Calling it quits

·3 min read

Oct. 29—In mid-November last year, Theocles Herrin was getting ready for his annual review at Mayo Clinic.

Doing some mental preparation for the morning before the review, a thought popped into his head.

"I need to quit," he said, recalling the thought almost a year later.

Herrin, an associate health services analyst at Mayo Clinic, had been working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Minnesota. He had started the job at age 22 in 2019, a few months after graduating from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. with a degree in economics and a minor in music.

"It was a miserable grind," he said of working from home.

Before COVID, Herrin would spend his evenings and weekends playing or attending live music or playing soccer on a local club team.

"Without those things, I was just waking up, working, playing video games and going to bed," he said. "I felt like I wasn't doing anything to move my life forward."

Between playing shows before the pandemic, and not going to any shows during the pandemic, Herrin had a bit of money saved up. He decided to move to Charlottesville, Va., where his parents lived and see if he could make a living playing music.

Herrin followed through with the thought and left Mayo. Herrin said his supervisor was understanding.

"I told him, if I didn't do this, I would regret it for the rest of my life," he said. "It's nothing against Mayo, I liked working there, but I'm just not cut out for a desk job — especially a desk job at home."

A year later, Herrin is making a living performing music and teaching music through a nonprofit called Front Porch in Charlottesville.

"Knowing I'm paying rent, buying groceries for making the world a more musical place is beyond satisfying," he said. "I feel infinitely better."

Herrin is among millions in the last year who are voluntarily leaving their jobs across all sectors.

According to statistics released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record 4.3 million people in the U.S. quit their jobs in August.

Herrin's experience fits a theory proposed by University of California Berkeley economist Ulrike Malmendier in a working paper that theorizes the pandemic and remote work have changed the way people view their lives and the world.

For Ben Black, 21, selling his art on his Etsy store will bring in a bit of income after walking off his retail job earlier this week.

"It just felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders," he said.

However, art wasn't his main motivation for leaving a big-box retailer position. He said treatment by supervisors on the job was his catalyst for leaving.

After a year of being called a "hero," he said, it's back to not being treated well.

Black said walking off the job was the only stand he could take and that since August, he saw at least a dozen others leave the store where he worked.

Black said he doesn't think the trend of people stepping away from their jobs will change until employers change.

"I don't think it will change until employers start treating their employees like human being," he said. "We're not robots."

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