Being a quitter isn’t so bad

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photoGrowing up, I never wanted to be a quitter.

A quitter was someone who gave up, who walked away, who admitted defeat.

That wasn’t going to be me.

Then life happened.

It turned out, quitting was pretty easy — and something I did often. I quit jobs, I quit sports teams, I quit eating peas. Last year I even quit the Honolulu Marathon at around Mile 14 — just because my running partner was hurt. I could have kept going, proved to people I could finish the entire 26.2-mile course, but I didn’t. I quit, just like that.

I used to feel incredibly insecure about it, that maybe my first defense when faced with a difficult circumstance was to run away.

But then I found myself in a job that was turning into something I hadn’t signed up for, with a boss who was borderline abusive, working more hours than I was getting paid for. I stuck it out — for years, actually — hoping things would get better. I would have never left had it not been for a single incident that left me in the office of my boss’ boss, explaining why I hadn’t told him about my unhappiness for the past 18 months.

I stayed because that’s what you do, right? You don’t quit when things get tough.

He looked at me and said, “As your boss, I can tell you I’ll do whatever I can to make this job better for you. But as a friend, you should quit.”

He knew this was all spiraling downward — and fast — and there wasn’t much left for me to do but walk away. He was worried about my mental well-being, that I was wasting time in a job that wasn’t allowing me to reach my professional and personal goals. He didn’t think this was a good fit for me anymore.

So I had to quit.

Quitting is never easy for me, to be honest. I feel a huge amount of guilt and sadness when I walk away from something unfinished. But in a lot of cases, it’s your only option. And I had to decide whether my happiness — or, maybe sanity — was that important.

And it was.

There’s a difference between quitting and bailing. I would never ditch a project half-done or leave a friend stranded. Every time I’ve left a job, I’ve made sure the next person was fully trained and ready to go. I try — and keep trying — to make it work until I can’t do anything to save it. I don’t ditch, I quit — and that’s a significant distinction.

When I look around my life and take inventory of what’s important and what’s not, I start to feel like I’m going to be a quitter again, and I have to tell myself it’s OK.

I’m not really quitting. I’m just giving other things in my life a fair chance.