I am a quitter.
When I was nine I joined a little league soft ball team. To say that I sucked would be a…well, understatement would be an understatement. The other kids on the team hated me for it and I honestly couldn’t blame them. I wanted to quit, but my father would not let me. Apparently we don’t have quitters in our family. Wish I’d known that before I joined up.
In seventh grade, I tried out for the volley ball team. I did not make it because I sucked. I was interested in volleyball, though, where I never cared for softball. So, for several months leading up to the eighth grade try-outs, a friend and I went to the gym every day before school and practiced. It worked because we both made the team. During one game early on, our two best players made some mistakes and laughed them off. This incensed my father. One simply did not laugh at mistakes. Mistakes were to be taken seriously and be brooded over for years, nay decades, to come. The girls apparently didn’t get my father’s message because they went right on laughing…and being our best players. His daughter (that would be me), however, began to freeze in terror whenever a ball came her way for fear of screwing up. Eventually she started asking the coach not to put her in at all (I’ll stop referring to myself in the third person now). That’s a different kind of quitting from the softball thing, but it’s quitting all the same.
I’m not blaming this on my father. He planted the seeds, certainly, but I fully believe in a person’s responsibility to choose their actions. Besides, Dad had his own demons to deal with, one only had to meet his parents to know where they came from…
Anyway, I’ve changed majors, career paths, boyfriends, you name it, countless times. One of my deepest fears is that I don’t have the wherewithal to stick with anything but the easiest of tasks. Partly because of this fear, I don’t quit things right away. I don’t quit until long after I know I should. I actually have sort of a quitter trifecta going on:
1. Passable skills – when I try something new, I usually pick it up, at least passably, pretty quickly;
2. Hyper-responsibility – if something’s going wrong, even if I have no direct involvement, it’s somehow my fault;
2a. Need for people to like me – doesn’t even matter how I feel about a person, I cannot bear for them not to like me or, infinitely worse, to be disappointed in me.
3. I draw back from whatever the new thing is in an effort not to screw it up.
Okay, so that’s technically four things, but I’m pretty sure a quadfecta isn’t a thing. Anyway, I start something, give it my all, and then begin to withdraw from it for fear (founded or irrational, makes no difference really) of messing it up. I also do this regardless of whether I like it or not, which is a damn shame. My enjoyment of the activity really never enters into the equation as I lapse into a paralyzed state where I’m afraid to fail at the same time that I’m afraid to quit because it will be another failure. I’ve never really looked at it that way until I wrote this paragraph. It’s truly asinine, isn’t it?
And so I stick with things long after I should let them go. Actually, that makes it sound like I’m not a quitter, but I am. It just sometimes takes me a while to leave the things I’ve already quit in my heart.
Fortunately for me, I got very lucky in love. After years of my same quitter problem, I decided to take a break from dating. I thought I would never get married and I was okay with that. Then, three years later, a friend introduced me to a guy she had known for years – she’d always referred to him as brilliant but weird, which makes me wonder what she thought of me to fix me up with him – named Sparky. On the night we met, there was an exchange involving a movie line (‘Incontheivable!’) that nobody else got, I just said it for my own amusement. To my great surprise, he threw out the answering line and I knew. ‘I knew the way you know about a good melon.’ He’s my soulmate. Even during rocky times, which are honestly quite rare for us even after almost15 years, all I have to do is try to imagine anyone else I’d rather be with – I never can, so I know I chose the perfect man for me.
Most other areas, I’m still trying to get it right. Here’s a career path example: I tried teaching. I didn’t like it, but various people kept telling me I was good at it, so I thought I must just not be giving it a good enough chance. It took years and several attempts at different kinds of teaching for me to admit that I was right all along. I’m not a good teacher, in large part because I hate doing it.
What’s wrong with quitting something you hate? Where’s the harm in giving something a try and figuring out, “Hey, that’s not for me. No hard feelings, ‘kay?” I’ve stuck with things I knew weren’t for me – jobs, relationships, religious affiliations – simply because I didn’t want to be a quitter. Because speaking up that it wasn’t working for me made me a quitter in my eyes, if not anyone else’s. Well, I’m done with that. I quit. From now on, I’m trusting my own judgement, giving more weight to my own feelings and interpretations thereof, than to those of others. Now I just have to figure out what those feelings are. Right. No problem, I’ll just…
I quit the speech team that gave me a full ride scholarship. It was high pressure, too high and I’m typeA. I cried a lot and was deeply disappointed in myself, but it was wrong for me.
I changed my major. I didn’t want to be a lawyer, I just wanted prestige and money that I thought went with it. So i became a teacher. This had major backlash from family and friends who insist to this day that I am “too smart to be a teacher” as if that is a stereotype I want to reinforce.
I quit a high paying job teaching reading and life skills at a correctional facility. I was scared while I worked there and after looking at files I no longer wanted to help men who had raped two year olds.
These were all controversial decisions that threatened my like me, like me, approve of me sensibilities. But they worked for me.
Quitting is nothing more than changing course. I wish someone had thought to tell me that.
I’ve been in two VERY different jobs for three years each and have quit the second to study for a third.
I’m ok with it and sometimes think it might be my attention span – three years in a job only!
My son is a very lucky man to have such an amazing wife. We are so proud of you for being willing to take on so many new things. Most people don’t even have the nerve to try!
I think you’re being too hard on yourself.
Seriously, though: You already recognize that you’re pasting the “quitting” label onto so many different things because you learned to equate success with (a) sticking with something, and (b) doing it perfectly.
But what if you were to shift perspective not onto what you’re stepping away from, but what you’re choosing instead – and how that choice takes care of you?
Look at it the same way you decided to order a pizza and not beat yourself up about it a couple of weeks ago. You didn’t say, “I’m quitting the Program.” You said, “I’m deciding to do this and taking accountability for my decision.” Let’s take it farther: what if you decide to eat a pizza every day and stop working out? Sure, then you could say that you quit. Or instead, you could say that you made a decision that *something* – the comfort of food, the extra hour of rest in your day, whatever – was more important to you than the Program right now. And if you weren’t happy with the results of that decision, you might have a bit more strength to make yet another decision, instead of casting yourself as a quitter who just walked away from Good Point A and now deserves to live in Bad Point B. I say you’re not a quitter. I say you’re my courageous, smart, and beautiful friend who should stop beating herself up each time she makes a decision.
So there. (Umm… I mean, sorry for the lecture.)
Michelle, can I have your mother in law? cuz mine hates me.
thanks for this. I’ve struggled with both feeling like a quitter and being accused of being a quitter all my life, even though as you said, getting out was often the right decision at the right time. Thanks for providing a number of different ways to look at it.
(found you through betty blogs)
That chicken/goat cheese/spinach/salsa deal sounds like a great recipe to submit.
You might also start working on the 10K says a person who has never run in an “official” race!
Keep up the good work. We’re proud of you.