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I am an amazing quitter.
At 19, as a new mom to my toddler daughter, I left a toxic marriage.
At 24, I quit smoking cold turkey. I cleaned up my diet, stopped eating processed foods, and later became grain-free.
Recently, at 31, I quit my job of 10 years.
The first two were “easy.” I had my friends’ and family’s support. Who doesn’t want to see a person improve their health? The last one was a test of my self-worth and determination. Quitting my job went against all my socially conditioned beliefs.
No one knew what I was planning to do. It took months to work up the courage to talk to my partner about it and, to my shock and surprise, he supported me 100 percent.
Almost two years ago, after several years of hard work and persistence, I was promoted to work in a specialty pharmacy for a well-known chain drugstore. Getting this position was the greatest achievement in my professional life.
I had everything I wanted in a job: a great team, meaningful work, great benefits, and had fun.
Everything was great until I approached my one-year anniversary in this position. Work had become a mundane existence of routine. The thoughts and feelings of dissatisfaction and unhappiness grew with each passing day. I was trapped by responsibilities of work and home.
I felt like I wasn’t living.
I was ashamed that I wasn’t happy. I felt incredible guilt every time I thought to myself, “I just want to go home.”
I looked up to women who did it all—great career, family, and social life, not to mention a clean and beautiful home. Through my eyes, I was failing at life because the harder I tried to do it all, the worse my life became.
Just before summer break, my 13-year-old daughter admitted to sneaking off to visit her boyfriend before I came home from work. I had my daughter when I was just 18, so I took drastic measures to keep her away from boys. I had her stay with her grandparents during the week until I could be home with her on the weekends. It killed my soul to do this, but I didn’t think I had a choice.
Until I realized I did have a choice: I could quit my job.
Why do we fight so hard in life for what isn’t working anymore? Why do we think we can keep plugging away and see better days? Will it be worth it?
Sometimes we hold on to situations even when we aren’t happy because we are conditioned to believe that it is “good” for us. Fortunately, the universe brought me a situation to force me to make a choice. My eyes were opened because my ears hadn’t been listening to the answers I was given when I yearned to go home.
I am happier now than I have been since I was a child with my whole life ahead of me. I can put my energy into what I care about most: my family. I feel so proud yet humble to be there for them, to take good care of them and myself. I keep a garden that feeds us fresh and organic food most of the year, and I cook meals from scratch. I’m able to keep my home clean and inviting. I free time for my daughter and I to have deep conversations or act silly. I give back to others (and myself) through writing.
It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though. I made risky financial decisions to make this happen. I cashed out my savings and forfeited the income that supported us. My partner offered to provide for us which, to my surprise, was what he had wanted to do all along. He needed me to believe he could do it because he didn’t believe in himself. Our budget is tight but we make it work.
There will always be risk involved when we choose to live life according to our values and not society’s. We know it’s time to make our move when the fear of trying something new and taking a risk is less than the fear of staying. Our deepest emotions show us the way forward.
The thoughts and feelings that keep coming back are the whispers of our intuition guiding us. Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense or it sounds ludicrous. Trust that happiness is found when we release all expectations of what it looks like.
It’s time for us to shed the skin of having to prove ourselves to others. We can prove to ourselves that we deserve the life we dream of. Each time I quit what held me down, I brought a part of myself that was buried and forgotten back to life. I gave myself that joy.
Quitting doesn’t mean we give up or we don’t have what it takes. Quitting means we choose to be free.
Here are five things I’ve learned from quitting:
1. Take your time. When I decided to change my life for the better, it was never on a whim, a fad, a New Year’s resolution, or just because it was the right thing to do. I let the idea come and go many times like passing nimbus clouds across a blue sky. It was usually six months before I made a commitment to change.
2. Have a damn good reason to change. When we give ourselves time and space to change at our own pace, we find the reasons why we desire to change. For me, I wanted to change for my family. Each person’s motivation will be unique, but the reason is what propels us forward despite the obstacles and uncertainty.
3. Allow room to fail—over and over again. It took 12 serious attempts for me to quit smoking cold turkey. The first time was during my pregnancy with my daughter, and the last was two years later. I would go stretches of 8 to 10 months at a time without a smoke.
Each failure brought me closer to victory because it showed me that I was able to do it, if only for a short time. It proved to me that it was possible. Every failure is a lesson in disguise. Acknowledging what our weaknesses are will lead us toward a way to overcome them.
4. Make a plan. Victory is in the preparation. Make a list of what is needed to accomplish your goal. This will take the impossible-ness out of the equation. Focus on one task at a time, and create a strategy to achieve it.
5. Never give up. I succeeded because I never gave in. Some days, I cried about how much of a failure I was and thought there was no way in hell I was going to make it through. Some days, other people told me I couldn’t do it. Those days will come and go, so we need to be ready.
Success is assured when we make the decision to keep showing up even after failing miserably.
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” ~ Amelia Earhart