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This Quitter Won

by Alex Iwashyna

in Cultural Norms (that are abnormal), Is It Just Me?

I grew up with the motto Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit.

Why that one stuck and Cleanliness is Next to Godliness meant nothing to me is probably because I’m stoic and stubborn and squashing down my feelings to prove a point is a lot more fun than organizing my closet even if Jesus might walk out of it.

This winter, I took on a volunteer job that I thought would be great. The key is “I thought” — I probably didn’t ask enough questions. When I did ask on day one, I got good-enough answers but also some red flags such as the rules of the volunteer position kept changing. And changing. And changing. My view of my role and the place’s view of my role diverged more and more, and my anxiety level grew with it. I began to have conversations with the people in charge when they weren’t there, and I was dreaming about the job. The position went from taking an hour of my week to taking away days and days of my life.

I kept telling myself to stop feeling this way. It’s not important. It will be over soon. JUST GET OVER IT. GET A GRIP, ALEX. But my long-suffering ways completely failed me. I tried prayer, meditation, talking, not talking, deep breaths and vague Facebook posts.

I finally admitted to the most spiritual person in my life how hard this stupid volunteer position was. (Those were my exact words.)

She responded: Quit.

Me: What? No.

She said: You’re only doing it for pride now. You should quit.

I couldn’t believe she was suggest something so terrible. Quitting is for losers. Never quit. Never give up. And I’m a person who loves God. Spiritual people rise above the fray to recognizing what is important and focus on the good and the necessary and the wait a second… I thought about how unimportant this volunteer position was, and how I even had someone who I thought could take my place. But I was still embarrassed because quitting is so bad. Isn’t that what we are taught?

Then again, what does never quitting really teach us? I thought about the Lance Armstrong story. So much of his story was about never giving up, but what if he had given up cycling when it was time? When he had cancer? When the only way he could win was with drugs? I wonder about the cyclist who were clean that didn’t get a chance to be in the limelight because of his pride. Or Alex Smith, the 49ers quarterback, who told his coach he had blurred vision and never played again this season even as the top rank QB in the NFL. He said he didn’t regret admitting to the concussion because we only have one life and someday he won’t be playing football. But we don’t laud players for sitting on the bench. For taking care of themselves.

What if I had given up this volunteer position the moment I stopped sleeping well? Or once I had to fight for what I believed was right the first time? The second time? Every time I went? Perhaps the example have I have set for my kids, albeit late, is seeing me quit something that made me miserable. Perspective is a gift which far outweighs living up to some cliché.

Quitters Do Win

When I emailed the person who agreed to take my place, he asked why I was leaving. I wrote too much because I still felt defensive and uncomfortable, but finally, I told him: In the end, pride was the only reason I was still going and that’s the worst reason to do anything.

I’m not a quitter, but I should be more often.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Lily from It's A Dome Life February 5, 2013 1

I had a similar experience with a volunteer position a few years ago. The librarian asked me to be a “warm body” at a library club meeting because they needed so many members present to vote on some things and people were sick. I was happy to do it. When I showed up I was told I would be running the meeting. A meeting I knew nothing about. A meeting with rules I did not know. A meeting with people I had never met. People were arguing about money and how it was or wasn’t spent. People were mad at me for not running the meeting right and for letting person A, B, and C talk too long. Next thing I knew I was getting emails filled with people fighting and complaining. Somehow I was vice president. It was one of the most bizarre experiences I have ever had. A few days later I politely resigned. I couldn’t take the stress. I am the same way you are about quitting things, but you are right. Sometimes quitters do win. I am getting better at quitting too.

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Tracie February 5, 2013 2

I needed this perspective today. About more than one thing in my life.

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Melonie February 5, 2013 3

I struggle with this all the time, both for myself and my daughter. Are we quitting just because something is hard and is just a little out of our comfort zone, or is it soul suckingly difficult and time to move on? When it starts to undermine your mental health and bleeds into other areas of your life, quitting IS winning. Great reminder of a good lesson.

And random side note: “squashing down my feelings to prove a point is a lot more fun than organizing my closet even if Jesus might walk out of it” made me laugh out loud. Perfect!

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Walt February 6, 2013 4

In dogfights, pilot have a saying. “Never push a bad position. Extend (run away) and reengage on your own terms.”

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julie gardner February 6, 2013 5

I need to print this out and tape it to the wall above my computer.

See also: I can’t say no. Which leads to occasions when I should quit. Or not have agreed to something in the first place.

Pride? Need to please? Fear of rejection?
Whatever the cause.

I need to be stronger for myself. Even when that means NOT taking something on.

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Leigh Ann February 6, 2013 6

When I was in jr high and going through basketball tryouts, I so wanted to quit. I really didn’t know how to play and didn’t care for the game. But we all had to try out anyway. My dad said, “I just never thought of you as a quitter.” Coming from a man who doesn’t say much, it really affected me. I didn’t quit, but I was relieved when I got cut. And I have a hard time quitting things to this day.

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