I had a long conversation with my niece last week. She is in her first year of college and trying to determine which things are a good fit so she can build her future. We talked about how she is at a place in her life where the past is behind her, and her future is a blank slate. Even though blank slates can be overwhelming, they can also be empowering.
But then she said something that really made me think. Something that I think we all feel. And something that applies to this stage of my life as much as it applies to hers.
“If I try this and don’t like it, what do I do? I don’t want to be a quitter,” she said. “My mom and dad always told me not to quit.”
My niece and I have similar situations, even though we are separated by many decades. She is looking towards her future and making decisions that will shape the rest of her life. While I am at a different crossroads, I am still looking towards my future because it is changing. In a few years, I will no longer have kids in my house and my husband will be retiring from his “first career”, so my future is just as blank and unsure as my niece’s future.
So as I try to get back in touch with myself, I have to wonder:
Do I, even as a grown woman, hold on too tightly to that lesson of Don’t Quit No Matter What? And does that feeling that I can never quit keep me from trying new things?
I mean, sometimes you shouldn’t quit. You don’t want to quit on your family. You don’t want to quit a job prematurely. And I am a proponent of not quitting on your relationships before you try to improve them. But there are also times when you should quit: when a relationship is unhealthy, or an activity is draining the joy right out of your life.
Our parents teach us not to quit because they want us to learn perseverance and persistence. They want us to stick with something long enough to learn something. I’m wondering, though, if holding on to the lesson of not quitting as adults is causing us to have lives that are draining and unfulfilling…
If I kept doing everything I ever tried, I would be forever teaching VBS (which I was not good at). I would be working at a job that didn’t pay me enough for the work I put in, and I never would have met my husband. If I still did everything I tried, I would be doing things that didn’t make me happy like needlepointing, crocheting, and running a nonprofit that was draining my finances. I would be in some very bad relationships, and I would also be very miserable.
I think you get the point.
Once you are an adult, the lessons on quitting are over. We need to be able to try something on for size, and we don’t need permission to say it doesn’t fit (but if you do, I will give it to you!).
But don’t be too quick about it; there is a lot of responsibility in this freedom to quit, which is what I think our parents were trying to teach us when we were younger. They were right about this: you don’t want to quit on something too soon and you don’t want to develop a habit of quitting. You also need to know the difference between quitting something because it’s hard, and quitting because it’s not a good fit. (Plus I don’t want you to blame me for telling you to quit everything!)
As I move forward in this midlife journey, I will have the courage to try new things, but the freedom to let them go if they don’t fit me and the life I’m trying to build. I will also look at what I am currently doing, and prayerfully seek guidance about what is working, and what I need to let go.
How about you? Do you do something that doesn’t fit because you don’t want to quit? Share your story in the comments below.