Whoever you are, you probably have an opinion about quitting, and if it were a negative one, no one would be surprised. Culturally, is there anything we value more than things like working hard, accomplishment, or pushing ourselves? How could I possible fall in love with quitting?
Being called a quitter is almost as bad as being called a drug addict.
But to a drug addict (or an alcoholic, or someone destroying their lives with any addiction, or extreme dieting or gambling or attempting to control other people or any other compulsive disorder) quitting is the best thing we could work for, our seemingly impossible dream, our too often unbeatable foe. It’s the thing some of us in recovery can claim as our proudest achievement.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with working hard, accomplishment, or pushing ourselves. You might be thinking, of course there’s nothing wrong with them, those are good things! What if we’re working hard for a job that is draining the life out of us? What if the accomplishments we’ll killing ourselves for aren’t even what we really want? What if we’re pushing ourselves past our own limits right into self-destruction and insanity?
Some of the wisest words I’ve ever heard came in a bit of relationship advice—and man I wish I remembered where I heard it, or when, or anything, but that was during the days when I didn’t remember all that much, but that shows how much this nugget stuck with me. Anyway, here it is: Be with that person today because you want to be with them today, not because you were with them yesterday.
In regards to my then-relationship, did I take that advice? No, no I did not; I compartmentalized the crap out of that one. I did start trying to apply it to the rest of my life though, and it’s something I still ask myself whenever I feel unhappy or stuck. Am I doing what I want to do today, or am I doing what I’m just used to doing? Would I really choose this, or am I doing it because I assume people expect me to?
I spend a lot of time being afraid people will judge what I do.
(I don’t know if you can relate to that at all…) Then I spend even more time hating myself for doing things that I have heard are bad. Things like quitting, changing my mind, not following through, not working hard enough, or making impulsive decisions.
I’m that person who makes a big announcement on Facebook about a new big dream I’m following because it’s the best thing ever and what I was born to do and the inevitable road to happiness and success…only to wake up two months later and suddenly possess ZERO interest in it. Then (most of the time) there is no follow-up post admitting I have given up on that idea. Because, despite the fact that I was correct in realizing I wasn’t meant to do that thing, I’m embarrassed by the fact that I quit. Because—despite the fact that quitting can be the best, hardest, and bravest thing someone can do—it implies that I was incapable, lazy, undisciplined, unfocused, and irresponsible (oh the horror).
Last week I quit a big project I took on only a few months ago, and (since I am a social-media-obsessed narcissist) I’ve talked about it a lot. It’s been the thing everyone asks about constantly; everyone’s been watching and waiting (and since I’m self-absorbed and grandiose, I genuinely think it’s everyone, and I genuinely think everyone really cares). Earlier this year I decided I would convert a cargo van into a campervan and live it in indefinitely. I decided I would do said project with the help of my father and we would bond and rebuild our relationship (strained to say the least by my own addiction and that of others in my family) and magically have the childhood I never had and that thing where you work on an automobile with your dad. Quaint, right?
Last week, I quit.
This endeavor was simply not working, the ingredients simply not mixing. To clarify, I’ve quit half of the van dream. I am still determined to possess a converted van and live in it, but the part about doing it myself—I who have zero carpentry or mechanic skills—is something that, when I forced myself to sit still and ask myself if I truly wanted to do it…no, no I do not. (The other factor here, that some things corroded by addiction cannot be fixed no matter how hard you try, is a topic that deserves a post of its own.)
I asked myself if the life I’m living is what I wholeheartedly want to be doing right now. I’ve been immersed in recovery for three years now—and I mean immersed—and have spent most of that time digging through my issues and traumas and toxic patterns and dysfunctional relationships, and despite all my progress I’ve actually become so accustomed to it that I don’t know how to do anything else with my time! I have a nomadic spirit and I’ve been making myself stay still until my recovery was stronger, which was definitely a good idea, but now I don’t have other things in my life to get out of bed for, and I feel almost zero inspiration to write, the thing I love most.
So last week I made a rash, risky, irresponsible decision. I’m out of words now, but I’ll undoubtedly tell you about it next month (because I will be packing for a place 7,500 miles away, where I have few ties and even fewer plans). I have changed my mind and am no longer spending the next few months doing what I had previously committed to. I am not pushing myself to do work that makes me exhausted and depressed. I have given up trying to be normal and responsible, because at the moment it’s making my chest feel like a cold tomb around my heart. I QUIT. And I genuinely, thoroughly, love it.
Regan Spencer is a writer, filmmaker, recovery advocate, and person in long term recovery. She currently resides a town called Hope (and yes, she loves the metaphor) in Idaho, USA, where she is preparing to take her life and her recovery on the road in a converted van. Obsessed with wildflowers, roads that curve, and smiling at strangers, she is always looking for the next adventure and another good story. Regan would love to share her journey with everyone who’s interested at ReganSpencer.com or @ReganSpencerWriter on Instagram, and she welcomes anyone with a desire to reach out to continue the conversation with an email to ReganSpencerWriter@gmail.com. The primary purpose of her work is to help engage and connect people because, despite her stubbornness, life has convinced her we can’t recover alone.