Sunday, March 12, 2017

On Quitting

20th Century Fox
When I was in high school, I had a brief stint as a Buddhist. I was friends with the theater kids and we were all vegetarian and free spirited. After a while, I started eating chicken again and gave up Buddhism altogether (the superficial version I had in my head anyway), the idea that giving up desires would make me happier seem ludicrous, the only time I was ever happy was when I was fighting for something I wanted. I’m almost solely drawn to the hunt, the fight, and move on to the next project once I get it. Even in fictional characters, my heroines have always been the same: overachieving, focused, tragically perfectionist, superficially cold, relentless, and terribly unapologetic. 

First children, immigrant children, we don’t have the choice to put away desire and look the other way. We grow up watching our parents fight for everything they give us, we feel we have to do just as much, if not more, to be worthy of their sacrifices. Our internal dialogue is something that would come out of Eli Pope’s mouth, we have to be twice as good to have half of what others have. No line in Scandal has ever resonated so much with me. 

The number of times I have quit something in my life are very few. Generally speaking, quitting never seems to be an option for me; but then I moved to Paris and have quietly tried to hold together a life that I worked so hard for and thought I wanted. It has turned out to be nothing I want, and it has rather filled me with self-doubt, regret, and loneliness. This whole time I thought I had won the challenge, I had claimed my prize and all that was left to do was stand on the podium and smile. Instead, I've spent countless hours trying to figure out a plan B, a way out, how to go back where I came from? How to salvage what's left? and because I'm not a quitter, how to make it all work?

On a typical, dark, Paris afternoon, I texted a friend: "I wish I could grab my bags and get off my life as if it was a train. Start again, do it all over." Then two weeks later, a friend told me that giving up things that are not making you happy is not quitting, it's about your life, you have to do what's good for you, doing something you like is what will make your life grow. Although I couldn't agree more, I can't shake the deep shame that quitting brings me. A sucker for accountability, how do you not feel like an utter failure when your decisions don't pan out?

The fact that what I so desperately want to quit is Paris doesn't help either. A city so coveted by so many, so romanticized in films and litterature, how could I be so incredibly mediocre as to not appreciate it? I could answer that in a million different ways and it'll never get through. This city has a way of seducing you, even when you've decided you're done. When I walk home after seeing friends, I feel completely intoxicated by the sounds, the views, the lights that draw you in like a moth, it's whispering "you dumbass mosquito" in my ear and I still drunkenly stumble towards it. It's during these nights where I feel the most guilt, the most shame. The rest of the time, I just feel alone and misunderstood

My first week in Paris, I was so homesick and regretful that I spent nights on my friend's couch trying to figure out a way to go back home and explain to my parents that I had changed my mind. I tried to come up with an apology that would make up for all the emotional stress I had made them feel with my move, all the times I rolled my eyes at the ways we did things, and all the times I ever made them feel like I was running away from them. I couldn't come up with any and eventually managed to make it work. I found a certain calling in my gender research, I got a job, and I made friends. I was back on track and I silenced the quitting voices.

Then they came back. 

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time, stay in pre-law (I could be fighting for the rights of those affected by our current administration, I tell myself), gotten engaged like my friends back home. I would've made better choices, I should've done with what I had instead of thinking I was above it.

But here's the thing-- if I go back, I lose everything I learned, about myself, about the world around me, I lose people I love and appreciate deeply, many of whom I only met because I was working towards this insane goal of living in France. I lose professional experiences that shaped me, I lose walks in sunny winter days, and drinks, and laughs. I lose heartbreaks that made me stronger, I lose situations that reminded me of who I was and who I wanted to be above everything else. And yet, in a way, if I quit I'll be quitting all of that too. I can't shake off the feeling that when you walk away, you erase a little bit of you. 

So I won't quit. And I've finally figured out why. It's not about shame, or regret, or loneliness. In a way, I am doing something which helps me grow, I'm standing my ground, I'm finishing what I started. Maybe I could pack my bags and do something else that will feel me with joy, but what has always made me the happiest was pushing on. So that's what I'm doing, I'm pushing on because I have a lot of work left to do. 

How do you feel about quitting? I'd love to hear your thoughts.