There I was, one semester into a specialty program that I had fought my way into and hating every second of it. It was a tech-based program with competitive entrance requirements and I applied only half expecting to be accepted.
On my 31st birthday I received the letter in the mail. I. Got. In.
I was overjoyed. This was it, the breakthrough I had been waiting for. It was my first step towards a better future. I called my Dad first and broke the news to him. He was proud and excited for me, but wary. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?” He asked.
“I was born ready”, I thought. I can write, I have a great eye for design, this program is the missing link I need to start a web-based business of my own.
Soon everyone who knew me had heard the news. I would soon be a full-time college student, doing the thing that having kids so young had prevented me from experiencing in my twenties. Everyone seemed to be impressed and this was something I wasn’t used to, as I had been a struggling entrepreneur for the past decade.
“Wow, so you’ll be working, mom-ing and going to school? You’re amazing.” I would answer something smugly like, “Well, I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do”. I liked being amazing.
But it wasn’t long until the cracks started to show. As it turns out, I hate computer coding. I’m also not a big fan of photoshop. I was so tired at work that I started doing sub par hair and zoning out on clients. I had to close my etsy shop because I couldn’t keep up with orders. To top it all off my kids went for a full two weeks having nothing but pizza for dinner.
And I hated never seeing them. And I hated not taking quality walks with my dog. And I hated the fact that when the program was all over and I was in a hefty chunk of debt I would be qualified to work in an industry that I hated.
I also hated it when a girl in my class asked me loudly if I was old enough to be her mom, but it did get me thinking. I’m already this old and feel like I was just a baby yesterday. How will I feel in another thirty years? Time happens in the blink of an eye. Life is short. I could continue pushing and striving to accomplish things that will impress other people or have the courage to say, “yep, this isn’t for me, I’m turning this ship around.”
When I really sat down and thought about if I should stick it out or quit my reasons for staying were all ego driven. “What will people think of me? Will they think I’m a dropout loser? Will my classmates think I am too old and stupid to handle the work?”
But when I looked at the reasons for leaving they came from a place of peace. “I will have more time for my kids. I will have more time for my dog. I will have more time to chase my real dreams, no matter how absurd they may seem to others.”
And so I finished the semester, thanked my instructors and bowed out of the program.
People may think I’m a drop out loser, but that’s ok. Truthfully people spend far more time worrying about their own lives than they do judging others on their decisions. Plus, who really cares what anyone thinks? This is my life to live, my one life. So I’m going to be calling the shots.
Knowing I don’t ever have to write another line of code makes me feel like an elephant has been lifted from my shoulders. I have signed up for a different course with a way lighter load, and I chose it not to impress others but because its something I’m truly interested in.
I’m also going to follow my heart and study clothing design over the summer. It’s true, when I tell people I want to be a clothing designer I am often met with looks of pity, or apprehension, but it just doesn’t matter. I know what my heart wants and if I end up a struggling clothing designer, I will be happier than I ever would be as a successful web developer.
Being a quitter is often regarded as something bad. People who quit things don’t make very inspiring heroes, but quitting something you know is not your higher purpose can actually take more bravery than sticking it out. Whether we are talking friendships, romantic relationships, school, careers or even just a gym membership there are a few key questions I like to ask myself to determine if it’s quitting time.
- Is my happiness to unhappiness ratio consistently greater than 50%? Sometimes things suck. Anyone who has been married for more than three years can attest to this. No one gets to coast through life without shitty bits, and bailing at the first sign of discomfort isn’t being brave but actually being a bit of a baby. Nothing will ever be peachy keen 100% of the time, but if a situation is bringing me unhappiness on a more regular basis than it brings happiness it’s time to step back and ask myself how much happier I could be if I removed the situation from my life.
- Will I be able to recoup the cost of both time and money? Some things in life are completely free and still cost way too much. Time is actually a much more limited and valuable resource than money. Well invested time can lead to more money and conversely well invested money can provide us with more free time. If something is draining my time and/or money reserves and I can not see the end result being worth more than what I have had to put in, I am so out.
- Do the people in your life encourage you to stick it out, or gently assure you there is no shame in quitting? I do not think we should consistently look to others for approval in all of our life decisions, but it can be easier for people to see our situation from a place of love rather than ego. Sometimes it takes talking with people I trust to help me further realise all of the reasons I should walk away from something. When loved ones stop pushing me to keep on pushing, I can be sure that I’m not just being a baby but genuinely making an intelligent choice to leave something behind that is no longer serving me.
When it comes to deciding what we want in life we may need to quit a few things before we find the right thing. My Dad always says failure is just learning to succeed going forward. He’s a smart guy.