- Juan Antonio Sorto, 36, worked as a probation officer for 12 years.
- Last year, the stress became too much, so he quit and joined the Great Resignation.
- He’s fulfilled and happy in a new job, reflecting a trend of Americans looking for more out of their job.
“Breaking Bad” helped Juan Antonio Sorto make the decision to quit his job.
Sorto kept replaying a line in his head from the 2008 popular crime- and drug-filled show, in which Gustavo “Gus” Fring, played by actor Giancarlo Esposito, said: “A man provides. And he does it even when he’s not appreciated, or respected, or even loved. He simply bears up and he does it. Because he’s a man.”
As a Latino, Sorto says he could relate. Since birth, he says, Latino culture had instilled in him an ideal to provide for his family, be “the man of the house,” and work through difficult circumstances. For all of his life, that’s exactly what he’s done. After moving to the US from El Salvador at the age of six, Sorto helped raise his younger sister while financially supporting her, his mother, and his grandmother.
Now, at the age of 36, things are different. His younger sister graduated from college and is financially independent. This alleviates the pressure on him to remain in the role he’s filled for 12 years as a probation officer — even with the “Breaking Bad” scene on repeat in his mind.
“Should I just quit my job and go with whatever life hands me, or should I be a man and stick it out no matter what?” Sorto told Insider. “With the ‘Great Resignation,’ it wasn’t just about leaving my job. It was about family responsibility, so there’s a sense of guilt there, too.”
The “Great Resignation” Sorto referred to is the growing trend of Americans quitting their jobs for better conditions. Over 38 million workers have quit their jobs in 2021 for better wages, improved working conditions, and health concerns caused by the pandemic, and the trend isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. A year into his new job, Sorto has no regrets.
“I love the job that I’m at now,” Sorto said. “It’s the most stabilized and really meaningful job that I’ve had so far in terms of where I believe my life will be heading after I finish my Ph.D.”
‘I couldn’t enjoy my accomplishments because of the stress I was under’
It took Sorto two years after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice to get a job in that field as a probation officer in 2009. And while he was happy to be putting his degree to use, he said he stayed in the job for the “financial cushion” it provided — but he didn’t feel fulfilled.
As a probation officer, Sorto was given an intensive caseload in which he supervised domestic violence and sex offenders. The “mental exhaustion and stress” from the job became too much and he had to take a month of mental medical leave at 35.
“This is the kind of stuff that I would hear people in their sixties and their seventies talking about, but I’m 35 years old and I’m having to go to my doctor and ask for an excuse to leave for a month,” Sorto said.
As it turns out, that month off was just was Sorto needed. He found a nonprofit job doing community engagement in low-income neighborhoods, inspired by what he described as an impoverished upbringing in El Salvador. It also allowed him to put his Ph.D. in urban planning and community development to use.
“I couldn’t enjoy my accomplishments because of the stress I was under,” Sorto said. “I don’t consider the past 12 years as a complete waste of time, but I told myself I would never be able to stay in that position without having to reevaluate my happiness every five years.”
Over the course of the pandemic, millions of Americans have quit their jobs, and many have done so for the reasons Sorto described. After a record 4.5 million workers quit in November, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh told Insider’s Juliana Kaplan that people are likely making the switch for three main reasons: they want better work, they’re worried about COVID-19, and lack of childcare remains an issue for those who do not have remote jobs.
It’s also a trend that is sweeping social media. The tag #quitmyjob on TikTok is growing in popularity, with users posting about their reasons for participating in the Great Resignation, ranging from burnout to a desire to travel.
After making the switch, Sorto said he’s mentally in a much better place than he was a year ago. He finally feels like the struggles he had as a first-generation college student were worth it.
“I needed to achieve some kind of level of happiness for myself,” Sorto said. “I was taking care of my family very comfortably, but it wasn’t enough for me.”
Have you quit your job in the pursuit of better conditions? Share your story with Ayelet Sheffey at firstname.lastname@example.org.