Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'm A Quitter.

Being labeled a quitter is not usually a good thing. Quitting anything apparently means you have a character flaw. It means you give up too easily. It means your parents probably let you quit things when you were a kid. You don't have any sense of commitment. As a parent, you are not supposed to want your child to be a quitter. You can make sure that this will not happen if you don't let your children quit things. Teach them that the commitment is more important than their happiness. Teach them that they might even end up liking something if they stick with it even when they don't want to.

I have known people who played the same sport almost every day for over a decade, from childhood through college, and still struggled with the idea of "quitting" the sport even when it was not bringing her any happiness anymore. So it's not ok to quit something if you have only just started, and then it's also not ok to quit something if you have been at it for a while. When IS it ok to quit something? How long are you supposed to give it before you can appropriately decide you have had enough?

I haven't had too much trouble with that question for myself.* In fact, I am proud to be a quitter. I quit the swim team when I broke my arm in 6th grade and realized how much more free time I would have if I didn't swim anymore. I quit taking voice lessons after my instructor humiliated me during a lesson. I quit soccer, softball, tennis, ballet, piano, bass guitar, water polo, two finance jobs, one PhD program and probably a bunch of other things I can't even remember quitting.

My proudest moment as a quitter, though, was when I quit college for a year. I was so tired of school. I was tired of feeling like I had to perform and achieve all the time. I just wanted to live for a little while. And even though I was afraid of what people would think, I did it. I decided a few weeks before what would have been my junior year of college that I just wasn't going back. People talked about me. They said I "dropped out" of college and wondered how my parents could have "let" me do that. But that decision was the most liberating and empowering one I have ever made. It helped me to get over some of my fears about what everyone else would say. It was the best year of my life (up until then).

I tried snowshoeing once too.
There are two ways to look at my history of activities. You could look at it and say "She quit a lot of things." Or you could say "She tried a lot of things." I tried them. Some for longer than others. Some, I went back to after quitting (like college). Some I have never tried again.

I still try things. If I like something, I stick with it. If it makes me happy, it belongs in my life. If it doesn't make me happy all the time, but it is worth whatever struggles come with it, then it belongs in my life. But if I can't think of one good reason to keep doing something other than "I just don't want to quit," then it's out.

*Thanks, Mom and Dad, for letting me quit stuff.

More on quitting:
A Kid Who's Not a Quitter?
Quit Happens


  1. I would have to agree except for group activities. I feel like if you sign up for a team sport you have made a commitment to your team and if you quit you are letting them down. Almost like you are breaking a promise. However once the season is over I don't see any reason to continue in a sport you don't LOVE.

  2. Melissa, I think that situation falls into the "If it doesn't make me happy all the time, but it is worth whatever struggles come with it" category. If you are sticking it out for the benefit of others (teammates, etc), that can make the struggles or unhappiness "worth it" for the short term.

    But I also think it's not necessary to lump all team sports situations into this category. It's not fair to say that a kid is letting his team down if there are more than enough kids on the team and he might rarely get to play. In fact, sometimes, by leaving a team you don't really want to be on, you could have a positive affect on the other people: the ones who really want to be there might get to play more, without having to give up time for you.

    Also, I don't think you necessarily Owe anything to your teammates. Even if you are the best player on the team, if your teammates or your coach are abusive to you, then I think you have the right to protect yourself first. Your team's potential losses based on your quitting should not be a consideration if you are being mentally or physically harmed by your participation.

  3. This reminds me of when I signed up for basketball in grammar school. I got the uniform, went to a few practices, BUT they neglected to teach me how the game was played.
    My first game was a disaster. I had no idea what was going on! I was terrified. It seemed like every time I moved, a whistle was being blown at me because I did something I was not supposed to. What a nightmare! After that game, the thought of going back made me sick to my stomach.
    Thank God my parents were supportive when I QUIT.

  4. I love this post. And the catchy title!
    I quit music school. I quit academia after my MA (I thought I should get a PhD originally). Those were great decisions. I'm glad I trusted myself, even though I've struggled a little with the idea of being a quitter!

  5. also, just added you to my blogroll on Un-schooled.net. You are awesome.

  6. Thank you so much Kate! That is really cool. :)

  7. I disagree. I think once you are part of a team you do OWE your teammates. I expect my teammates to show up to every practice and game when possible, to try their best and work their hardest. I don't expect anyone to put up with abuse of any kind. However if you have a full bench of kids begging for more playing time then you probably aren't too much of a loss.

    I suppose I would rather someone quit then not give 100%. If you just go through the motions and stop trying then you are just wasting everyone else's time.

  8. Wow....I will definitely be bookmarking this one!!! I have loved all your posts so far....but this one definitely speaks to me right now. I am quickly approaching a crossroads....and I'm scared to quit my job. =( but I think so many more positive things could come from it....but it's scary.