08/18/2011 12:22 EDT | Updated 10/18/2011 05:12 EDT

The Beginner's Guide to Quitting Your Job

Last month, after several weeks of gut-wrenching indecision, I took the plunge and quit my job.

I'm in my late 20s, living in The Big City, paying rent, going to the movies and, every so often, eating takeout sushi. I'm very much an average kind of gal: not too smart, not too pretty, not too ambitious. Once I graduated university, I was out of work for a few months, and those were lean, scary months, so I took the first job that I was offered. It was an entry-level position in a well-established non-profit, and I jumped at the chance to have a "real job." Throughout my undergrad, I had waited tables, done internships, and volunteered, but I had never worked in my field before. I was stoked to have a chance at what I thought was going to be the big time.

Fast forward six months. I was meeting with clients and getting along with my co-workers, I had figured out office-appropriate outfits, I was taking on new tasks and challenges, and I was more stressed than I had ever been in my life. The job, in all its entry-level glory, was so easy a chimp could do it: stapling, printing, photocopying, mailing. I used to joke that, if the company had sprung for the slightly more advanced model, the photocopier could do my job. The office was small, so my bosses had ample opportunity to hover and correct all my myriad beginner's mistakes. I began to feel nauseous when I biked to work -- the stress of being constantly wrong and under-challenged was terrible.

Human beings can thrive on stress, or stress can take them out with the power of a linebacker tackling a teenage girl. Deadlines are stressful, roller coasters are stressful, weddings are stressful, running into your ex at the supermarket is stressful. But those moments are stress with a side of fun: roller-coasters thrill, deadlines motivate, weddings unite, and running into exes? Maybe we'll say that gives me the push to renew my lapsed gym membership. But the more systemic kind of stress can ruin a person. We've all got a friend who works 75 hours a week, or who just got her biopsy results back, or who lost his job. Stress can can make us angry and depressed, can make us dizzy and our hearts race, can make us gain and lose weight, and, if we're stressed out long enough, can kill us.

So. Here I was. I had to weigh the pros and cons of staying. I was paying rent and student loans, and the hours matched my boyfriend's work schedule. I liked having a job, and sometimes they bought us lunch. The flip side? I felt 100 per cent crazy: crying jags in the bathroom at lunch, anxiety attacks in staff meetings, and boredom. I was also afraid. The fear of leaving a stable job, even one that was slowly eating me alive, kept me frozen. The months of joblessness after I graduated had made me feel categorically unemployable, and I was terrified that, if I walked away from this job, I would never get paid again.

But I did it anyway. Look, if you're a new graduate and you find yourself in a job you hate, please, listen to your Auntie Kaitlyn: walk away. Write a really polite resignation letter, and then say "Thank you so much, but I am leaving the company." I promise you, you'll feel better immediately.

Working at the wrong job means that you're not available for the right one. I'm not saying that my next job is going to be rainbows and kitten -- it's likely going to be similar to the one I just left, albeit with a better atmosphere and more challenging work. I'm not going to be a 30-year-old millionaire. But sticking it out with your First Real Job, even if you hate it, is like staying with a high-school sweetheart who makes fun of your hair and shows up drunk at your sisters birthday. Who needs that kind of energy? Invest in your future, the same way you did through college, by refusing to work a job that makes you actively unhappy. There are other jobs out there. And when you find them, could send 'em my way?