I’ve quit more things in my life than I can count. I quit dancing, I quit my high school’s musical, I even quit a full-ride to study musical theater. The list goes on and on.
Growing up, I felt immense guilt and shame whenever I had the desire to quit something. My 5th grade basketball team, the high school cheer squad, gymnastics. I knew what people, friends, family, thought of quitters and I did not want to be one of them. Lumping me into a group of kids who never finish or accomplish anything.
As I’ve gotten older and a tiny bit wiser, I’ve come to realize something that’s changed my entire outlook on quitting: It’s a good thing.There’s no possible way one can go through life without being a quitter at some point. Nearly every child these days is enrolled in a ballet class or kickball league. Not all of them grow up to become ballerinas or professional kickball players (if there is such a thing). They can’t. It’s impossible. And it’s a good thing. Because the kid who quits kickball can then go on to try out basketball and then soccer and then finally realize he doesn’t thrive in team sports and finds himself as a star swimmer.
Every activity I’ve quit has lead me down a path towards something better and more suitable for myself.
Looking back, I can also see a theme emerging from the sorts of activities that I’ve left behind. From ballet and cheer to theater I’ve realized that I am clearly trying to get away from performance. It’s been incredibly difficult to walk away from some of those things. I thought I was going to be a big Broadway star. Taking the lead in my high school’s musical, getting a handsome scholarship to study theater at a prestigious school had me convinced this was what I was supposed to do. But being great at something doesn’t mean you have to keep at it. If it drains your energy and makes you yearn for something else, it’s clearly not for you. No matter how great you are, no matter what anyone else may think.
Friends and family may not understand. Total strangers may seem like they know the answers better than you. When I decided to leave behind my life in theater, I was embarrassed and ashamed. I didn’t want to tell people and when I did, I was so worried about what they would think. As it turned out, once I did start sharing the news, it was worse than I imagined. My fellow theater students treated me differently, I wasn’t invited to parties or shows. Friends and classmates would made side comments like “but you won’t be here then, anyway.” It’s things like this that made me rethink my decision, made me ashamed of what I was doing. Ashamed of being a quitter. It was my father who said to me: “ _ Who cares what they think? What do they know? You’re the only person who can decide what’s best for you” _ (but with slightly more colorful language). And he was right. Worrying about what others think is incredibly draining. It’s not worth the time and energy. I spent so much of my life worrying about what people thought of me that I didn’t really live my life. It’s like I was living it for someone else. Now that I’m a mother and a wife and have been out in the world for a while; away from the umbrella under which I grew up, I see the importance of making my own decisions.
It takes a great deal of courage and bravery to stop, think for yourself and up and quit.
Often there have been times in my life where I didn’t have that courage, I wasn’t brave enough to walk away from something that didn’t make my heart soar. Or stuck with something for far too long because I was scared. Scared of what others would think of me, scared of the unknown that came after, scared of becoming a ‘quitter’.
It’s been almost ten years since I left theater, since I was a big fat quitter, and ever since, every time I think about walking away from something in my life, I think about what my father said to me about doing what’s best for me. Then I muster up all the bravery and courage I can and I do the big scary thing:
Photos by Valerie Denise Photos