The long goodbye

Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

I love you.

But I need to leave you.

For my mental health. I am sorry.

From the beginning

We go back a long way. I was a newbie, youngest member on the team.

I became the manager, mainly because I accepted the challenge of heading up a brand new site.

I relished the unique challenges of setting up a new site, employing new staff and establishing procedures and policies.

During this time, my relationship broke up when I did not want a long distance relationship. Work was a saviour – I gave everything to it, at first to dull my pain and loss. I am needed here, I am extremely useful.

Soon the main site wanted me back as manager – I had proven myself at the smaller new site. So I returned and handed my baby to another manager.

Over the years, the business grew and transformed. We renovated the premises, modernised it with technology. All the time, I was learning new things on the job; managing difficult people who resented the youngest as manager; introducing new services and technology.

I thrived in this role. One by one, the ‘difficult’ people left and we formed a very strong core team with the remaining staff plus new team members. I am still friends with this team 26 years on.

Then we burnt down

I will never forget standing across the road, in the middle of the night, watching my baby burn. Watching the firemen valiantly try to beat the flames engulfing the building.

All those hours of work. The planning and thinking behind the renovations.

Gone up in flames.

So we start again

This is when I learn resilience.

That difficult things in life come and they will go too in time.

The very next day, we as a team, moved down the street, set up shop in a garage and soldiered on.

While the bosses found new premises, dealt with insurance and rebuilding our old premises.

We work together, continuing to serve our local community and through it all, with no loss of institutional clients.

While this was an incredibly difficult and uncertain time, we forged stronger bonds among the core team – with our shared experiences forever defined as ‘before’ and ‘after’ the fire.

Rising from the ashes

Like a phoenix.

By this stage, I am an accidental workaholic.

Accidental because I did not set out consciously to be ambitious or career climbing. I just got into the habit of working very hard and love responding to challenges. I want to see results – not so much for myself, crazy as it sounds, but for the company.

The business grows and grows. To the point we ran out of room.

And so we deicide to split the business into two – one servicing retail clients and the other, institutional clients.

The split

I always knew it would be hard to manage two sites, even though they were physically very close to each other. I resisted for a while but finally acknowledge we have no option but to split into two.

Once again, I am managing transitions. The team that is ‘left behind’ and the team moving to the new premises. More change for everyone. Some react to change better than others.

The new business grows and grows. Servicing institutional clients can be boring once systems are in place.

I decide to try my hand at my own business (in partnership with the bosses) in a totally different industry, while still working very part time in the core businesses. It flopped.

So I am back to managing both core businesses. Where I am seen to produce the most value.

Strong headwinds

By this time, the retail business is facing immense challenges with industry disruptors wreaking havoc. We struggle to respond. Revenue drops. Staff is not replaced as they leave.

Meanwhile. the institutional business is growing rapidly. Our energy and focus is diverted here. The team also grows rapidly to cope with serving all these clients.

But over the years, this landscape shifts too when the government change the rules and our revenue drops as a result. We still have to maintain our high level of service, with institutional clients expressly informing us they would leave if we reduce some of our costly-to-us services.

My day to day roles now revolve around managing staff – maintaining the roster is my least favourite part of the job. And as staff leave, they were not replaced, in an effort to contain costs. This put increasing pressure on my boss and I to shoulder some of the day to day workload.

It is just inevitable that starved of funds, we could not attract quality staff.

I struggle. To keep everyone happy – the staff, the clients and the boss. The more I take on, the more people expect me to perform miracles.

And I am still managing the retail business, encouraging our staff to adopt new strategies to counteract the distruptors. It was an uphill battle initially but I sense momentum is picking up in our favour.

I am always torn between the two businesses, frenetically juggling, juggling, juggling.

I am drowning.

Finally I cracked

It is time to say goodbye.

Heart wrenching as it is.

From the baby I help birthed. The business with institutional clients.

I have nothing more to offer, no more solutions, creative or otherwise.

I am trying very hard not to feel that I failed.

Trying to tell myself that I gave everything I had in me and that it is time to surrender.

To admit that I can no longer handle the beast we created.

I wish you all the best, with all that is in my heart. That someone else with more energy and an urgent injection of funds will rescue you.

And that you will continue to grow, to provide a valuable service to our institutional clients.

Where to from here?

I will be managing the retail business.

The smaller business.

With less staff.

There are still plenty of mighty challenges ahead.

Which I will meet head on.

But first I rest and heal.

Holidays, here I come


Have you felt overwhelmed at work? And burnt out?


9 Replies to “The long goodbye”

  1. Dear latestarterfire,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I recently left my 14-year career, not initially recognising I was burnt out almost three years ago.

    I took a brief sabbatical and spent most of the time with my family and some travelling, for once I was enjoying the moments and feeling relaxed.

    I had uncertainties about what the future holds, where my next career would be. With the brief sabbatical, I’m physically and mentally ready for my next challenge.

  2. Hi Jenny,

    Yes, it creeps up on you … I’ve always been the stressed out individual juggling many balls in the air – but I never would have identified myself as being burnt out.

    I’m on a five and a half weeks holiday so hoping the rest will do me good. Two days in and I must say I could get used to living like this! That’s why FI is so important, isn’t it?

    Thank you very much for sharing your experiences and taking the time to comment.

  3. Your mental health is more important. Kudos for recognising that and reducing your responsibilities to a level that you can personally cope with. I hope you come back refreshed and ready for your new challenge.

    I haven’t been in your exact situation but I chose to not pursue a more senior role that I would easily qualify for, because I know that would come with more time at work and more stress. Even if it came with more pay and put me on the fast track to FIRE, it wasn’t worth it.

  4. Thank you – yes, always choose mental health and be a bit slower getting to FI then be burnt out and needing to recover

    Good on you for realising that now 🙂

  5. How similar our stories are! I am on a 5 week holiday too & oddly it’s making me nervous 🙂 I am heading down under for a 2-week holiday, then I am going to travel locally in my country. It’s my mini career break, and it’s a way for me to test how retirement will be like. I am loving extra frugally than usual too, testing my “retirement budget”.

    But at the same time, like you, I am rewarding myself with nice hotel stays instead of staying in hostels and the like. A friend will be joining me in Melbourne and we are planning to eat ALL THE THINGS

    Have a great holiday, and glad that you are booking this places!

  6. Enjoy your well deserved holiday! I sincerely hope that you will recover from your stressful jobs too – rest and chill out 🙂 Enjoy Australia and yes, EAT lots in Melbourne

  7. Your story reads similar to so many others, mine included . The reduction in stress sounds like it was long overdue for you. So glad you are taking a well deserved step back.

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