Quitting: Is it failure?

Quit. It can be such a negative word. I’ve heard messages my entire life of “don’t quit” or “don’t give up.”

I use the word “quit” with my kids almost every single day in the form of “Quit fighting!” I laugh at that because they’re never going to stop fighting. When they really get into an argument that won’t let up, I make them do more chores. I figure if they’re going to fight, they might as well do something productive while they argue.

We encourage our children to stick with sports or their music, dance or karate lessons that we may or may not have pressured them into taking in the first place. Quitters never win, and winners never quit, right? But let’s get real here, what if someone legitimately sucks at something? Is it okay to quit then? Must they have exhausted all efforts and failed first? Is failing once enough to quit? Twice? Three times?

What if you truly hate what you’re doing? What if doing it crushes a piece of your soul with every breath? Then, is it acceptable to quit?

I quit playing the French Horn after two years when I was in seventh grade. Let me rephrase that: I quit making noise through the horn. It is a beautiful instrument, but I wasn’t good at it, and I didn’t enjoy it. Why did I start in the first place? Because I adore music, but I’ve learned it’s okay to love and appreciate music even if you don’t create it.

Sometimes it’s okay to quit or give up. Especially when what you’re quitting is unhealthy or dangerous. I can think of many things it’s okay to quit: Smoking, taking drugs, alcohol, an abusive relationship, self-destructive behavior. The list goes on and on.

Another phrase I’ve heard: Quitting is taking the easy way out. I beg to differ with my aforementioned examples. But you get my point, right? Quitting isn’t always easy.

I’ve quit jobs before. I prefer to think of it as moving on. I quit my first job to move away from my childhood home, and my second to move on to a new job. I did it with dignity. It was a simple letter of resignation giving two weeks notice. There was no Chevy Chase flip-out movie moment with screaming or telling the boss where to go. (Although, I think we’ve all gotten to that level of frustration before.)

Shouldn’t we quit what doesn’t bring us joy? The reality is, sometimes we can’t. Some obligations come with being an adult. I know a lot of people who hate their jobs. The easy answer is, “Well, just quit.” If it were that simple, I think a lot more people would be unemployed. But we need money to survive.

So, what can we do when we want to quit but can’t? We remember what made us start in the first place or find joy in other ways. We find something that makes us happy. If we’re lucky, that something is healthy. Maybe it’s going for a walk, praying, sports, art, music, writing, reading, video games, television, movies, spending time with friends and family. Maybe it’s volunteering to help those less fortunate. Maybe it’s focusing on something else that brings us happiness.

Sometimes we quit things because they’re too hard. Maybe a little more hard work would have been enough for success. Like with Thomas Edison. What if he’d quit before that final version of the lightbulb worked? I quit writing for almost 15 years because I let a broken heart stop me. It hurt too much to write, so I stopped doing something I loved because I couldn’t be with who I loved. I quit because it was easier to shut down than to write about something so painful. I’m so glad I un-quit.

Maybe the answer to wanting to quit is changing our attitude. My grandpa always told me, “You can get glad in the same pants you got mad in.” He was a wise man. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and I don’t see the world in black and white. Sometimes, quitting or moving on is the answer, but not without careful consideration.

Maybe it’s not quitting; maybe it’s changing a goal (Thanks for that one, Jonathan.) Maybe it’s sticking it out because your heart’s desire keeps you holding on. Whatever “it” is, I think we should find a way to experience joy as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.

-Brandi Easterling Collins

 

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