Long, long ago I worked in a quaint little restaurant my coworkers and I referred to as “Hell”.

When I first began it wasn’t quite so awful, in fact, I actually enjoyed working. I liked all my coworkers, I loved the food that I served, adored my customers, and enjoyed my hours even if it did mean I had a 9 PM bedtime. But most of all I enjoyed the ridiculous amount of money I was making as a not quite 15-year-old. The reason everyone referred to their place of employment as such, was due to the employer.

Now, let’s get one thing clear- I am not a sissy. I was raised by a mother who I (somewhat) jokingly refer to as my “birthgiver” because the only assistance she provided growing up was giving me life itself.

So when I first began working in hell I remember thinking yes my boss was difficult- but it was excusable. She liked things done right, which I respect. She would verbally abuse you and occasionally throw a pan at in the direction of your head, but at the end of the day we’d all sit and have a meal she made and laugh about it.

But unfortunately, as time went on hell’s owner became no longer just “difficult to work for”. She was borderline impossible to work for. One summer, a coworker and I counted how many employees came in and out of the doors during that four-month period and counted up 40+ people. This was for a restaurant that needed a staff of less than 10. And all of it came down to my peach of a boss. Reflecting, I do feel sorry for her in a sense. I genuinely believed she wanted to be better- but due to personal circumstances didn’t know how else to channel her anger.

But this story is not directly about her- it’s about my friend Rob.

Rob was a very kind, very large hardworking man who had several missing teeth and drove a giant beat up brown van that he would frequently hotbox. Rob also worked in hell and one day (after accepting I wasn’t a snitch) informed me “This place is like Hotel California- you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!” Rob would say this with a smile to me dozens more times throughout the next 6 years we’d spend together. So many times, I still can’t hear The Eagles without thinking about him.

Rob was often subjected to working directly with our boss as she couldn’t hold another cook to save her life, and for it received the worst her wrath. Three times I witnessed him walk out, only to have her running after him. Twice she was able to drag him back in, with promises of higher pay or change. But one summer day I watched from the window as Bob’s brown van drove off for good and I thought to myself “Look, he finally left Hotel California.”

A couple coworkers and I went and visited Bob at another restaurant he worked for a few years after we’d all left hell. He left his kitchen to sit with us reminiscing for a while, something he would never have been able to do beforehand. He was still missing the same teeth, but genuinely seemed happier and healthier and I was happy for him.

It’s common to let fear keep us where we are. Or even without the fear- most of us simply don’t like change. Other times we stick with something because we don’t want to quit. Personally, I ended up staying with that job far longer than I should have. I had all these reasons for not quitting and eventually the only reason I left was due to being let go.

At first this was very difficult for me (and my pride) but ultimately was one of the best things that could have happened, and something I don’t think I would have done on my own. Which is why today I’m telling you- if you’ve been genuinely trying at something and it’s still not working, or bringing you pain, chances are it’s time to take that next step.

You don’t have to have it all figured out, you’ll figure it out as you go and one day you’ll look back and be glad you finally checked out of Hotel California.