Why I Quit My Job. ~ Samantha Rubenstein

Via Samantha Rubenstein
on Aug 8, 2013
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Photo: Pixoto
Photo: Pixoto

Today is my last day as a book publicist.

I look at that sentence and I don’t know what comes after it.

When asked tentatively, because people are concerned (or envious), I say, “travel,” and then the next question is where.

“My plan is to make a plan,” I say and this causes more concern, and that concern makes me want to reach across to the other and shout, “Don’t you know I’ll figure it out?!”

When I told my mother I was quitting she cried, “I told you that you weren’t allowed to quit your job until you had another!”

“I don’t think you understand, “I responded. “I. DON’T. WANT. TO. WORK.”

Two months after I graduated college I took an internship at Edelman Public Relations. I decided public relations was a good field for me because I liked people, and I liked to talk, though to say that this decision was made blindly would be a gross understatement. My ignorance of public relations was so vast that I had to buy a book before my first interview, Public Relations for Dummies, and I was a dummy. Who chooses a career based on so little knowledge?

Actually the majority of society, which explains why most people are miserable on levels beyond their conscious understanding, and yet this misery doesn’t inspire most to quit.

I am guilty of this. For the next six years I cobbled together a career, taking on both impressive and unimpressive jobs, ranging from running the Midwest Media Relations of Starbucks to Shopgirl. I was laid off, belittled, and once my approved worked was yellowed with errors and then sent to the whole team.

For years after, the yellow haunted me, reminding me that I was wrong and that the person I was being was a complete farce.

Still, like many, I kept going because I knew I had to. Who else was going to pay my student loans, my cellphone bills and rent? What else was I going to do with my life? Being a writer wasn’t financially viable, and I became attached to the response others gave me when I said what I did for a living (except for that brief period working in a clothing store).

At 23 “Manager of Media Relations,” or at 26, “Publicist,” caused people’s eyes to narrow in on me as someone worth talking to. Despite my setbacks, and zig-zags, I had landed somewhere where others could be either vaguely impressed or proud of me.

This validation was what I had hungered for, and even though I knew the business world did not align with what I had studied, or was innately good at, I felt that it was vital for me to learn this world to survive in it—because on some level, everything is business.

Also, I love books beyond reason, and so publishing seemed perfect. I had first knocked at the publishing’s world door in 2006 and it said, “No way.” So again and again I tried. By 2010, I had enough experience for that door to open, but the e-book had landed, and what was behind that door had changed.

I entered a frightened and confused industry that was gripping onto the past in a city of innovation. This long admired institution, this paragon of culture was being disrupted, and the ruptures were causing the very binding of the book to explode.

For an ambitious 20-something, it wasn’t the best place to land, or was it? I saw opportunity, the ability to remake what was once considered unchangeable, and it wasn’t only the book industry, but public relations as well.

I had unknowingly stumbled into two professions, “the book,” and “the Publicist,” or, “literature” and “communication,” during an era of foundation breaking. Yes, the binding of the book had exploded, but also the telephone was disintegrating.

“Don’t call me,” journalists were screaming, “I only answer via email,” and they were screaming scared because their jobs were also disappearing.

I often say people my age (or 28–32) are the bridge between one world and the next; we are forever divided between the analog and the digital. The world that had been promised to us didn’t exist by the time we had entered it. Careers were moments in time, the paper resume was becoming laughable and relationships were conducted via text message.

Our time was the Clinton era: a time of optimism and economic growth. Unlike those a few years younger, the ones who grew up in the Bush era, we were told time and time again that “the U.S. is number one and we are lucky to live in the land of opportunity,” and we believed what we had been told.

Personally, I believe the U.S., or at least the Bay area, is still the land of opportunity, but it is a different type of opportunity than the type that we had been taught: intangible, coded and disruptive. It asks the question, “How do we do what we’ve always done, but better?”

For publishing, this meant the e-book: cheaper and weightless, yielding lower production costs and potentially more accessibility to those who could afford e-readers.

However, how does one tell a dinosaur that it soon won’t exist? It just doesn’t understand because it doesn’t speak the language.

Being a millennial means that I know how to talk to the dinosaurs and that I could help walk them across the bridge into this next (or current) era; this was my opportunity.

Yet, I could not conjure up the energy to do so. I was too busy trying to understand what a publicist’s value-add is in an age of disintegrating journalism. Where buzzwords like, ‘direct to consumer,’ really are saying people aren’t looking for experts to curate their content and tell their stories. One only has to glance at Facebook to intuitively understand that we are more obsessed with ourselves, with our own telling of stories, and of course our friends.

Though, this is all really a lie. I’m saying what I see, but not how I really felt. I’m commenting on my job and industry. The absolute truth of it all was I just didn’t care anymore.

I felt like I was impersonating a version of myself I thought I should be. This person had a respectable job, if not respect. This person was “concerned” about the success of her products and campaigns, but in my heart I felt that publicity itself was one of the sad ways people trick others into thinking they need more things to be happy.

Others know when you don’t believe in what you’re doing. It is translated through the subconscious. The language that you use or the way that you carry yourself is a revealing message in itself.

My team started to notice, my boss started to notice, and that big yellow line that went straight through my heart started to glow.

Even in an industry where I was promoting books, a product I believed in more than all others, I couldn’t trick myself into believing in what I was doing.

I thought about what I wanted for myself, and I came upon the question, as so beautifully put by Mary Oliver, “’Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I don’t have the answer, but I think it’s a great beginning to another chapter of the story that is my Self.

The publishing industry will survive as it will and publicity will always be there waiting for me to pick it back up if I so choose, but if I do it will be an answer to a question—not a blind should.

It is obvious to all that I will write, and in writing, and in the world out there where all souls live, I will continue to make choices based on the knowledge of who I am and the desire to do something with my one wild, precious and conscious life.

I know I will reach for too much, and I know that I am forever in gratitude for all the opportunities, stumbling, chaos and tears that have taken me to this very point in time where I have attained the freedom of choice because that is free in and of it self, as long as we all shall live.


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Ed: B. Bemel


About Samantha Rubenstein

Samantha is a writer and former Book Publicist who is currently traveling the world.  You can find more of her work at samanthawriting.com.


4 Responses to “Why I Quit My Job. ~ Samantha Rubenstein”

  1. Kate says:

    Thanks for this. I, too, feel like I'm impersonating a version of myself that I think I should be. Your courage to step away from something safe but wrong for you is really inspiring. Maybe I can do the same

  2. Jeremy Scroggs says:

    It is amazing to me that I stumbled upon this today. I struggle in life with a lot of the day to day things that people as a whole seem to do so mindlessly. They get up, they go to work, they complain about the job that they have to do every day, but they never change anything. There is so much opportunity in life. Regardless of if you are dirt broke or making 6 figures, the world is yours. For the past 7 years I have pushed myself as hard as I could to excel in my career as a software developer. Why software development? I decided when I was in 8th grade. I knew that I was good with logic and it paid well. I have been obsessed with success and material things. I eat at the finest restaurants, wear designer clothing, drive an expensive car, and buy the latest technology. Why? I have no idea other than society told me that this is what I am supposed to do. I am also a very unhappy person. What I have come to realize is that I want to experience life. I want to help people in need. I want to stop worrying about myself all of time. I want to travel. I want to relax and enjoy the little time I'm allotted on this earth. So I recently decided to quit my job and move back to where I can be close to my family and start over, doing things not because I should, but because they make myself and the people around me happy. So I thank you for this article and your mindfulness. It only further convinces me that I'm making the right choice.

  3. Robin says:

    I have recently gone through the same experience. An interesting difference in our stories is I started to have physical symptoms for not being true to myself. I broke out in a rash from my face to my belly button. I said, "ok, ok I get the hint" I knew all along I was impersonating a version of myself but my body made me listen. I asked for personal leave and got it especially when they saw my pictures with all the red rash all over me. It has been 30 unpaid days and it is time for my work to grant me another 30 days off or I am out of a job. The nice thing is it has given me time to rest, see a great therapist, and think about what I want to do with my life. The doctors I have been to can't find the reason for my rash but I know inside it is a "wake up call" and is now getting better. I would rather it be a rash than a heart attack so I am listening and taking care of myself right now. I had stashed back a little money which I did on purpose having a feeling I would not stay if I could get past the fear of letting go of my job. I wish you all the best!

  4. Stef says:

    Dear Samantha, thank you so much for sharing this. I am just in the same situation.
    I am 25.
    I am Marketing Specialist in a huge care company based in Munich.
    I do the job for the benefits and the rewards.
    But I don’t do it with my heart.
    I hate Marketing.
    Promoting expensive stuff people don’t need and can’t afford is without soul and sense in my idea.
    I am now taking a 6-months Sabbatical to have time to think. To make a plan what I want to do with this one life I have.
    I wish you the best for your journey, you only have this one life.
    Take the chance!
    xoxo Stef