I am far, far too good at forcing myself to do things that I don’t want to do. It’s one of those tendencies that has its roots in my straight A, type A perfectionist student days, and it continues to serve me well now. I’m a better employee because I’m willing to tackle the unpleasant tasks that are part of my work day, and a better partner because I’m willing to pitch in and do my share of the housework and home upkeep. I do a good job of staying on top of whatever adult responsibilities crop up in my day-to-day life because I can recognize how much easier it is to deal with them on an as-needed basis instead of all at once.
The problem is that I also tend to apply the same ‘gut your way through it’ mentality to things nobody but me is expecting me to do. I like to take on challenges and try new things, whether that’s reviewing every third book I read or testing a new recipe or listening to a totally different type of music. But when I get bored of reviewing indiscriminately, or the recipe doesn’t live up to my expectations, or I’m not a big fan of the music, I don’t do what a lot of people would do and let those things go. Instead, I force myself to keep doing whatever it is that I’ve set out to do, unenthusiastically and unwillingly, for no reason other than that I feel obligated to keep pushing through.
I haven’t given this a fair shake, I tell myself. What if it’s better/easier/more fun the next time? I don’t want to look like a quitter.
It’s this last point that really gets me, because quitting comes with a lot of baggage in our society. Calling someone a quitter is more or less the same as saying that they’ll never succeed, or that they don’t have the courage to chase what they want. This is total BS obviously, and not just because every last person on the face of this planet who has lived long enough to make their own choices has quit something at some point. Life is way too freaking short to keep screwing around with thing that don’t matter to you, or to make time for activities that drain your energy, time, or money and don’t excite you at all. Frankly, there’s almost nothing you can’t quit without a little planning ahead.
And even though I’ve quit any number of things–from soccer, to band, to TV–for various valid reasons, my brain still refuses to consider the possibility of letting go of something that doesn’t make me happy until that something begins to feel like a burden. It took me a ridiculous number of years to wrap my head around the idea that nobody is forcing me to finish a book I’m not enjoying, or listen through every episode of a particular podcast if I don’t like every episode, or spend time with people who aren’t adding anything to my life.
Being able to gut my way through my responsibilities is all well and good, but when it comes to the things I do for pleasure, I’m learning that it’s much healthier to let go of whatever it is that’s no longer serving me and move on to the things that are.