I believe in quitting.
When I was younger, I quit being a pharmacy delivery person to attend the University of California, Berkeley. That proved a sound decision.
During college, I quit jobs as a museum security guard, a dormitory maintenance person, a seismic repair cellar dweller, and a bicycle messenger.
After college I temped as the straight office boy in a gay and lesbian synagogue, a receptionist at Enron, and a file clerk in the workers comp division of a global insurance company. I liked the later because I could rubberneck: One claimant got hit by a wrecking ball, broke every bone in his body, and was awarded the surely insufficient sum of $70,000. There has to be a lesson about the value of a paycheck therein. As for those jobs: quit, quit, and quit.
Then I lucked into the break of my life. I was hired as the editorial assistant at Wired magazine. I learned like a child, matured through the ranks, and discovered a talent that would support and sustain me to this day. I became a writer. I was reborn. Then I quit.
I have no regrets about quitting the magazine. I believe that quitting when ahead is a good idea and quitting when behind is wiser. I believe in endings and renewal. In chapters and verses. That death is but the final ignoble finality. I also can’t help but believe that the world would be a better place if everyone knew when to cut and run.
I’ve quit friends, too—friends with whom I had great times and did a lot of drugs. And so it came to pass that I quit doing drugs. The drugs stopped making sense, but I still miss the friends.
Around that time, I quit a job at a dot-com that promptly quit existing, and I found myself in unfamiliar territory: I had quit everything, and there was nothing left to do—or to quit. For years I didn’t do anything. Briefly, I took a job driving a forklift in a rock yard. Guess how that ended?
Then, slowly, I started writing again. Soon, I was more creative and self-sustaining than ever. That was a good year. I married a woman I loved. I quit smoking—arguably my best quit. I was happy.
Yet, it wasn’t long before my wife quit our marriage, or, rather, I quit holding on to what couldn’t be. As a result, I quit eating, and I promptly dropped 20 pounds. I quit sleeping. And I quit trusting, which left me lonely. Then I had to learn how to quit being angry. And, after I did, I became kinder, softer, and better.
Now I have to quit smoking again.
During the marriage, I took a job as a technical writer. My wife was in grad school and getting a real job felt like the grown up thing to do. Sometimes, I tell people that I write boring stuff for boring people. But that’s just glib. I write about interesting ideas and people for an audience that appreciates what do. That makes me happy. I threaten to quit all the time, but I’m finding it harder.
Some might say that I’m growing up. I don’t see it that way. Change is great, but it keeps getting harder to affect. In the end, I believe in quitting, but I’ve also found comfort in not always searching for something that can’t be found.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.