Quitting for Good
I don’t know why I like summer as much as I do. I think I like the idea of summer far more than the actual season. Perhaps after twenty odd years of tacking the word “break” onto summer, we’re trained to associate the season with freedom, rest, opportunity - a break from routine. This year I approached May without any promises of free-form summer days but felt the building excitement all the same.
I made to-do lists of epic proportions and set goals like nobody’s. And then I found myself waist deep in a pile of commitments with no goals completed or accomplishments in sight. Somehow I managed to take on too much without any compelling reason. I wish I could say it was a unique occurrence.
Why do we make ourselves busy? Do we commit to things because we truly believe they deserve our time and effort, or are ulterior motives at play? Personally, I’m a sucker for being told I’m needed for a project. Tell me I’m the best one to get the job done and I’ll be there, no further questions. I also love a good team. There’s nothing like diving in with a group of creative, intelligent, like-minded people and running after a common goal.
Yet as great as these things sound, I frequently return to a place of needing to cut back and un-commit. It’s not that I don’t look before I leap - I always carefully evaluate a commitment before I sign on. But a lot of the time I’m attracted to something when it speaks to an appealing idea, rather than providing an appealing reality. I end up committing to good things, but not the best things. It’s a lesson to learn and re-learn as the story repeats itself at different times with different context and characters.
This summer marked the second year I’ve met with a particular group. We went through some changes as a group and a familiar, niggling doubt rose up in the back of my mind. It was the same End-the-Relationship, Quit-the-Job, Step-Down-from-the-Position doubt I’d met many times before. Remember why you started, I told myself. Think of why this group is good. My reasons felt hollow. For every “Pro” I had a “Con” and on paper it looked like an even split. The implications of quitting - the offense I may give or the pain I could cause, kept me frozen. It was a good group. People don’t just quit good groups. Right?
Eventually, with time and many rambling, one-sided conversations with friends who obviously love me a lot, I found some clarity. I went back to the spot I’ve gone with every other similar scenario: Is this commitment helping me achieve my goals in life? At first glance it may sound a little callous in reference to a group of people, but life goals aren’t always calculated and unfeeling or based on your career or material possessions. Sometimes life goals look more abstract, like surrounding yourself with people who fuel your creativity, being a part of things that you are uniquely equipped to support, or finding places where there’s a need and serving your heart out. Whatever they are, it’s important to have goals and remind yourself of them. Otherwise your time gets consumed by a thousand different things, none of them providing growth, rest, joy or any need for that matter.
Maybe your summer brought a lot of good intentions and new projects that remain unfinished. Maybe your summer was beautifully restful, but you’re facing an autumn of renewed commitments to things you can’t remember why you’re a part of. It may even be that the approach of a new season holds an alluring opportunity to sign up for a new batch of activities and groups and leadership positions. It’s tough to do, but take the time to reassess where your hours are going and ignore the sparkle of new opportunities if their only draw is their newness. Quitting good things can be painful and new is exciting, but what is it worth if your commitments aren’t molding you into the person you want to be or helping you achieve the things you’ve set your sights on?
You may find yourself with gaping holes in your weekly schedule. People may ask you what you’ve been up to or what you’ve replaced your recent “quits” with. Terrifying as it is, your answer might be, “Nothing.” Own it, embrace it, and then go use that time to do good works and help create the world that ought to be.
Kate Petty is a writer, photographer, and videographer. Born and raised in Texas, Kate will always call the South home, no matter how far her travels take her (may they be very far). Coffee, sunshine, family and friends fuel the heart behind her work - finding beauty and joy regardless of circumstances.