How to Quit Everything

by Jessica Brookman in ,


FACT: What you do with your life matters. The world needs you to quit everything that doesn't make sense until you are somewhere that you don't want to leave. 

This is a story about why I am retiring from social media. Kinda.

 It is also a story about hedge funds, blogging, and being an unreasonable bastard (even if you're a woman, especially if you're a woman). Also, Bobcat Goldthwait makes an appearance. 

There's a chance I may be black-bagged for writing this. Here we go! 

xo. JessICa.


In May 2006, I graduated Cornell University with a degree in Comparative Analysis. My first job was at a hedge fund.

I got the job on craigslist. Someday I'll tell you that story.

But for now, let's start with a morning briefing during my first summer out of college. As I looked over an instrument designed specifically to manipulate (and TOTALLY FUCK) a sector of a certain market, the newly-graduated glow drained from my face. The fund manager noticed. Here is what he said:

Brookman. Not everyone can be superman. Someone has to be Lex Luthor. 

This was novel to me. Sure, I grew up in Connecticut, the playground of financial bastards But I grew up in the depressed, blue-collar, hard-working and pessimistic section. The best I could hope for, or so I was told, was for 40 or so years of career boredom with (If I'm lucky!) a pensioned retirement provided by the time I would be too old and beaten down by life to make use of it. 

No fucking thank you. 

By 15, I had applied for and received a full scholarship to a local prep school. This came much to my parents' surprise, of course, as they found out only when I informed them that I was moving out and would need a ride to campus in the fall. I didn't know this at the time, but thus began my career of quitting shit.

Speaking of, the landscape of Pre-Crash private equity was the closest thing to the Wild West that America has seen in the last century. So there I was, mere years after leaving home, learning how to be a financial outlaw. Later, as the fund sank, I became a pet project. The fund manager made it his personal mission to send me off into the world as the modern day equivalent of Belle Starr. 

I put my discomfort on hold. I had frontrow seats to the American Apocalypse. 

When you go behind the curtain of a perishing fund, you learn how to keep a straight face. You do this partly to keep yourself from becoming overwrought with self-loathing and partly because if you tell anyone what you know, they'd probably want to kill you. 

I'm not cutout for being evil it seems. So I went off to (try to) become a doctor. Then a developer, then a consultant, then a marketer. I have quit or resigned from every job I've ever had since then with the exception of one where I pretty much forced my boss to fire me.  

 

 

But what does this have to do with social media, you ask? 

Well, I have intentionally avoided talking about the vast majority of my work publicly. Over the past three years, I have been working for the majority of the time as a strategist, ad hoc community manager, startup director of marketing, and occasional Wordpress developer. Blah blah blah. Basically, I have been spending most of my waking hours online in some capacity. 

So mostly, I just like to keep the worlds separate in order to retain the right to discuss my opinions on the internet without implicating my mentors and clients, whom I respect greatly and without whom I would not be here.

Plus, I like to write publicly. Honestly. As myself. Frequently about sex. Also, I tend to say fuck a lot. 

 

 

My training is obviously not related to internet marketing, which barely existed when I was in school. The closest I came was graduate study in psychology after I left the hedge fund. But that was close enough. As I learned in Equity Land, if you understand people's motivations, you can manipulate their behavior. Since most people spend the majority of their energy trying to avoid discomfort and the rest trying to feel included in a tier of society that they've identified as personally meaningful, marketing is about effectively appealing to one of those urges. 

Basically, I learned how to get a reaction from people. And, in the earlier days of social media, I was able to connect to likeminded people very easily because of how I could express myself and my ideas. I learned how to position myself on the web and start up my career in social.  

But, after a brutal breakup last summer, I retreated from a full-roster of work last fall in order to lick my wounds. My energy depleted, I stopped doing anything I didn't feel like doing. I used the time to recharge and plan the next segment of my career. 

 

 

I spent considerable ime auditing my digital DNA and online behavior. After a few months of relative sabbatical, I started this project. I had to figure out where I fit in.

It was only after I lifted my head up from my laptop after a few years of constant positioning, posting, measuring, and tweaking, every second of every day, that I could see what was going on around me enough to decide what I wanted to do about it. 

The result? I do not want to contribute a single image, clip, or line of copy to the world that does not feel authentic to me. 

* * * 

Now, I promised you a Bobcat Goldthwait story and I've always keep my promises.

The last selfie ever? 

The last selfie ever? 

A few weeks ago, I was in the audience of the Harmontown podcast at the Nerdist Theatre @ Meltdown Comics. By the end of the show, he  was on stage doling out career advice to a college student torn between going to med school for plastic surgery or...sketch comedy

After the requisite comical WTF-ing she received for this, this is what he said to her:

You've got to quit. You've gotta do it. You know what's right. It may seem selfish but it's actually really brave...It's where your heart really is. And in two weeks you may realize you've made a big mistake. And it's ok to keep quitting. You keep quitting all through your life and eventually you end up somewhere you don't want to leave. 

I've never been to this show before and I've never even heard the podcast. But, of course, I show up live for the "Don't Go To Med School!" talk about 7 years too late!  

Well fuck me. I can take a hint...I've been here before. I  know what to do. 

* * * 

I've been digital since 2009. Maybe it's the LA-effect, but there is so much posturing, lately. So many names dropped but so few conversations or stories behind them. So much noise. It no longer makes sense to me.

So I'm out. I can't keep up my poker face. I do not like it. I don't want to be in the circus anymore. And, I want to settle down and work in peace and quiet. 

I'm not interested in keeping up social appearances. Though, as always, if you want to talk to me personally, I'm happy to be in touch. And, while I may write very openly here, only 5-10% of my life ever makes it into this space. The rest I get to keep for my work. 

I realized the risk I was assuming when I started writing this candidly. Luckily, as a result of what I've written here, I've had more authentic conversations offline in the last 3 months than my entire life beforehand. I like that. That is all I want.

If this makes me unreasonable. Then I am unreasonable. That's OK. I've been called worse. 

I have things I need to say. I can't not do it. Maybe it's a disease, I'm not really sure. What I can tell you is that you'll probably never start anything that changes your life feeling ready to do it. I certainly haven't ever felt exceptionally prepared or ready when big change starts whispering in my ear. 

But I haven't died or even gotten arrested yet either...And, so it goes. #onward.