KNOWING WHEN TO QUIT

Haven’t we all made the decision, at some point in time, to stop doing what no longer felt right? It can be an act of emancipation that encourages a step toward a more satisfying life. It can also be a surprise to the people around us causing some to be distressed and others envious.

Last year, the New York Times had a feature section that told the stories of nineteen people who had said “I quit!” to a variety of activities. It takes courage to draw a line and say no to toxic relationships, unwanted products, doctors and treatment plans not in our best interest, foods that harm our bodies, or unreasonable demands from anyone, especially the people we love. I’d like to share a few of these stories so we can all be more empowered to know when the most nourishing choice is to walk away.

Veronica Chambers is a woman of color who was working for a magazine. Her white supervisor told her “a black woman will never have my job.” However, her supervisor used all of Veronica’s ideas to revamp the magazine. She stuck with the job hoping she could advance. On a long weekend vacation with her husband and daughter, she carefully thought through her job scenario, and by the end of the weekend she knew she had to quit her job to keep her sanity.

What came next for her was writing 4 New York Times best sellers, 2 James Beard awards, and having one of her novels turned into a movie. She taught at Stanford University and Smith College. And she finally had more time to spend with her daughter. In Veronica’s words, “When you’re constantly shown to the back of the career bus, quitting what looks like a good job can be a vital moment of reclaiming the self-esteem that unlocks a world of possibility.”

Anna Dubenko quit graduate school when she knew it wasn’t working for her. In her words, “Quitting graduate school was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – and I’ve given birth without an epidural.” Difficult as it was, she is now free to pursue what she truly desires. Lisa Wells quit her smartphone when she found herself paying more attention to her phone than to the people most important in her life. Len Schreiner quit the priesthood when he fell in love.

John Hogue felt conflicted about his consumerism habits and decided to quit buying things thoughtlessly. In his words, “Not buying things has freed me to have more time, space and energy for relationships with others – including God.” Iva Dixit quit her elaborate skin-care routine after deciding the only person she needed to please was herself. Nathan Pemberton quit his evangelical church when the church stopped listening to God and started telling God what to do.

Eckhart Tolle wrote, “Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” When I read that quote, I began thinking of the times in my life that I became aware of the need for change. During an illness I went to a doctor who gave me a diagnosis and a prescription. I had a bad reaction to the drug, but the doctor blew it off. Knowing I was in the wrong place I quit that medical practice and found myself a doctor who cared.

At one point I was looking for a counselor and went through 3 before I found one that truly listened. I retired from teaching a year sooner than anticipated because of a health issue. It was difficult because I loved teaching high school students, but it was also the right decision and my body thanked me. This past year I quit coloring my hair and have embraced every grey hair on my head.

Whatever our challenges are, it’s important to know when we have reached our limit and need to walk away. We have the power to manage our lives with mindfulness and clarity, so our choices nourish and support us. Frank Lee writes, “The past is a place of reference. Not a place of residence.” There is nothing useful from the past except lessons learned.

Lee also writes, “Do not waste time thinking about what you could have done differently. Keep your eyes on the road ahead and do it differently now.” We can choose to change whatever needs changing and experience the same thing Veronica did in unlocking a world of possibility. Let’s support each other as we all take steps to free ourselves from what we need to quit doing, so we can live the life we truly want to live.

Until Next Time – Sylvia

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