I’m a quitter.
That probably doesn’t seem like a good thing to admit, but I’m going to gladly admit it.
I’m a quitter.
I quit things not when they get hard, but when I realize they no longer make me happy.
Growing up, you’re always taught not to quit. You’re taught quitting is bad, and you should always stick to what you’ve started. You’re taught nobody likes a quitter. You’re taught quitting is for losers.
Because of this mentality, I’ve caused myself a lot of stress. I’ve found myself completely overwhelmed with anxiety over whether or not to quit.
Back in high school, I remember dreading going to my AP (advanced-placement) chemistry class. It wasn’t required for me to take it, but I took it so I could potentially gain college credit. However, that class made me miserable. The teacher wasn’t very good, and I felt like I wasn’t learning.
After a lot of contemplation, I quit and joined ceramics class. Since I was always enrolled in AP classes and orchestra, I never had any time to join other electives. It was my first time taking a “fun” class. I came to realize I absolutely loved pottery and looked forward to going to class every day. Although I didn’t get college credit for chemistry, I was much happier than before. Ceramics class became a creative outlet for me.
Then in college, I majored in apparel design. I had always been interested in fashion and often sketched designs when I was younger, so I thought this would be a suitable major. After a year in apparel design, I realized I was miserable once again. Although I excelled on all my projects and made straight A’s, I wasn’t happy. It got to the point where I dreaded going to school. After two semesters of apparel design, I knew it wasn’t meant for me. Nevertheless, I enrolled for my third semester of design because I was scared of quitting.
A few days into my third semester, I received my box of textbook rentals. Alongside my textbooks were some random product samples and a small yellow poster. On the poster was written, “Do more of what makes you happy.” After hanging the poster above my bed, I thought to myself, “Why aren’t I doing something that makes me happy?”
The following day, I went to school and changed my major to journalism. Hands down, the best decision I made in college. I fell in love with all of my journalism classes and realized I was finally doing something that made me happy. Although I enjoyed journalism, I decided to change my major one last time to strategic communications, a.k.a. public relations. I ended up enjoying that even more than journalism because it combined my love for writing with design.
[If you’re curious as to why I’m teaching in Korea instead of doing PR, read this.]
All the times I’ve quit in school and changed paths have turned out for the better.
Just two months ago, I started getting stressed again. I got so stressed I began having dreams about running away (from some kind of threat) almost every night.
At that time, I was unsatisfied with my life. I realized I had overextended myself, trying to do too much at once. And because I was trying to do so much at once, I couldn’t succeed at anything. I was failing at all the things I wanted to be good at. Since graduating college, this was the first time I felt like I was failing.
I knew I was simply not devoting enough time into everything I was doing. Instead of focusing on one thing at a time, I was spreading myself thin trying to do everything.
My Korean sucked because I didn’t spend enough time studying. My belly dance skills weren’t improving because I didn’t spend enough time practicing. And my blog was going nowhere because I didn’t spend enough time writing.
On top of it all, my wavering feelings toward my new long distance relationship was eating me up inside.
I started feeling depressed because my life seemed like it was going nowhere. My stress and anxiety caused me to feel a tightness in my chest and a shortness of breath. Because of these negative feelings, all I wanted to do every day after work was sleep.
But then one day, I received a mini wake up call at my weekly Korean lesson.
That day, my Korean teacher ran into her psychologist friend outside the coffee shop before our meeting. When she came in, she told me her friend was doing some psychological study and wanted us to participate. All we had to do was draw a picture of ourselves in the rain.
To be honest, I didn’t take it too seriously. I drew my picture without putting much thought into it.
The following week, she came back with the results. She said her psychologist friend only told her the gist of what my drawing had revealed about me. Her friend couldn’t reveal the details to her because of privacy reasons.
Since I had half-assed my drawing, I wasn’t expecting much.
But to my surprise, everything she said my drawing revealed was spot on. It was as if my drawing was a portal to the deepest parts of my mind.
What my drawing apparently unveiled:
- I’m very stressed, but I know how to manage my stress.
- I take on a lot of responsibilities.
- I often keep things to myself.
- I’m burdened with the fear of not reaching my goals.
The results were a reality check for me. I knew I had to do something about my current situation.
I knew I had to quit some things and refocus my life in order to be happy.
So, that’s exactly what I did.
I quit belly dance for the time being and also ended my long-distance relationship.
After quitting, I gained a lot of time to myself again. With my new free time, I began studying Korean every day, going to the gym consistently and getting back into writing again.
Two months later, I’m a lot happier than I was before.
I’m no longer at a standstill. My life is back on track to where I want it to be going.
Going to the gym consistently has also done wonders for me. Seeing the changes in my body makes me happy because it’s physical evidence I’m improving myself. I finally understand how people get addicted to going to the gym. Once you see the changes in your mood and body, you start to crave working out.
Anyways, I want to end this post by restating:
Quitting isn’t always bad. In fact, quitting can be healthy.
While I don’t think you should quit simply because things get hard, I think you should quit when:
- What you’re doing no longer makes you happy.
- Your stress outweighs your enjoyment.
- You realize you’re on the wrong path.
- Continuing is detrimental to your mental well-being.
- You feel like you’re not moving toward your goals.
Quitting for the right reasons means you’re a chooser rather than a loser.
It means you’ve chose to end one path to pursue a better path for yourself.
The more time you spend right now doing things that leave you unhappy, the less time you’ll have in the future for doing things that make you happy. Our time is finite, so do things that make you happy and be with people who make you happy.
As always, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to drop them below! I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Have you ever regretted not quitting something sooner? Or maybe actually regret quitting something too soon?