technically still be employed there because I didn’t hand in my notice and have never received and notice of termination from the employer.

Sometimes life is weird.

In my case, life is often weird.

That’s why I love it.

Looking back on these times makes me laugh so much.

It’s not the only job I left abruptly. Why drag out the inevitable? If you’re going to leave, just leave. There’s no need for extra 4 weeks of punishment.