The only failure is a quitter. You didn’t come this far to only come this far. Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit; The typical phrases that are repeated again and again to children everywhere, the same phrases that can lead to fear, or rather, even paranoia about quitting and its determination of success. Growing up, many of us are told, whether by parents or by society, that giving up is a warrant for shame. Dropping to a lower math class in high school, for instance, can result in humiliation and guilt which one may carry to adulthood. On a basic level, it seems beneficial to possess such ‘willpower’ and ‘stamina’, never quitting once a project is started. Yet, as one grows to question the lessons they have been systematically taught, they begin to wonder at what point the rhetoric around giving up can affect the course of their life, and whether it is worth holding on to such a way of thinking.
I genuinely believe that there is a fine line between quitting in a way that is ‘giving up’ versus a way that is ‘letting go’. For many years, I did not see a difference between the two. Quitting was quitting. In my younger years, I endeavored a considerable amount of hobbies from taking ballet to swimming lessons to art classes and so much more. When I chose to leave some of these commitments, I did so with a certain eagerness because it meant I had a gap in my schedule to fill with a fresh undertaking. As I became older, this eagerness faded and became a form of disquietude. According to each voice surrounding me, “colleges don’t look at extra-curricular activities unless you have been doing them for years” and “you are too old now to pick up something completely new”. The gaping hole in my schedule was no longer filled with possibility, it was now filled with the disesteem and failure of someone unreliable and fragile.
For what seemed like an eternity, I spent the hours in my day doing mindless actions that did not make me happy. Naturally, not everything you do in life can have the ultimate purpose of bringing joy. But, when it comes to the choices you make about those fleeting free moments in a hectic twenty-four hours, the least you can do is jump at the opportunity to do something for you. When we stay trapped in a certain routine simply because we are afraid to ‘quit’, we miss out on the hidden opportunities that may await us. I feel sorry for my friend forced to spend hours playing the sport she deplores because she feels too invested in it. I wish I could tell that guy at the party that he can switch his major from pre-med despite the dread of disappointing his parents. I really want to reiterate to every one of these young adults in my generation that quitting does not make you a quitter. In fact, it makes you wise and self-aware to know that not every effort you take up is worth seeing to the end. A generation fearful of quitting swimming, or putting down a guitar for a cello, or dropping AP Lang, will be the same generation who is scared to quit their underpaying, draining job, scared to leave an unhealthy or abusive relationship, terrified of living the life they deserve to live.
No, I am not saying to give up the minute things get hard. I will be the first one to say that nothing worth having in life comes easy. At the same time though, it is crucial to make that distinction for yourself: what is worth having? The moment you are sacrificing your scarce free time for an activity that is depleting and stagnant is the moment it may be time to consider leaving it in the dust and instead, finding a time-pass that is gratifying, enriching, and one which does not constantly affirm the nagging thought of “I want to quit”.
“Letting go has nothing to do with ‘quitting’. Ask yourself, ‘Am I sticking it out or am I staying stuck? You know yourself best.” -Alexandra Elle