Why I Left. / by Andre James


No amount of security is worth the suffering of a mediocre life chained to a routine that has killed your dreams.  

-Maya Mendoza

A week ago today, I left my job. I knew it was coming; I just had no idea when. I only know that one day enough would be enough. That day came. So I walked in on Monday, tendered my resignation and by noon on Thursday, I was celebrating the start of my adventures in self-employment.

For those of you who know me, you know how much I HATED that job. That place was made up of everything you need to create a cesspool for a work environment.

  • No clear rules or procedures: Check.
  • Unmotivated staff: Check.
  • Inadequate tools or training for the job. Zero Accountability. Check and Check!!

Of course you can’t have a cesspool without generous doses of Piss Poor Leadership and Shit for Brains Management. This is the same place I was told that “my intent to be too professional in my current environment would put me out of a job”. Whatever the f*ck that means! It was putrid. I felt like the odour started soaking into my ties, desaturating my vibrantly coloured laces and socks. Eventually I stopped wearing ties regularly. Instead of trying bringing out fresh sock colour combos, I stuck to reusing the ones that go with everything. I just couldn’t be bothered. THAT’S when I knew something was up. These MFs were messing with my steelo. It was time for me to leave the home of absurd and do what I set out to do. I spent enough time working for blind emperors.  So, I left.

I was 14 when I discovered I wanted to be an architect. Twenty-one years on this journey so far, and of course, I had no idea what kind of successes and sacrifices lay in wait for me to get to this point:  4 moves across US state lines, missing home, 7 cities, 2 degrees, 2 dogs, not missing home, TT$457,112.32 (US$68,593.19)  in student loans, 13 jobs, 2 years of unemployment, 4 design awards, constantly adapting, 5 countries/1 backpack/10 weeks, rolling deadlines, learning, fostered an incredible impatience for bullshit, 8 years of international professional architecture experience, 2 publications, a great loss, countless work hours, immeasurable personal growth, missing home, eventually coming back… you get the point, a lot happens in 21 years and that’s just since I decided what I wanted to be when I grow up. Sometimes I think of life like a video game: where participating in mini-games and side quests help you level up your character and their core attributes, unlocking new special skills and tools. Many of my experiences helped me to understand and cope with knowing that failure is only an option if it’s the last thing I do. The universe conspired to get me here, I’ll continue to help it get me rest of the way. Even though this shit is scary, I am not afraid; I am prepared. So, I left.

Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.


Some people believe I left a sure thing because I don’t know how good I had it, others believe that I could do this because I have no bills or that I’m sitting on this huge pile of money so I don’t need to work. I wish!!! The truth is I live in this world, bound by the same rules and limitations as the next guy. Although, I’ll be lying if I didn’t admit my aspirations to walking in the rare air of the other guys, like Richard Branson or The Naked Cowboy. These guys used to be just like us, but then they decided to pursue their dreams, as different as they were, and for all intents and purposes, they look pretty damn happy doing their jobs every day. That’s what separates the next guy from the other guy: the conviction to do what makes him happy and the bravery to take the leap of faith.

I always enjoyed designing, making and building things. Even before my aspirations to be an architect, my brother and sister would always tease me about my “invenshuns” and they found even more fun in destroying them. Oh! The joys of being the introverted baby brother with an ill temper. Eventually, the destruction stopped, but so did the invenshuns. In fact, by the time I got my first computer, I hated the thought of making anything without the use of a mouse. What no one told me was that about 95% of undergraduate architecture school at that time was done by hand. Scale models, drawings, full size mock-ups - all done by frickin’ hand. But those years of learning how to use new tools and using different materials lead me to a great appreciation for craft. For me, the design is in the details and as such, I try to think of innovative ways to use everyday materials. Now I enjoy designing and making, and the best part is that I’m pretty good at it and I’m always striving to improve, to outdo myself. I want to do THAT every day, not just on the side. So, I left.

If you’re good at something, never do it for free.

-The Joker

Listen to that laugh and you know he’s found gen-u-wine happiness. Ok, so he’s a comic book villain (in this case movie) but so what? I still think he’s brilliant! He capitalizes his appearance to create recognizable, UNFORGETTABLE brand that not only defies the status quo, but dominates it. We’re not just talking about purple suits and green flowers here either, all form and no function will not get you paid. Joker has the discipline and proven ability to plan and execute elegant solutions to complex multidimensional problems. What’s most impressive is that although he understands the need for money, unlike the other villains, it’s not what drives him. Here’s a guy who suits up every morning and heads into the office for the love of the job, because it makes him laugh! AND he gets paid for it because at the end of the day, it’s still his job. The Joker/Confucius mashup. I want to do something like that. So, I left.

So there it is, 3 of 173.6 reasons I left my job. I was tired of working a decent job, building someone else’s dream at best, or at worst working under emperors whose pride and titles keep them blind of their naked ineptness. So I left. They waste talent and resources. So, I left.  

I am tired of being chained to a routine, working every day of my life and not getting paid for what I’m happy doing.  So I leapt!!

-André James
aj | designed