The Bravery in Quitting
The first sport I ever played was baseball. I wore an oversized blue t-shirt, stuck my little blonde ponytail through a ball cap that covered half my face and joined the ranks of five-year-olds who couldn’t quite grasp the concept of running counter-clockwise around the bases. My true talent was picking grass in the outfield and the only real passion I had for the sport came out when I threw off my helmet dramatically between every pitch when I played catcher. Still, I was determined to be a good ball player. I persisted through elementary school and eventually ended up on a fast pitch softball team in middle school. Without a hint of self-deprecation I can confidently tell you that the only reason I made the team was because my mom was a coach.
I was a lousy pitcher. I got hit by the ball so many times that eventually I refused to stand anywhere near the plate and consequently always struck out. The only thing I was relatively good at was making a double play from second base, and even that didn’t make up for my lack of skill everywhere else. No matter how hard I tried, I was still that little girl picking grass in the outfield, wishing to be with my friends or listening to music or playing Sims instead. I invested eight years in a sport I borderline hated. Do you know why? Because I am not a quitter.
Refusing to quit has undoubtedly served me well in my 24-years. It is the reason I can sing now even though I was described as a tone-deaf child. It is responsible for the 60 pounds I have lost and kept off in the last three years. It has been the backbone of healing and strength and the two Whole 30s I have completed, but it has also been harmful. I become faithful to a fault, unable to walk away from things, like a sport I am not good at, because I have something to prove. Because I think it makes me weak to leave something instead of toughing it out.
I don’t know what kind of household you grew up in, but a common message I heard in mine was, “We do not quit things.” Life is hard, jobs are jobs, wear a helmet and get over it. And, don’t get me wrong; there is value in this message. We can’t run away every time things get hard. We can’t throw in the towel just because we meet some resistance on the road. There will be resistance no matter what we choose to do, but what are the things that are worth the difficulty and what are the things that are not?
A couple of weeks ago my counselor said something in relation to a healing process I am walking through. She said, “Like doing yoga, I want you to notice if the pain is good pain that is just a part of the process or if it’s a sharp pain and your body is telling you to stop.”
Deciding what kind of resistance we’re meeting on the road is similar to this, and it can be a good indicator of whether or not we should walk away from something. If I am going through a weight loss process and it is really difficult for me to not eat ice cream every night, that kind of resistance is a natural kind that rides shotgun in any kind of change, but if I am working a job and it is beginning to depress my desires and motivation, that is sharp and probably my body’s way of telling me to stop.
I am currently trying to decide if I want to stay in the job that I’m in, and do you know what I’ve realized? I have never quit a job before. I am 24-years-old, have had jobs since I was 16 and not once have I quit. I left for college or the store I worked for closed or my yearlong term was up, but I have never had to make a decision for myself to actively leave. It makes me wonder if I would still be scooping ice cream at the same dairy store I worked at in high school if other decisions of mine didn’t force me to leave. How detrimental would my “not quitting” attitude be if this were true?
Bob Goff, writer and speaker extraordinaire, encourages people to quit something every single Thursday. He believes that quitting is a sacred practice that aids our sanctification.
We have some options when it comes to quitting. We can quit things we know are bad for us, things we admittedly shouldn’t be doing. We can quit self-shaming or smoking or an abusive relationship. It is obvious that this kind of quitting is brave because the resistance we meet is astronomical and, in some cases, physically painful.
But we can also quit things that are good things but we know they are not for us. This kind of quitting is brave because it is risky. We may not meet as much internal resistance as quitting something like an addiction, but our fear is that we will meet an astronomical amount of external resistance. Others’ may have opinions about our quitting or our finances could suffer or we might fail doing something we really love instead of staying put at something that we’re not as emotionally invested in. So we condemn ourselves to a life of not quitting in order to prove what? That we are capable of staying safe and comfortable at the expense of the passion-filled lives we are being called to live?
It is hard for me to look at the things that I’ve taken on in my life that look so good and pure and admit that yes, they are good and pure but no, they are not for me. They cause me the kind of sharp pain that is asking me to loosen up the shoulder stand and rest for a moment. It is important to look at the things in your life honestly and decide what kind of resistance you are meeting in them.
What is so necessary about quitting is that it suddenly clears a space to invite in the things that are meant for you. Maybe quitting the job you currently feel stuck in invites you to take on a position working for the non-profit you love. Maybe saying no to one of the several extra curricular activities you do after work allows you to say yes to margaritas with friends. Maybe, just maybe, admitting that you hate softball is the push you need to say you’d rather learn to play guitar and write songs. Quitting is hard and important. Let’s both be brave enough to quit something today.
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