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In Defense of Quitting

Written by on 30 Sep 2014

Hi.

 

My name is Tracy.

 

And I’m a quitter.

 

In fact, I’m certifiably addicted to quitting.

 

I started out just like most of you—I was trained to never, ever quit. To see everything through to the end. To keep trying. To never give up.

 

Because of that early conditioning, I used to think that quitting was always a bad thing. The kind of thing they have support groups for or make late night infomercials about. Something I had to admit to my friends and family while hoping for their understanding.

 

After a few, extremely eventful, life experiences, I’ve come to change my mind on the subject.

 

And today, I’ll show you why, with a few, good, ole’ quittin’ stories.

 

One about quitting my home, one about quitting my sport, and one about quitting my job.

 

Because, hey, we all know how much I love a good story. And I think you do too.

 

Each one taught me a little something different about what quitting really means.

 

I hope they serve you just the same.

 

So here we go.

 

1. Quitting My Home

 

I am a very proud (but very brunette) Texan.

 

I was born and raised in Texas, and after traveling once around this fine world of ours, have (unsurprisingly) made my way back. I grew up with Friday night lights, before that was a thing. I got a mum every year for homecoming (google it). I’ve eaten more than my fair share of Tex-Mex and refuse to eat it anywhere else. I have no less than three Texas flags displayed in my apartment.

 

One’s a picture frame. Get off me.

 

Basically, I love Texas.

 

But years ago, when it came time to go to college, I pulled a Chris Cagle. I wanted to be “anywhere but here.”I just knew I needed to get the heck outta dodge.

 

And boy, did I get an earful for it!

 

“You’re turning your back on your family.”

“You’re going to become a hippy liberal.”

“You’ll never come back.”

 

Sheesh, people. You’d think I was leaving the Church or something!

 

I did my best to quell these fears by looking at schools in literally every single state contiguous to Texas.

 

And, where did I end up?

 

Connecticut.

 

That’s right—the veritable opposite of the Lone Star State. Democratic. Cold. Tiny. I’m pretty sure the only thing that the two have in common is the fact that they are both the southernmost states in each of their respective regions.

 

Seriously, guys, that’s about it. You don’t have to go. Just trust me.

 

In everyone else’s eyes, I was quitting a life that had served me very well. I was turning my back on people who loved and raised me. I was going to a place where people were “just crazy.” I was never going to come back.

 

In my eyes, I was having my very first adventure.

 

And, oh my gosh, you guys—did I ever!

 

I had my eyes opened to an entirely new world. One with amazing pizza and less-amazing beaches. One where a quarter of my classmates were from another country. One where people stayed up at night debating things like philosophy and religion.

 

One where being different was celebrated.

 

Sure, there were bad parts.

 

I mean, our less-than-affectionate name for our city was “Pistol-wavin’ New Haven.”

 

But, wow, y’all. There was a great big world out there that I finally got a chance to see! It was a tiny glimpse that gave me my travel bug and led me to sailing around the world. It was the bigger glimpse of life outside of Texas.

 

And had I not quit Texas, I never would have seen it.

 

2. Quitting My Sport

 

Between the ages of eight and twenty-one, I said this one phrase more often than any other:

 

“I can’t—I have softball.”

 

It didn’t matter what I was being invited to do. From play dates to first dates, I had to say no, because I absolutely couldn’t go.

 

After all, I had softball.

 

For thirteen years of my life, I dedicated myself to my sport. I played on team during every single season, including one that kept us out at 2am the night before Christmas Eve when it was literally freezing outside.

 

Thank God, we had the “’Skeeter Heater.”

 

My family and I went to the greatest lengths to make sure that I was on the best teams, had the best coaches, and was given the best exposure. I played on one team out of Oklahoma (if you’re paying attention, that’s another STATE away), because it seemed like a good opportunity. I drove over an hour each way for batting lessons, because this guy was “the best around.” I spent every weekend during the summer traveling to the outskirts of Texas to make sure college coaches could see me play.

 

In short—I. Was. Dedicated.

 

So it’s no surprise that when I decided to quit softball my sophomore year, I received some less-than-savory feedback.

 

“You’re wasting all that time and effort.”

“You’re abandoning your team.”

“You’re giving up on your dream.”

 

People can be really harsh.

 

I was lost for a little bit, thanks in large part to the internalization of the criticism of others. In everyone else’s eyes, I was giving up the thing that had led me to Yale. I was throwing away a God-given talent. I was bailing… again.

 

In my eyes, it was time for my second adventure.

 

I had two years to take advantage of Yale—one of the most opportunity-riddled universities in existence.

 

So I leapt at it—with startling success.

 

I joined the women’s club volleyball team, and two years later, we were national champions. I began writing for the Yale Daily News, and three years later, one of my columns ended up on an Olympian’s wall. I took a senior trip to Italy, and now four years later, I still count some of those people as my best and closest friends.

 

Yes, leaving the team sucked. I was ostracized and criticized to the nth degree.

 

And I no longer had my convenient excuse to get out of making plans.

 

But, seriously, if I hadn’t left, I would have missed out on so much that Yale had to offer. Instead, I got to have several different experiences that have left an everlasting stamp on my life. I still play volleyball, I write for a living, and I speak and ever-diminishing amount of Italian.

 

And had I not quit softball, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

 

3. Quitting My Job

 

When I graduated college, I did what one-third of all the good little Yale boys and girls do.

 

I went to Wall Street.

 

For two years, I was living the dream—at least, that’s what it seemed like. I was trading millions of dollars a day, going to fancy dinners, traveling all over the country, and working with rich and powerful people. And apparently, I was doing it reasonably well. In just two short years, I was covering more accounts and trading more dollars than I ever imagined possible.

 

The world was good—on the outside.

 

On the inside, I was slowly but surely… losing it. I was sleeping five hours a night maximum and working twelve hours a day minimum. Every time I got a day off, I would drink enough to render whatever amount of sleep I got pretty useless. I was an anxious wreck, fighting off tingles and muscle tension during the day, and obsessively checking my phone at night. I was miserable.

 

But misery had both a price and a paycheck.

 

So of course, when I finally got the courage to quit, I wasn’t surprised to hear reactions like these.

 

“You cannot quit a job without another, better job.”

“You’ll never make this much money ever again.”

“You’re ruining your future.”

 

Apparently, your first job was supposed to be your forever job.

 

No one told me that.

 

I was terrified of going out on my own, but even more terrified of what would happen if I stayed. In everyone else’s eyes, I was looking a gift-horse in the mouth. I was being selfish for wanting more out of my work than a paycheck. I was choosing a short road to a failed career.

 

In my eyes, my third adventure was just around the corner.

 

I had been strapped to a desk for 2 years, so I chose the furthest things I could think of…

 

A trip around the world.

 

I re-enrolled in school as a post-grad on the Semester at Sea study-abroad program. In a matter of four short months, I had traveled to four continents, sixteen countries, and countless cities. I went through the zero-zero latitude-longitude mark on the globe. I met people who re-affirmed my life and re-shaped the way I view the world.

 

Quitting that job was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.

 

But if I hadn’t done it, I might still be chained to that desk wearing that same pair of golden handcuffs. I might never have taken that trip around the world, or worked for that famous author, or started my own business. I might never have met the people who proved to me that I was not alone in my quest for something more.

 

Had I not quit Wall Street, I might not be writing to you today.

 

Here’s a funny thing about quitting: once you do it and you get results, the fear starts to diminish and you start to wonder:

 

What else should I be quitting?

 

It’s addicting.

 

Not addicting in the traditional sense, but in being “enthusiastically devoted to a particular thing or activity.”

 

To be clear, I’m not talking about an addiction to giving up. You should never give up on something you believe in.

 

I’m talking about an addiction to letting go of the things that no longer serve you and taking up the things that do. Quitting means leaving something that is no longer part of the authentic you, and choosing something that is. In that way, quitting isn’t cowardly or pathetic.

 

Quitting is strong and brave.

 

Never let someone take that power away from you. If you allow the fears of others—fears of change, the unknown, or the even the Northeast—to dictate your life, then you allow them to dictate your happiness, too. Don’t let someone who thinks small, make you feel small.

 

Now, a bit of housekeeping, for you people.

 

I realized early on that the classic Alcoholics Anonymous structure for the opening for this post was a bit risky. Having never attended a meeting myself, and certainly not wanting to offend anyone who has, I chose to do some research to make sure I was using it correctly.

 

Talk about a rabbit hole.

 

Turns out, “Hi, my name is _____, and I’m an alcoholic,” is actually a new addition to AA meetings. Traditionally, attendees would introduce themselves as “members” or simply as “recovering,” thus reinforcing the positive and moving away from the negative.

 

You can do that too.

 

The next time someone calls you a quitter, just tell them, “Actually, I’m an adventurer.”

 

And take your power, and your life, back.

 

**********

 

What part of your life should you consider quitting? Who might be holding you back or encouraging you to move forward?

 

Did this story resonate with you? Or did it make you think of a story of your own? Share your story or your reaction in the comments below.

 

I believe that stories unite us. These stories can be traced back to one person, conversation, or observation that provided a turning point in our lives. I’d love to hear if you believe this, too.

 

If you do believe this, then share it with your friends! Because sharing stories an instinctual, powerful way to touch the hearts of others and change the world around us.


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Comments
  1. Hilary   On   01 Oct 2014 at 1:08 am

    I really loved reading this. I think more people should feel open to the idea of quitting something. Just because you have a good job doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to be doing. I started working a desk job at a PR company in Portland about two months ago, and although it is still a new job, I find myself struggling to find motivation to get up and sit at a desk all day. Although I think I need to give it a little more time before quitting, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in thinking these things. I also had a similar experience with a college sport. I went from playing club hockey for two years to club crew for a semester to coaching club crew for a semester to traveling around the world (with you 🙂 ) to working two jobs my senior year. If I had stuck with hockey all four years of college my experiences would have been so different. I feel like experiencing new things is what life is all about, and if that means having to quit something that is bringing you down as a person, then so be it.

    Loved the post, as always!

    • Tracy   On   01 Oct 2014 at 9:03 am

      Thanks for your beautiful response, Hilary. I’m excited to see that you made an important distinction between quitting because something is hard and quitting because something is no longer right for you. Clearly, you were dedicated to hockey for many years to play at the college level, so I’m sure making the decision to quit was difficult. But I’m so happy to hear that the adventures that followed made the choice right for you. Thanks for reading and responding! Stay tuned. Some new, cool things coming to tracytimm.com very soon!

  2. Nelson   On   09 Oct 2014 at 11:44 am

    Hey, girl! I was sent here by a mutual friend because I am currently struggling with a major career decision right now. Hearing your stories – in particular the one about leaving Wall Street – really hits home for me. Like you, I’ve had the “never quit” mantra drilled into me all of my life and hate to think of being defeated by something. However, trudging through my current work, hoping to one day find happiness in it, I’ve begun to realize that quitting doesn’t have to mean defeat. Instead, I find myself thinking about it as a “it’s not that I can’t handle it… it’s just that I’d rather not, especially when I have better opportunities waiting.” I can’t decide if this is just me justifying my quitting, or if it’s actually a reasonable thought. I also battle with this sense of disappointing my current coworkers… but in the end, I should be looking out for my own happiness, right? Wouldn’t that ultimately be the best for everyone anyways? It’s nice to see someone else who has also experienced this internal struggle and the outcomes of her adventure.

    • Tracy   On   09 Oct 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Hi, Nelson! First of all, so excited that someone led you to this blog post. I wrote it in the hopes that it would resonate with people so much that they felt the need to share it with those who need it most. So, yay! You’re here! Step one is done. Step two– your decision. My favorite way for figuring out if my justifications are accurate or not is to test them with one, simple question– Is it true? Is it true that you CAN handle it? Is it true that you just don’t WANT to? If both of those are true for you, then you’re being absolutely reasonable. If they aren’t, then you might just be trying to escape something because it’s hard (in which case, quitting may not be your answer). It sounds to me like these things are true for you, and you’re well on your way to making a well-formed, meaningful change in your life. I’ll answer all of your following questions by saying this one thing (and please don’t let the cheesiness of this take away from its value)– there is only one, unique you in this world. The more time you spend in a job or a life that doesn’t express that uniqueness, the more you are a) trying to change who you are and b) robbing the world of your gifts. One of my favorite quotes is from Howard Thurman and goes a little something like this: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” So don’t worry about everyone else (I know that’s hard). Just do you, and it will all start to come together. Hope that helps! Look forward to having you as a reader. Lots of love, Tracy

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