Science of Us: Katie Heaney
New York magazine|May 10 - 23, 2021
The Clock-Out Cure – For those who can afford it, quitting has become the ultimate form of self-care.

My quitting fantasies became most vivid in December. It was the stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a time when, historically, little work gets accomplished anyway. Here’s how I imagined my resignation: I would wait for that familiar feeling to set in, the one in which I’d sooner be swallowed into the Earth’s core than complete one more routine work task. Then, instead of doing it, I’d simply … not. I would not answer the email. Not send my ideas for the pitch meeting. I’d tell my editor, “You know what, actually? Today’s my last day.” Then I’d sign out of Slack, forever.

But, of course, I never did. The next day would be better, I told myself, and even if it wasn’t, reality proved unignorable: My wife, like millions of other Americans, had lost her job in the pandemic. I was responsible for both our livelihood and our health insurance. I was grateful to have kept my job, one of the few constants in an otherwise turbulent year; at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel I was running out of labor to give, especially as I watched my social media feeds light up with reports of other professionals clocking out for good. Mayors, academics, journalists, financial analysts, even pastors—all of them, it seemed, were quitting their jobs. Some announced they were leaving for new fields; others had no next steps in mind except to sleep and read and spend time with family. But the reason they gave was the same: They were burned out.

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