Another round of vaccines, variants and mask mandates makes it hard to imagine the new year will bring an increasingly elusive “return to normalcy.” Too much has changed — including the goals and priorities of millions of people.

For our GBH News series The Big Quit: Why I’m Moving On, we’ve heard from people across the region who have shared their stories of quitting — not just jobs, but also relationships, communities, even attitudes.

Here are five people we met who are heading into a future far different than what they envisioned before the pandemic.

A new EMT left her desk job to run toward the pandemic’s front lines

Kat Benoit, 47, of Malden always wanted to work in health care. Watching the COVID-19 crisis unfold on her living room TV was the catalyst she needed to finally leave her desk job behind and work on an ambulance.

Navigating home: A Cape Cod native left her NYC life behind

Kelly O’Connell, 33, figured she’d wait out the worst of the pandemic for a couple of weeks back home on Cape Cod. Instead she’s built a new life in her old hometown and has no plans to return to the big city. She took her skills from her New York career to launch her own brand of jams and hot sauces on the Cape.

A pandemic pause helped a techie hit reset on his career

Christopher Rodriguez, 25, of Somerville was still in high school when he started working at an after-school center. A decade later, he might still be there had it not been for the COVID shutdowns, which gave him time to think about what he really wants.

A therapist changes careers for her own mental health

Bianca Blakesley, 29, of Mattapan thought she had it all figured out. But her job as a college mental health counselor — always a pressure cooker — was unrelenting in the pandemic. Here’s how she found her way to a new career writing code.

A Broadway dancer pivots back to school

Garen Scribner, 36, didn’t have a choice. When COVID shut down theaters, his job as dancer, essentially, quit existing. He still has big dreams for the future, and hopes a year in school will help him shape the future of the performing arts.

Find The Big Quit stories at, on the GBH News Instagram page, GBH radio (89.7 FM) and Greater Boston (GBH2 television). Have a Big Quit to share with GBH News? Fill out the form below or call us at 617-300-2004. We may feature your Big Quit story.