This past weekend, I snuggled into my ’14 Corolla and took a mini road trip to the magical land of Montgomery, Alabama.
As a child, I loved road trips. I would sprawl out in the backseat and color, eat candy, and exclaim, “We’re in two places at once” anytime we’d cross a state line. I’d have blankets and pillows and only ask, “Are we there yet” five minutes after departing as a joke. I was a pro at road trips.
As I’ve gotten older, my attention span has gotten increasingly shorter. My patience for long car rides has grown slim. And my ability to “hold it” is nonexistent.
Needless to say, I was a tad worried at tackling a 5+ hour trip on my own, so I turned to some help in the form of podcasts.
Podcasts are an excellent road trip companion. For starters, you feel much less alone because you have anywhere from 1-4 other voices wafting through your car and it makes talking to yourself seem less weird. Two, podcasts are very informative, so instead of spending hours upon hours in silence or engrossed in Kendrick Lamar’s latest album (which is very good, by the way), you can actually learn something. Three, there is a podcast for everyone. Literally everyone. If you can’t find one that appeals to you, then you’re boring as all hell, and I’m not sure why you’re even reading this, because I AM NOT BORING. Also, boring people don’t read, so you must be having someone read this aloud to you which also means you’re lazy.
I went with a wide array of podcasts for my 10 hour round trip drive, which included Mavenly + Co., Radiolab, 99% Invisible, This American Life, and Freakonomics, and my entire road trip was pleasant and informative.
I’ll discuss more about each podcast in future posts, but today I want to focus on a Freakonomics episode titled “The Upside of Quitting.”
I was drawn to the title of this podcast and also to the fact that it’s one of their most popular. I needed to know why.
A couple of hours into my drive home from Montgomery, after finishing up a Mavenly ‘cast, I switched to “The Upside of Quitting,” and three minutes in, I came to the conclusion that I am a quitter. Three and a half minutes in, I came to another conclusion that you should be a quitter too.
By definition, a quitter is someone “who gives up easily or does not have the courage or determination to finish a task.” To me, that’s an incredibly negative definition and paints a quitter to mirror a loser, which is not the same. Also, I call bullshit on dictionaries because the word “ain’t” is listed, and that is not a word. I don’t care what the dictionary or some preteen middle school child says. You ain’t right. You’re wrong.
Growing up, I never wanted to be a quitter because I was raised to think it was wrong. Looking back, the people who told me it was bad to quit something I didn’t enjoy were actually the wrong ones. Maybe this is why I went to cheerleading practice when I didn’t want to and why I played soccer for two years even though I was HORRIBLE. Perhaps this is why I continued babysitting, even when I knew it wasn’t right for me and why I hung out with that group of friends that didn’t do much for me in any sense.
Because I was afraid to quit something.
“Stick it out,” “Just do it,” “You’re halfway there” were all words that I had been told time and time again that transformed themselves into mantras for the way I’d operate my life.
I didn’t want to run around a soccer field for hours in the humidity. I wanted to dance.
I didn’t want to practice piano ten hours a week when I could have been swimming at my neighbor’s house.
I didn’t want to be friends with that one girl who only talked about herself and never asked me how I was doing, because it was exhausting and unfulfilling and it made me sad.
So I quit them. I quit them all.
For awhile, I felt a sense of regret and guilt. I felt like I had failed because I wasn’t a star soccer player, selfless friend, and the next Bach. I felt guilty. Like I was broken. I felt shame. Sometimes I still do.
But one thing that I didn’t recognize until I listened to this podcast was that we, as human beings, are not created to excel at everything. We are not created to love everything so much that we sacrifice everything to achieve it. We are not created to be perfect.
And all of that is okay.
The podcast followed a handful of people who have quit something in their lives. One woman worked at a Fortune 500 company and quit to become an escort. One man worked as the head of the Department of Labor in Washington D.C. and quit to spend more time at home with his wife and kids. Another guy was in a very successful band and was weeks away from finishing their first album and quit because it wasn’t what he wanted anymore, even after dreaming of being a famous musician for years.
In a world that romanticizes staying busy and working hard to keep up with society’s vision of who you should be, it was really nice to spend sixty minutes listening to “quitters” who have decided to keep up with their own vision of who they should be instead.
And that’s when I realized that if I had to choose, I would much rather be a quitter on a pursuit for happiness than a person who is trekking through the mud of an unfulfilled life of obligations, unhappiness, and “You’re halfway there.”
I am 24-years-old, halfway to forty-eight and halfway through my 20’s.
And it has all flown by.
Though I have achieved a lot in life, mostly by doing what I want, I have also fallen victim to doing what others expect of me. Oddly enough, as I sit here and type this post, I am doing it right now by sitting at my desk at a job that I hate.
That’s right. I hate teaching.
When I first came to this conclusion, I felt guilty. I thought about all of the people who would love to have this job and how fortunate I was to have it. But the bottom line is I am miserable. I dread coming to work, dread teaching my classes, and instead of leaving work feeling invigorated, I leave feeling defeated, exhausted, and in need of a stiff drink.
There’s more to my life than this.
I want to quit teaching. It is not for me. This doesn’t make me a loser, this makes me a self-reflective, brave, and kick ass woman who knows what her strengths are and also her weaknesses. Teaching, for me, is not my strong suit, and that’s okay. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time here, and I definitely don’t want to waste mine.
So I will probably quit.
Just like I did with soccer.
Just like I did with piano.
That doesn’t mean I won’t return someday. It just means that my time for this is not right now, and knowing that sooner rather than later is the most excellent feeling.
Knowing that this isn’t it for me. Knowing that there’s more. Knowing there’s a higher mountain to climb, and I’m “halfway there.”
I want to be halfway towards achieving a life of happiness and fulfillment over a life of halfway through a monotonous, boring task.
And if that makes me a quitter, then so be it.
I am a quitter, and you should be too.