Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Art of Quitting

Whether its from a job, a marriage, a friendship, or an obligation, the act of walking away is an art form.

A friend of mine recently shared that, after a few years of participation, her child was choosing to leave a sport in which she had been very active. Although not solicited or warranted, there was an unspoken sense of apology, embarrassment and the need to explain in the air. I assured my friend that I, too, had walked this path with my own child, that it happens, its fairly commonplace these days, and there was no need for shame or explanation. It got me thinking, though, about our children, the busy lives they lead, and the oppressive pressure we, as a society, place on them to commit and then follow through. How many times did you hear quitters never win” as a child? How many times have we forced our child to see a sport or activity they didnt like through to the end? When I look at my own track record, I cant help but feel just the slightest bit of hypocrisy.

Take, for instance, the time I considered quitting my job to work from home, making, selling and delivering gift baskets. That was two different quits at stake there and a whole lot of poor planning. Theres the time I signed up for three sessions of kick boxing and thought I might want to get certified and become an instructor. I completed one class. Thinking further back, I remember wanting to set up a lemonade stand. It was a hot summer day and I decided to try my hand at entrepreneurship. I set up a shaky card table at the end of our driveway and a metal lawn chair with some very questionable webbing. We didnt actually have any lemonade but I found a packet of Kool-Aid and promised my mother I would return her prized Tupperware pitcher. With a roll of quarters, a stack of cups, a poster announcing my venture, and the equivalent of hummingbird food, I took off for my corner office beside our mailbox. And I waited. And I waited. The relentless sun beat down on my head as the realization that we lived on a cul-de-sac and traffic was all but non-existent sank in. I put up a good fight as I sat there and sipped more than half of my inventory, but after eight or nine minutes, I cut my losses, packed up my shop and headed back inside. Maybe my first foray into giving up was offset by my self-induced sugar high, but I feel like I was able to shake it off fairly easily. No one berated me or lectured me about following through. Maybe they should have.

During my school years, I added to my resignation resume with abbreviated turns with dance, baby sitting, and an ill-fated stint with a local Jazzercise group. By college, I was a semi-pro. Didnt like a class or a professor? Drop it like its hot. Dont like a boss or a co-worker or the hours at a job? Another minimum-wage shift awaited just around the corner. Reading a book thats slow and seemingly going nowhere? Return that sucker to the library and check out two others in its place. Boy trouble? Dont get me started.

Is there value in seeing something through to its end? Of course. In fact, I think its one of the cornerstones of our society and civilization as we know it. State what youre going to do and then do it. Plain and simple. If you sign up to volunteer at the bake sale, youd better darn well run through the grocery on your way there, replate those cookies on your own platter and walk into school with your head held high. If your child decides after two games that soccer isnt their sport and they dont want to go back, I think the response is, hey, buddy, I hear what youre saying. Ive tried activities before that I didnt enjoy once I got started, too. Heres what we need to do, though. I need you to finish the season out. Your coach and the other players need you. If you still dont like it at the end of the season, well take all of your equipment to the second-hand sports equipment store and get pennies on the dollar for what I paid for all of this and well move on to the next venture. And, if you decide you actually like it, then its a win-win.” Lets be honest. When we sign our littles up for all these teams, are we truly thinking theyre going to be the next Serena, LeBron, or Tiger or are we wanting them to make friends, be active and learn to work with others? If they cant end the season with a college scholarship, maybe they can walk away with the pride of accomplishment and the value that seeing something through to its end brings.

Throughout my life, one of my guiding principles, one of my North stars when faced with the dilemma of cutting bait or seeing something through is taking Kenny Rogers’ advice. The art of knowing when to fold them, hold them, walk away or run is just that — an art form. There is a time and place for everything. Mid-July at the end of a cul-de-sac will never be either of those things. Now, excuse me while I enjoy a nice glass of Kool-Aid.