We Revisited People Who Left Their Jobs Last Year. Are They (Still) Happy?

After quitting her job as a local newspaper reporter in Chico, Calif., in June 2021, Natalie Hanson, 26, took a similar role at a paper in Oakland — and then quit again. In May 2022 she started as a reporter for Courthouse News Service, but anticipated needing to move by the end of the year because of rising rent.

Where is she now? Ms. Hanson did end up moving, from downtown Oakland to a cheaper and larger apartment in East Oakland, where she now lives with her partner, dog and cat. She said she was saving at least $500 in monthly rent. “Rental prices have started to fluctuate in the Bay Area, depending on where you live,” Ms. Hanson said.

Ms. Hanson is also writing freelance articles for local newspapers to supplement her income with Courthouse News Service.

Was quitting worth it? Ms. Hanson’s initial quitting spawned a cascade of major life decisions, ultimately leading her to a place of satisfaction. “I’m pretty surprised that I’ve been able to make it work, living in such an expensive place, but also such a beautiful place,” Ms. Hanson said. “You have to be really creative.”

Jim Walker, 53, had spent his life working in churches but changed course when the pandemic shut down his church. He left his job as a pastor and became a freelance tour guide, spending much of his time on the road exploring new places.

Where is he now? Mr. Walker continues to enjoy the freedom afforded by a freelancer’s schedule, but is considering taking on longer-term roles with larger companies for more pay. As much as he finds meaning in the work, he conceded that this phase of his life might end at some point. “I don’t know if you can live on the road forever,” he said. “Have I enjoyed it this past year? Heck, yeah. Does it fit me really well? Obviously, yeah, it’s really good. But maybe 10 years from now, I don’t know if I’ll still be doing this. It’s hard to say.”

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