2021, which has become known as “The Year of The Big Quit,” takes me back to another year in which I quit not once, but four times.

Irving Williams helps renovate a farmhouse in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, in 1972. Photo courtesy of Irving Williams

In the fall of 1971, I quit my junior year of college. I had run out of money and had taken out large loans and a ton of work-study jobs to make ends meet. In a time when it was still possible for students to put themselves though school, I had fallen behind.

Four weeks into the semester, I made an appointment with the dean to formally withdraw. I had missed the deadline to get a total refund on my tuition, but he sent me to the bursar with a note to write a check for a full refund. I already had off-campus housing and the first month’s rent was paid, so I was set for a few weeks. Sneaking into the college dining hall for a meal or two was entirely possible. I just needed to find work.

In those days, The Evening Capital in Annapolis (then the city’s daily) was still divided into “Male” and “Female” help wanted sections. Thus began an odyssey into the world of work available to a college dropout, and the next big quits that followed.

I quit the substitute teaching job at Annapolis Junior High on the very first day, never even having had the chance to inflict any educational damage on seventh-graders. It was in the faculty break room, where I was being oriented to the job by a sadly burned-out teacher, that I decided this wasn’t the place for me. Quit Two.

I made it all of three days in a job with the Annapolis Public Works department, raking leaves in housing projects. Being outside and in the fresh air and doing hard physical labor was refreshing, but not so the overly negative and judgmental attitudes of my coworkers regarding the residents of the projects. Quit Three.

I jumped at the chance to become an oil delivery person. Little did I know that they assigned the worst trucks to the new guy. Mine had gaping holes in the floorboards, which allowed diesel exhaust to billow into the cab. After a week of wrestling with a truck that had no power steering, and blinded by headaches from the fumes, I accidentally backed into a customer’s garage. Skipping the rest of my deliveries, I headed straight back to the terminal, put my keys on the manager’s desk and murmured the words “I quit” before he could say “You’re fired.” Quit Four.

A few days later I walked into a local flower shop with a “Help Wanted” sign in the front window. I was hired on the spot when I promised not to smoke pot on the job, as the previous delivery boy had done, missing half of his deliveries and constantly getting lost. The truck smelled nice, my bosses were great and I kept that job until returning to school the following fall.

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