Some kids play baseball, others hockey. Some play the piano with expert skill, and others prefer to dance, or skate, or sing. When I was a child I probably tried all those things. Was I consistent? No. But if there was one thing I was good at when I was younger, a mighty tradition that I carried into my (stunted) adult life, it was quitting. No matter how many extra curricular activities my mother signed me up for, hauled me to, and forced me to participate in, over time I walked away from every one. It was an act of shear force of will that I walked away from skating, band, scouts, cadets, basketball, drama, and soccer after a short period of time when I was younger. While I am extremely stubborn when it comes to participating, my mother was just as stubborn in forcing me into activities. We are cut from the same cloth; two stern willed people often taking separate sides of an issue. A fact we once argued about for hours. My mom told me I was just as stubborn as my father, while I told her I was just like her. So firm in our opinions we hardly had time in our heated discussion to realize the hilarity of the argument. But I digress, whether it just wasn’t worth the fight to take me to a public space to watch me pout, or whether I was just an expert quitter, I never followed any activity in my childhood, or adolescence to completion. Others may be ashamed of quitting, some only proudly display their first place trophies, but my record of quitting, my roster of activities I’ve bailed on, I wear as a badge of honor. A testament to my clear understanding of what I don’t like to do. What do I like to do? Nothing.
Speaking of doing nothing, in a text message conversation with a very good friend of mine, which put me on the topic of quitting, and my proclivity for being unbound by activity, we were discussing our disparate work ethics. She is not happy unless she is doing something. She is a person who is energized by the tasks she has to complete. Not daunted like me. She told me that she had 72 new emails she had to respond to in her email inbox from one day, all of which she had to respond to, and she did so energetically. If it were me that received that many emails in one day, I would immediately go into a state of paralysis, followed by fleeing the country and changing my name. Suffice to say she is a rising star, with an incredible career ahead of her, while I am merely casually employed. But the conversation sparked in me the inspiration to write about my quitting, so I guess – to each their own.
I was five years old when I first began quitting things. Or at least that is when I can remember starting to stop doing things. I say five because that is the age that one had to be in order to join Beavers- a scout like program where boy wore hats with beaver tails, and carved things out of wood. It was a silly club. I wanted no part of it. My brother had been in it for years. A picky eater, he was convinced to keep on with it if he was granted hot dogs for supper before every meeting. But no such bribery would work on me. I didn’t and still don’t like hotdogs unless they are cooked outside, over a fire, and I did, and still do like all food so that was out. Knowing I liked to dress up in costumes my mom gave me my brother’s uniform and tried to get me excited about all the scout activities I would participate it. But I didn’t bite. The hat was floppy and too big and the vest made me look fat (an occupational hazard of having three older sisters is picking up on their dialogue and their teenage body image issue.) So before I even began Beavers, I quit it. Refusal to start is as good a quit as any, I say.
Tae Kwon Doe, a three-month stint in band (where I faux played the clarinet at the Christmas concert) and a battle of wills, two and a half year stint as a figure skating un-prodigy. Why two years you ask? Because if there was one thing my mom wanted in her life, it was to be the mother of a professional figure skater. That and have a child be a lifeguard at the local swimming pool. She is afraid of water. But I participated in two very memorable carnivals in which I portrayed Donald Duck and King Tridant, garnering slight applause. Truth be told I probably wouldn’t have quit figure skating, because honestly I didn’t hate it. I got to skate for a while and then I got to get candy from the concession stand at the rink. What forced me to quit was one day when I was practicing my spins (which I liked because when I was younger I really liked spinning) when my instructor (a fifteen year old hell beast who shall remain nameless) came up to me and told me, without mincing words that “I was a big weirdo.” Now, I have been called worse, much worse, over the years but it was the shock and surprise and seriously tone of her voice, that reduced me to tears and led me to quit mid-season. Leaving them high and dry, without anyone to fit the Abu costume for the planned production of Aladdin that year. Skating is the one quit I feel the most proud of. When I walked out, I felt relieved. I hated that teacher and her stupid pig-face and the concession wasn’t even being opened up anymore. I had my reasons for quitting and no reason to stay. Coincidently, while walking down the street the other day I spotted someone who looked a lot like my skating coach and had to resist the urge to tackle her to the ground, shouting “WHOSE WEIRD NOW!” Thankfully before I did I understood that it was not the same person and saved a complete stranger from my own rage, and myself from assault charges.
Quitting in my childhood was all about control. Even to this day I like to have control over my time, and schedule. I hate “having” to be somewhere. I like to be where I want when I want. Which most likely ends up being the couch in front of the TV but still, I know what I like. being the youngest of six kids I was often hauled along to a great number of extra curricular activities that my sisters or brother participated in. So when it came time for me to choose what it was that I wanted to do with my ‘free’ time, I wanted it to be just that. Free. Spending my time in the rink was not my idea of fun. My idea of fun was spending time at home with my toys plotting out elaborate love triangles and murder mysteries. If there were a club for kids to go to and play quietly by themselves for hours on end, I would have happily joined it. I would have founded it if I knew how to found things, but I didn’t. So when activities came along which my mother wanted me to participate in, I would quit them. I would put up a huge fuss, and cry and whimper and when that didn’t work I would usually go dead-weight and have then drag me to the car. That usually did it.
As I have gotten older, I’ve continued my streak of cutting my losses. Jobs, for which I don’t have a high attention span seem to come and go. Thankfully, I was able to lock down a university degree before I reverted to my past behavior. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have the gut reaction to bail as soon as the going got tough. I did. But I stuck to it. So while, I do like quitting things, I should make it clear that I am not always a big ol’ quitter. When stuff needs to be done, even if I don’t like to do it, I will rise to the occasion. Just don’t expect me to be over the moon about it.