I’m a quitter. Actually, throughout my life I’ve made quitting something of an art form. And recently I’ve come to the decision that this is one of my strengths rather than one of my faults.
I quit the first job I ever had–loudly, in public. I’d been working at a sub shop for a while–most of the end of middle school and the beginning of high school. My boss was a crazy person who had this mantra–‘every bite must be the same’. This meant that you had to make each sandwich very consistent–and very quickly. Fortunately this job worked with my skills–and my OCD–so it mainly went well. But that didn’t stop that boss from occasionally screaming at me (or anyone else for that matter) on a somewhat regular basis. Eventually the yelling really started to bother me, but I worked on. It was a job, after all.
Until one day, when a customer returned a cheese steak he didn’t enjoy. My boss opened it up and looked inside to find the pickles and peppers not spaced out evenly. He lost it–and actually threw that cheese steak at me.
My 15 year old self looked at him, looked down at myself and my apron–smeared with the offending pickles and peppers–took the apron off, slammed it down on the counter, and walked out the door. I never returned–not even for a cheese steak (and they did have really good cheese steaks!)
Since then I’ve quit jobs at flower shops and mortgage companies and one actual teaching job–my first teaching job. I’ve also done a good deal of giving up and abandoning–I left Europe a week early after deciding Spain solo was not a good idea, and I even left a rather exciting and important writing conference two days early because, well, I felt I was done being there–and I really, really was.
I’ve even given up on friends. It sounds cruel, but sometimes it is necessary.
I didn’t celebrate my quitting nature for 31 years of my life. It wasn’t until yesterday afternoon that I was finally able to smile, turn around, and admit to myself that it was time to head home for the day. I’d been in the Magic Kingdom all morning, had unsuccessfully attempted to eat lunch twice, and just barely avoided throwing a plate of nachos into a rather large crowd. So I left. I think that was a good decision, and I realized right then and there that being able to admit that you’re done with something–even if it wasn’t part of the plan–is what growing up is all about. Sure, most people get past the tantrum stage somewhere in the single digits, but it took me a bit longer. And late is better than never.
Today I’m going home. I was scheduled to be here–in Walt Disney World–until Thursday. But after being here for about a week, I realized the completely arbitrary time frame I’d given myself was just not going to work out. So I stayed one more week and today I’m flying home. I simply can’t get anything else out of being here–not this week, anyway. And I may come back in a couple of months–or I may not. It depends upon how everything goes.
The same goes for my teaching job. I knew I needed a break more than a year before I took it. But take it I did. Why? Because, much like the parents of the little kid having a tantrum in line for Peter Pan yesterday, I wasn’t doing anyone any good. I wasn’t happy, my coworkers weren’t happy with me, and my students couldn’t have been happy. It was time to go–and so I went. And go I shall continue to do–when appropriate, of course. Because unhappiness doesn’t come from being stuck–it comes from thinking you are stuck and refusing to let go.