Where Logic Meets Love

The Art of Quitting

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

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The Art of Quitting | Faith Permeating Life
All my life, I've been a champion quitter.

It's very important to me that I don't spend time on things that aren't important to me, and so in my 25 years I've quit a lot of things, big and small.
  • I quit gymnastics when I was 7 because they wanted me to do no-handed cartwheels off the balance beam before I'd mastered a regular cartwheel.
  • I quit piano lessons when I started middle school because I hated them.
  • Ditto to voice lessons a year later.
  • I quit the community choir when I stopped enjoying it, re-joined a year later when I thought I wanted to be a choir teacher, and quit again when it turned out the new director was a horrible bully.
  • I was dead-set on being a photo major and swore up and down I wouldn't change my mind like every other college student -- then quit after two weeks of art class (a prereq) in which I failed to do abstract art "properly."
  • I quit my scholars program in college when I realized it was sucking up insane amounts of my time and I was getting nothing out of it. (Literally -- I didn't even get a scholarship from it because I already had a full-tuition scholarship. And I was in another scholars program anyway.)

I haven't regretted a single one of these decisions.

Don't think I quit everything I start. I completed both a bachelor's and a master's in five years, for goodness' sakes, finished a master's thesis that comprised three complete studies, and even enjoyed a year as a graduate teaching assistant when I knew nothing about teaching going into it. I've also completed far too many insane personal projects, like going through all 4,544 songs in my iTunes and ensuring they had the correct composer, release year, and album artwork. Because I'm weird like that.

In any case, I have no qualms about my most recent decision, to drop out of my editing certificate program after one class. (It takes five classes to complete it.) There are a lot of reasons, but the main one is that my entire reason for getting certified is no longer valid. Going in, I thought I wanted to expand my freelance work to publishing houses rather than just authors trying to get published, but I realized after going through this class that I don't want to do that. I like working with authors. I like that I'm not going to be the last pair of eyes on a piece of work, that I can see it through several drafts if they're willing to pay for it, and that I can be a little rough on them when they really suck because, hey, you want to get this thing published, right?

There are other reasons, not all of which I need to get into, but another big one is that while the program does offer both 8-week evening classes and 3-day seminars, I didn't realize that most of the classes, including the mandatory ones I need to complete the program, are only offered as Thursday-Friday-Saturday seminars, meaning I'd be eating up most of my vacation time at work in the next year just taking the classes. And it's not worth my time and money when I might not ending using the certificate for much of anything anyway.

Because I do successfully accomplish so many things, I don't feel bad when I realize I need to cut something out. Maybe it's because I recently finished Spousonomics and I'm thinking about cost-benefit analyses, or maybe it's because a consultant grilled my coworkers and me today about why each and every one of our department goals is important and valuable, but I'm willing to be honest that this isn't doing enough for me and quit before I have too many sunk costs (more economics!) and feel obligated to finish it out.

What do you think? When has quitting been valuable to you and when are you glad you stuck with something?

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