In Defense of Being a Quitter

Lifestyle

When it comes to team sports and half-hatched plans, I’m known to call things off. Here's why it's sometimes okay to say "I quit."
Photo by Jana Knorr on Unsplash 

I’m not a great quitter, but I am a quitter. In fact—though difficult at some points—I think I’ve quit every activity I’ve ever started.

Well … that’s not entirely fair to say. There have been many activities I’ve stuck with, but I’d consider those passions more than casual pastimes. When it comes to team sports, new routines, and half-hatched plans, I’m known to abandon. And today, I want to explain to you (and in the process myself and any future employer that stumbles upon this piece when wondering about a short-lived job on my resume) why this can be a good thing.

You see, there’s nothing wrong with quitting if you know something isn’t right for you. It can be an act of bravery, a final test of intuition. Like the quitting pioneers before me (see: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s royal exit, Liz Gilbert’s first marriage, Adam Brody’s Gilmore Girls role), I like to think quitting makes room for something special to occur (see: raising chickens in Montecito, Eat Pray Love, The O.C. and the character of Seth Cohen in general).

But before we get into the art of quitting, let’s take a step back in time. While I was known early on to sit down in the middle of dance class when I was no longer feeling the rhythm, the first real thing I remember quitting was first-grade summer basketball camp. It was one of those classic elementary school weeklong activities, and I made it exactly one half-day before realizing I wasn’t much of a baller.  

Lucky for me, my mom wasn’t one to push. I’m sure she tried early on (and bless her for being the one to have to write yet another “Sophie won’t be returning” email to a clueless coach), but soon grew accustomed to her daughter’s proclivity for cutting out early. From sleepovers, from hair colors, from, well…

Here are some other things I’ve quit in my life thus far:

  • Tennis
  • Multiple competitive swim teams
  • Competitive sports in general (I prefer recreational athletics)
  • Quilting
  • Violin
  • Piano
  • Hamster parenting
  • Violin again, years later
  • My “one question a day” journal
  • Multiple blog concepts
  • Choir
  • Books I haven’t jived with after the first couple of chapters

Let it be said, however: just because I like to quit doesn’t mean I’m good at quitting itself. When the time to say goodbye dawns, I always push it off. I also tend to favor a strong excuse as opposed to the ultimate truth: that I’m really just done. Once upon a time, I didn’t have the courage to break up with someone until the Mad Men finale came out and I could use my emotional breakthrough via Don Draper’s (supposed) emotional breakthrough as reasoning for my “out of the blue” exit. 

While surely not all of my quitting experiences have been positive, I do believe that the decision to let go has impacted me in every circumstance. Sometimes, a wave of relief is all it takes to let me know I did the right thing.

After sticking with a good-but-not-forever job for much too long, a not-meant-for-my-ears-yet-still-entirely-unfair comment from a higher-up finally prompted me to put in my resignation letter—a soul-baring, small font-ed piece that was entirely unnecessary but important for closure.

Earlier this year, I quit a dream-ish job after only five months. Though fabulous salary-wise and fun on paper, the burnout came quickly and hard. My biggest problem: when starting, I’d made the decision not to quit other things I cared about—some beloved freelance projects, my social calendar, my proclivity for self-care.

While I technically had it all going for me, I didn’t have time to breathe. And so, I quit the one thing that made the least sense from the outside, a full-time job with benefits, in favor of inner clarity. (Note: I do want to acknowledge the immense privilege that allowed me to quit. The same solution does not present itself to many, and I consider myself extremely lucky.)

It was hard to communicate my decision, a choice met with many tears that only happened thanks to the urging of my boyfriend (and parents, friends, therapist, and everyone else who saw how miserable I was), but it was so, so worth it in the end. And my boss? Entirely understanding—likely because I told her the truth about why I was done.

And as soon as I did it, I knew I made the right decision. My creativity came rushing back, the panic attacks stopped, and as one friend not-so-subtly put it when I ran into her, my “eyes lit up again.”

While surely not all of my quitting experiences have been positive, I do believe that the decision to let go has impacted me in every circumstance. Sometimes, a wave of relief is all it takes to let me know I did the right thing. Other times, regret helps me understand what it is I really want and what tools I need to develop to have a better experience in the future. I’m a hard worker (and a *good* worker), but I have to truly care about the work I’m doing if I’m going to give it my all.

A few (of many) things I haven’t quit:

  • Tennis for fun
  • Swimming for fun
  • Art classes
  • My middle school friendships
  • My English degree
  • Journaling on my own terms
  • Every season of every Real Housewives show ever

Why? Because I like these things. Actually, I love them. And even though they can be hard sometimes (I’m looking at you, Carole Radziwill), if the tough stuff is the right stuff it’s worth it to push through.

Oftentimes, my choice is made long before I actually do the quitting. I know pretty quickly if something is going to stick. But before the decision comes to pass, I ask myself a couple of questions. Could I see myself doing this in a month? A year? Do I feel like myself when I’m doing it? Am I in it for me, or for someone/something else—the title, the money, the social media content, the story afterward? Am I unhappy because of this thing, or something else that I’m failing to address? Do I really not want to do this anymore, or am I scared to fail?

Before the decision comes to pass, I ask myself a couple of questions. Could I see myself doing this in a month? A year? . . . Am I unhappy because of this thing, or something else that I’m failing to address? Do I really not want to do this anymore, or am I scared to fail?

Once the questions are answered and I’ve resolved to saying goodbye, I’m generally on edge until the end finally arrives. But when it does, it’s most often so, so sweet. And what matters is that we do it in the end, right? No matter how long it takes to quit something, new and brilliant ventures will be ready when you are.

Does that make sense? Hopefully, because I’m done writing. 

(This piece, anyway. Not writing in general. After all … this is what I love to do.)

BY Sophie Vilensky - September 15, 2021

3 Comments
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Diana Humstad
September 15, 2021 5:05 pm

Sooooooo inspirational!

Chiara
September 19, 2021 12:14 am

I don’t know. It all sounds so very privilege, I couldn’t read it ’till the end

September 19, 2021 9:42 am

Relatable! I tried so many things to narrow down my passion, and glad I did!

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