I made some bold decisions this month.
This is the story of how I quit my job.
I could feel the hot magma sputtering in my throat.
It had only been three months of working at the store. Three months of low pay and way too many responsibilities. I was employed by a decades-old, multinational company that made tens of millions of dollars in revenue every year, but it was somehow run like a chaotic, underfunded startup.
For less than a living wage, I was essentially doing the duties of seven people: cashier, salesperson, customer service rep, personal shopper, marketer, copywriter, and stock room employee—all while dealing with snobby customers and a high-strung manager who seemed to take everything personally. He wore all his emotions on his sleeve, liked to trauma-dump on me and cross boundaries, expected work to bleed into the lives of even part-time employees, and was simultaneously demanding yet forgetful, adamantly overconfident yet wishy-washy—declaring something with utmost certainty one moment, and then immediately contradicting himself the next.
Now his voice was full of spikes, a defensive rage rising and growing to fill the room, and I was half-surprised to feel an (almost) equal and opposite force towering up from within me.
The details of how I got to that moment are unnecessarily complicated.
The bare bones of it are this:
My manager had written an email response to a customer I'd been speaking with, and he expected me to sign off on it with my name. Even though the grammar was questionable, the instructions were less than clear, the tone was completely different from my other correspondence with this customer, and it included a sentence that said, "You can call me on my personal cell phone"—with the number for my manager's phone.
I started tapping away at the computer, making edits here and there, trying to reword it so that it made more sense coming from me, when he turned back towards me. "Are you rewriting the email I just wrote for you." It was a lit fuse—more of a fuming statement than a question.
"Yes, it's just that I wanted to make it more clear, since this customer was so confused—"
"So you think it's not clear enough." His words are loaded with a dangerous resentment.
"It's pretty clear, but I just want to make extra-sure—"
"I just helped you by writing this email. I stood here and spent all this time writing it."
"I didn't ask you to help me."
And the bomb goes off. "You asked me! You ASKED me to help you!"
"No, I didn't. You just took over the computer and started writing this, and I thought you were taking over the ticket, since you're the manager—"
"No. This is YOUR customer. This is YOUR responsibility." Fully yelling now.
"I know, yes. It's just that you included your phone number in here and said 'call ME on my cell phone' and you put your number—"
"Well YOU aren't willing to give out your personal cell phone number!"
"Yes, I'm not comfortable with giving that out to customers. So since you don't want to sign off your name, I'm just rewording this to make it make sense coming from me—"
"So you're saying it doesn't make sense. You're saying it isn't clear enough. This email that I took all the time to write for you."
At this point his ego, his pain, his rage is filling the room, and a part of me senses with faint surprise that I am not backing down, that the volume of my voice has been rising too instead of becoming meeker and meeker, even as I now get to the point where tears threaten to choke through my anger.
Hot indignant magma continues to rise in my chest, filling me with strength and fire. "What is the issue?" I ask.
"There is no issue! There is no issue!!! You just don't understand, is all. It's not clear enough to you. YOU don't understand."
And on and on and on in furious circles he goes, convulsing in a warp tunnel of his own childhood triggers and insecurities and rage, until I realize that my only way out is to give up. I throw up my hands. I say, "Okay." The dust settles. He walks away.
I am neutrally pleasant for the rest of the day, because I have to get through an entire shift somehow.
I am disgusted with how easily I slip into politeness, feeling all the childhood urges, all the finely tuned training and experience I have in smoothing over a tense situation and putting on a good face. I find a bit of space within that, though, to forgive myself and to acknowledge the younger Sarah that was forced to learn how to oh-so-carefully navigate through vast fields of emotional landmines.
At lunch time, I decide I am going to quit.
Even though Shadow Femme can't yet pay my bills, and even though I really need the money. I am done.
The next day, I send a terse email tendering my resignation. I mail back my store key via certified mail and send over the tracking info.
I'm bombarded with emails, texts, voicemails, and Whatsapps from my manager and from the European director of retail. I ask them not to contact me on my personal phone. I block my manager's phone number. I don't listen to the voicemails.
And just like that, for the very first time in my life, I've left a toxic work environment on my own terms.
Not because a manipulative, paranoid, Adderall-addicted supervisor got me fired for supposedly "spreading negativity and dissent throughout the company" (true story, age 24). Not because a narcissistic tech founder's ego was bruised by my earnest and honest feedback about the company's business model, naturally leading her to cuss me out at the top of her lungs and march me out of the building, never to return (also a true story, age 25. also also, I was being sexually harassed at that place, so the fact that THEY fired ME stung even more.)
What was different about this time? Why was I able to leave?
I was able to leave because, leading up to this point, I had already gone through not just one, but two challenging lessons, in just a week's time.
Situations that faced me with an impossibly steep cliff of cringey icky shame-filled insurmountable discomfort. Situations in which I had to choose between remaining in a pattern of people-pleasing and deference, or taking the hard path—the one which would require me to enforce my boundaries, listen to my wants and needs, and advocate for myself in a way that could anger or annoy someone in a position of power.
IMPOSSIBLE. I described the correct but difficult path as impossible...and then, somehow, I made the impossible move.
How did I make the impossible move?
I was able to do it because my guides showed me a card spread. Something they called The Knife's Edge.
Now I'm not saying that a card spread can change your life, but it can nudge you in the right direction. (You can do your very own Knife's Edge spread here, and if you need help with it, you can get a written reading from me here.)
The first two times I used it, The Knife's Edge showed me that the harder, stickier choice was the right one. It showed me a possibility of what was on the other side. And that was enough for me to go through with it—to dare to choose a new path, a new and better pattern.
And by the time my manager yelled at me, I didn't need the spread. I only used it afterwards, to affirm that quitting my job had been the right choice.
Emboldened by my first two experiences, I had no problem quitting. I had built up momentum. Courage.
And in the verbal confrontation that ended up being my breaking point, I experienced something new: I wasn't backing down, taking on the blame, curling up and accepting the abuse, crumpling into tears, or trying to diffuse the situation by any means possible (including my own self-abandonment). I had awakened a part of me that was fiercely indignant. It had an energy that I jokingly like to call, "How Dare."
Defensiveness is one thing, but true, righteous, deserved indignation is another.
For those who have been subjected to gaslighting and narcissistic abuse, who default to the fawn response when under attack, who have been trained to constantly question their own reality—always poised to detonate it at the snap of someone's fingers—the energy of How Dare can be fucking empowering.
How dare someone think they can treat you like that?
How dare they yell at you?
How dare they project their insecurities and trauma onto you?
How dare they make this situation about themselves?
How dare they.
Empathy here is a given. The energy of How Dare is for those who empathize more easily than they condemn. For those who are always willing to see the other side, to acknowledge the other person's pain, to understand their trauma and their upbringing and their triggers and the fact that they are only doing this because xyz.
No matter what the other person has been through, it does not give them the right to treat you badly. You can empathize with their childhood, while choosing to not subject yourself to their harmful behavior as an adult.
How Dare meets that other person's energy with equal and opposite power. Dignified indignation. It gives you just enough time to stop, to uncrumple from your fetal position of self-blame and panic, to stand up straight, and then walk away.
That's the energy that the Knife's Edge introduced to me.
I don't know what pathways it will open up for you, but I do know that it will shed an honest and unflinching light on your patterns and possibilities, with the ultimate goal of restoring your agency and empowerment.
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May the Knife's Edge serve you well.
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