One of the things that is most obnoxious about American society is the tendency to equate quitting something with failing at that thing. No one wants to be called a quitter, and we’re often told we need to commit to things, follow through, finish what you started. When someone drops out of college or quits a job they’re generally perceived as lazy or a loser in some fashion. Quitting a hobby or volunteer position or other outside activity seems to imply to some people that you can’t handle whatever it is you’re doing.
Unfortunately these perceptions are utter bullshit. Failure is when you don’t achieve your goals, so there are probably some circumstances in which quitting something is failure. If you really, truly wanted to complete something and you don’t get to, then in some sense you’ve failed at it. But most of the time when we quit something we do so because we realize that our goals and priorities have changed in some way. In order to stay in line with our values as we now perceive them, we have to take a different set of actions. That is not failure, it’s actually incredibly successful.
But even beyond the fact that if we make the choice to change our life trajectory we’re often doing it for good reasons is the fact that quitting something often comes about after increased self knowledge. All of this is a not so thinly veiled comment on my recent decision to quit my Master’s program and move home. For some, this might seem like failure. However in a mere few weeks away from home my perspective on my life and my priorities has utterly shifted. I have realized the high importance of having a strong support system around me, the value I place on my friends (they are irreplaceable), and that I want to have a more solid plan for my future before committing to an advanced degree.
I have gained an immense feeling of gratitude to the people in my life that I love and a commitment to hold them tenderly. And I’ve also found a serious motivation to fully commit to recovery. Putting myself into a new situation made all of these things clear, but also made it clear where it was healthiest for me to be. Choosing to quit something because it is unhealthy, not what you love, or simply not what you want in your life is not only self-care, it is a commitment to treating yourself well.
Taking the time to check in with yourself, see whether a situation is working for you, and then prioritize your own needs is the exact opposite of failure: it is, especially for women, people of color, disabled people, queer people, or mentally ill people, making your life what you want it to be. This is the ultimate success for individuals who often feel they have to follow certain scripts and are pressured to ignore their own needs. Success is allowing yourself to live in a way that allows you to flourish, not simply survive. Keeping things in your life that are limiting you simply because you don’t want to be a quitter is basically the essence of failing at life.
All of this is to say: I feel so proud of myself for making what I believe to be the healthiest decision I could, for discovering where I feel safe and confident, and for recognizing the amazing progress I’ve made when I’m in a safe space. I’m quitting so that I can kick some ass.