Quitter: I hate this word. Maybe because from an early age it was ingrained in me to finish what I started. My parents drilled this into me. “Finish what you’ve started. Goal set to be successful.”
My best examples of this go as far back as my tee-ball days, man was I horrible, but they made me finish out the season. Then, in high school it was the cheer squad, I could not get the cheers straight and had to constantly ask my best friend what cheer the captain was calling. I’m pretty sure I was always a beat behind. Again, mom made me finish out the season.
Goal set: Mom sat me down 8th grade year and asked me what my goals for high school were. I wanted to be on yearbook and maybe even editor. With that goal in mind she helped me break down each step that would need to be taken. Senior year, I was named editor, a title I held with immense pride.
Then came college: The goals changed and evolved. Finish. Study abroad. Learn French. Secure a great job in my chosen field. With these goals in mind, and frequent check in’s with my mom I forged my path. Started French. I remember the student in front of me turning back and telling me, “Rachel, you know your French, it’s just terrible.” He was Polish, maybe he didn’t mean to be so forward, maybe something was lost in translation, but he was right. I didn’t let that stop me. Horrible French and all I somehow convinced our study abroad department to allow me to do a year in the south of France.
Then there was my senior year of college: I found out I couldn’t afford my classes and was likely going to have to drop out just a few credits shy of my degree. I started working full-time, carried an internship, and wrote for the college paper, receiving an award for investigative journalism.
I finished, and felt that I had secured my future in my chosen field of journalism. I backpacked across Europe and again returned to the U.S. to begin my career as a copy editor. I got my first stack of copy, put my head down and started working. And working. And working.
I went home and felt this strange emptiness. This weird depression began to consume me. Other areas of my life were going great, I had met this amazing man who would soon become my husband and father to my children, I ran a marathon and raised money for charity, I wrote freelance articles, I was a part of an awesome and growing church. I had money, friends, a great relationship, basically everything I had wanted and yet I felt hollow. Professionally hollow.
I began to dread going to work, found myself in conflict with my co-workers and boss, people that I really liked, but found myself miserable to be around.
Then one afternoon I returned to my desk after lunch and found myself locked out of my computer, my girlfriend couldn’t access the network either. I joked that we were all getting laid off. A joke, a total joke, that became a total reality. Within an hour my whole department had been “released”. Security stood over us as we cleared out our desks.
I cried on my drive home. Sobbed, out of both relief and uncertainty. The misery was thankfully over.
It’s been nearly a decade since I packed up that desk…since my short-lived journalism career came to an abrupt end. At first I pursued work in my field, but paid my bills working retail, managing a spa, and teaching yoga.
I felt like a dream was dead. In a way in still feel like a dream has died. Like I quit. I just didn’t try hard enough. Quitter.
I’ve called myself this a thousand times. But am I?
For so long I struggled to make this dream a reality. I struggled to earn a paycheck. I compromised to get a title. Felt hollow and useless if a writing gig turned out a dead end, or I didn’t get the job I thought I was meant to have.
You are not a paycheck. You are not a title. You are not a fancy house or car. Neither am I.
Not too long ago I stopped and looked around. I evaluated my life, present and past. I began to add up the important things. Make a list. Dollars in the bank, articles I’ve written, “important” things I’ve done…well, surprise surprise, they didn’t make the list.
What did? For starters the two little people that rely on me daily, the tall ginger man I’m lucky to call husband, the sisters, the brothers, the aunts and uncles, grandmothers and mother. The list kept going on this way, until I realized that the most important thing in my life wasn’t a thing at all.
This revaluation removed some of that self-imposed pressure.
So, will I ever pay my bills by the pen? Maybe, maybe not. Does it matter? Not really.
There are some things we should quit in life. Like smoking. Quit right away.
But dreams? No. Never.
Maybe it’s just that as we mature so should our aspirations, so should our priorities. They need refining, redefining. But quitting: Not in a million years.