Lately, I’m really into quitting things. Rather than this being a shift in my work ethic, it represents a shift in my perspective. And instead of quitting being seen as a failure, I now see it as a choice.
I grew up in a family that didn’t. raise. quitters. Whatever I started, I had to finish. This is a lesson I now appreciate since it’s made me a determined person. There was a distinct time though that I didn’t appreciate this lesson. Cue my 7th grade basketball experience.
I hate basketball. I really do. During 7th grade though, I was playing every sport and of course wanted to be the best, no matter the sport. So after trying out for the basketball team, I ended up making the A-team (ohhhh ya) and was made point guard, which further verified my awesomeness. The problem though is that I only made the team because I was fast, not because I was good. I barely understood the rules, much less how to excel.
Cut to the first game of the season: My nervous little body sits on the bench, waiting for the game to start. My name is called to go in first. Shit! I can hear my family cheering for me in the bleachers. Don’t fuck this up, Callye! (Just to be clear, that’s my inner dialogue -- not what my dad yells at sporting events).
The game’s ESPN highlight reel would have sounded something like this: Callye receives the ball. Whistle is blown. “Double dribble!” yells the ref. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Callye gets fouled and has a free throw. Her stick-figure arms struggle to throw the ball in the air, but magically it goes in the basket! Whistle is blown. “You stepped over the free throw line,” says the ref. Callye spends the rest of the game avoiding the ball and having no clue how this GOD AWFUL sport is played.
I remember wanting to quit so bad after that. I asked my dad if I could, to which he replied, “You have to finish the season.” Great. I felt completely embarrassed by my performance, and what was worse was that I didn’t know how to improve. I didn’t understand why I sucked. And I didn’t know how I’d survive the rest of the season.
But then the best thing ever happened. I broke my arm. I BROKE MY ARM! The universe could sense my desperation, and it gifted me with physical trauma. In this case, the universe manifested itself in the form of a tall, incompetent 12 year old girl who pushed me into the wall face first while playing indoor soccer. Thanks, bitch. No really… thanks. Freedom was mine. I got to quit basketball!
I’m sure that a case could be made in favor of me trying basketball again, giving myself a chance to learn how to play better. But I was over it. Once my arm healed, I had no desire to try again.
I didn’t enjoy the sport, and that was okay. It was okay that I didn’t want to challenge myself to “get back on the horse”. It was okay that I didn’t wonder what could have been had my skills improved. I already had other sports and activities I enjoyed. It was okay that I quit. For me, playing basketball was merely something to be experienced, not something to commit myself to.
How many times in life do you stick to things because you feel an obligation to finish what you started? It’s of course easy to talk about 7th grade basketball because that seems so insignificant. Not nearly as scary or real as staying in a job you hate. Or staying in a relationship or friendship past its expiration date. Or maintaining an expensive lifestyle even though you can no longer afford it . Those situations evoke fear in us. But being a 12 year old girl, embarrassed about her poor basketball skills and knowing she’d have to keep playing despite her embarrassment… well that too is a pretty terrifying scenario when you’re in 7th grade.
After that first game, my gut knew that I shouldn’t be out on the field. Or court? Wait, it’s a court, right? Nowadays though, I try to quit as many things as I can, especially since I am so naturally predisposed to stick it out at all costs. ← And that theory, right there, is some bull. At certain times, it can be useful -- like when what you are doing is in agreement with your values. But in no way should it be some catch all phrase that you use in order to guilt yourself into doing something you don’t want to do. Or doing something that is hurting you in some way.
I’ve been checking a lot of books out of the library lately. And I’ve quit reading about 90% of them. I’ve started listening to some podcasts, and I’ve turned them off midway through because why am I doing this if it isn’t delivering the results I am seeking? Books and podcasts and TV series and whatever other forms of entertainment I consume are intended to amuse me. If they aren’t doing their job, then they need to be let go.
When it comes to the bigger decisions in life, it’s certainly more complicated. But if you can’t quit the small things in life that chip away at your soul, then you’ll have a much harder time quitting the big things. Don’t wait for the universe to slap you with its discompassionate hand and force you to quit -- it will hurt more that way. Because the universe? It doesn’t care about your feelings. And It doesn’t care that you’re afraid of the unknown.
You already know when you need to quit. You know because you feel out of sorts, uncomfortable, and like you’re living a life that’s not yours. And like you’re sticking with things for the sake of pride, or fear, or because you are living based on the the expectations of others.
There are certainly things in life worth fighting for. And resistance doesn’t always mean you should quit. But when you fight for something, it needs to be because it truly matters to you. And it needs to help you e x p a n d as a person. Don’t get stuck doing what you do just because it’s all you’ve ever done.
So put down the boring book you’re reading. Cancel your plans with that annoying friend who makes you exhausted at the mere thought of seeing her. And quit using that list-making app you painstakingly update because it was supposed to be the perfect organizational tool.
Instead, go do something that actually makes you feel good. And do it because you know it’s what you want.
PS - Shockingly enough, I ended up coaching 7th grade basketball during my first year as a teacher. I didn’t even know how many people should be on the court, much less how to run plays. Basically, I just yelled “HALF COURT PRESS!” every few minutes in hopes that the parents would think I had a plan in place. I was fooling no one.