On finding the courage to quit

Recently, I have taken a plunge. I’ve decided to drop out of school.

I’ve decided to quit.To quit. Quit. As children, and into our adult lives, we are taught to associate quitting with negative feelings. It is shameful to quit; it means that we haven’t made it, or that we have failed to achieve. It is perceived as a final option, as an activity for the weak. We all flirt with the idea of quitting – some more than others. Some people seem to be stuck in a spiral of doubt – self doubt, driven by a fear that they might have to quit, because they are not good enough. For others, they daydream and fantasize what it might be like if they could have the courage to quit. Often, such daydreamers spend more of their time wandering what could be, rather than what actually is. Others are great at quitting, but they are rendered (by society) as having a phobia of commitment.I am guilty of daydreaming and fantasizing what it might be like should I quit something that I am currently doing. I have – in the past – spent so much time brainstorming and imagining ‘other options’, in a way that is both unhealthy and distracting. Despite thinking about the existing situation from every single possible angle, I usually just end up doing whatever I would have been doing, but for the existence of all of those worries. Recently, I’ve decided to try to break out of old habits. I want to say goodbye to these spirals of angst – and instead listen to why it is that I am doubtful about what I am currently doing. Now, I realise that for some people, they may want to quit when it is indeed best for them to continue with what they are doing. Naturally, every person’s situation is completely unique, and different. In my case, I’ve spent much of my life so far simply following the path of doing whatever it is that I am good at.

I’ve been lucky enough to fit the mould of what is typically considered a ‘good student’. That is, during high school, despite skipping many, many classes, I was engaged in a wide range of extra curricular activities and managed to produce some very high results. I then went on to study two undergraduate courses, simply because I had the grades for it. Not much thought went into it. Now, I’ve found myself at university again, and despite my reasoning for studying the course that I am studying, I very much simply fell into it. With maturity, I have been fortunate to be more concerned with the process, rather than the outcomes, of learning. I love the process of my current course, for many reasons. It is challenging, I am learning about things that I am incredibly curious about, it is teaching me to better communicate ideas. However, it is – by nature – also very stressful, stops me from engaging with the world in a deep, connected way, and I have many, many concerns about the tertiary education sector.

In short, my participation in the course was leading to me feeling quite conflicted. There are many plausible reasons for my continuation, but also some plausible reasons for my withdrawal. Either way, I felt a split within myself: I wanted to continue, but it was hard to figure out why. Was it because society expects one to finish a course when they have set out to do so? Was it because I truly wanted to fulfill the challenge of the course that I was in? I’ve completed a law degree, which took a great amount of effort and many, many niggling concerns regarding my choice (I do not want to be a lawyer). Yet, I’d continued.

Today, I am choosing to follow my intuition. I’m dropping out. I am quitting. And I am going to see myself as a success, rather than a failure. It is scary, leaving something that I enjoy yet feel – deep down – that I am better off without. It is even scarier, when it is hard to rationally put my reasons into words – or words that are coherent enough to be accepted by an outcome driven society. It will be a challenge, explaining my withdrawal to my friends, to my family. But ultimately, I am proud of myself for having the courage to quit. I am happy that I’m trying out a new way of behaving; it if doesn’t work, I can always revert to my old ways. I am excited about what is next.

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