That’s right. I quit things.
I think the first thing I consciously quit was Girl Scouts. I was in seventh or eighth grade. I’d mostly joined because my best friend was a Scout and her mom was one of our Troop Leaders. But I wasn’t motivated in the right way for Scouts. Merit badges don’t do much for me and I genuinely hated selling cookies (read: I am bad at capitalism), even though they meant things like trips to Montreal.
My parents didn’t make a big deal about me quitting. They really never have–as long as I have good reasons, it’s okay. Depending who you ask, this ruined me for the kind of Type A overachievement you see from people who have been taught quitting is for losers. But I feel bad for those people.
(Probably the same qualities that made me a bad Girl Scout have also diminished my investment in words like “winner” and “loser.” I’m competitive and ambitious, but not in the ways that typically matter.)
I think I would be different if I never finished anything, but there are always things I stick with and I like to think I keep more commitments than I break. But I’m not good at lying about how things are going or how I feel about them, least of all to myself. And if they’re going badly, I want to change it and if I can’t change it, I want to get the fuck out. The first job I quit for other-than-going-back-to-school reasons was not a good situation. It was a toxic environment. No one there was happy. I have never regretted quitting.
I quit law school before I started, which feels weird. But given the way things have gone in recent years, I don’t think I regret that either. I’ve had to quit a couple things this year, although one just sort of petered off. I’m still working on balance, which means not everything I try will become part of the whole. That’s okay.
Generally speaking, I try not to burn bridges when I quit something (it is sometimes unavoidable). At the same time, I want to be honest with people when I can. Often it comes down to: “I don’t think I’m the right person for this” or “There are other things I’d rather work on.” I don’t particularly like to quit people, although it has unfortunately happened a few times. It comes down to boundaries, to knowing what’s good for you, and having a plan. Quitting is worse when you don’t know what’s next.
But it is also not the end of the world. You may have disappointed some people, although hopefully you didn’t hurt anyone. You may make your life a little bit difficult. And it’s invaluable to have people there for you, who can support you or give you a couch to sleep on if need be. Not everyone is in a position to immediately leave behind the things that are hindering them–but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the opportunity when you have it even if it’s challenging.
Is it worth it to try to fix or make the best of things? Absolutely. But as with leaving, I think you have to make a conscious decision about why you’re staying. If you’re going to suck it up and keep selling cookies, why are you doing it? Because at the end of the day “because I don’t want to be a quitter” is not a satisfying answer. And regret can grow wherever we are and whatever we do–or don’t do.
Do you quit things? What’s the hardest part? What do you regret quitting or not quitting?