An Ode to Quitting
Here’s your green light to give up
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Open any social media app today, and before long, a platitude written in a heinous font will flash on your screen: “Quitters never win,” “never give up,” and “If you quit, you will immediately be engulfed in flames and have ‘It's a Small World’ play in your ears nonstop for eternity.”
But don't stress. I'm about to give you the green light to give up. My name is Erin, and I am a quitter. In fact, I would say quitting is one of my greatest attributes. I am a prolific, accomplished quitter.
What have I quit? Just about everything.
When I was a kid, my parents (foolishly) signed me up for a recreation soccer league. My only contribution to the sport was my most electric display of histrionics to date. At my first and only game, I emphatically clung all three-feet-and-whatever inches of my tiny body to the goal post. Then, loudly sobbing, I protested, “I don't want to play,” until I had to be physically removed from the field and, subsequently, the game. And not just that game, I mean the entire game of soccer. Lucky for Christiano Ronaldo.
Then, of course, were the Irish Step Dance lessons. It was 1996, and the Celtic cultural phenomenon, "Riverdance," had stomped its way into millions of hearts across the world with their feets of fancy and total lack of upper body movement. So, like most little Irish-American cherubs, I was gifted Irish Step Dancing lessons. Erin Maher would tap her little toes so well that maybe she'd give the Lord of the Dance, Michael Flately, a run for his money if fate allowed. I mean, maybe fate permitted, but I did not.
The class started with us learning some steps to “Tomorrow” from the 1982 musical Annie. And I loathed Annie. Not because of the story or the score, but that one summer, I had a camp counselor who continually called me Annie. This was not entirely wrong, as I did and sometimes still have a vagrant look about me. However, when I heard the first chords to a song from Annie, I had PTSD. I remembered back to when I was compared to an orphan who did an enormous amount of dance numbers with no tips and a terrible perm. I immediately broke out into tears (yes, a pattern and, yes, another one of my attributes). I walked out of that dance class and never looked back.
I sat for the ACT collegiate readiness test, a standardized test similar to the SAT. Both are just overpriced ways pretentious institutions can give you the middle finger without actually giving you the middle finger. Unlike the SAT, the ACT had a whole section of questions devoted to science. And, because I knew that I was not the reincarnation of Marie Curie, I promptly took all the pages in that section, flipped them over, and completed none of the science questions. MIT has no idea what it’s missing.
In my junior year of high school, I sprained my ankle during my first day of varsity volleyball practice. I had known the girls on the team for quite some time, yet not one came up to me after practice and wished me a speedy recovery. And that’s when I decided I was not going to endure another season with miserable teammates.
So, in probably one of my best decisions to date, I quit. And the very next day, I joined my high school's small but mighty tennis team.
That decision proved to be life-changing. I made great friends, laughed daily, and lost a lot. I couldn't have been happier. Playing tennis in high school then led me to play tennis in college, which in turn, helped me get a job for the United States Tennis Association. At the USTA, I lived out the dreams of every tennis fan. I worked at U.S. Open, talked tennis all day, and even traveled to Belarus to attend the Fed Cup.
If I had never quit volleyball, I would not have had such a wonderful experience with the USTA. I still regularly play tennis, and I know I will for the rest of my life.
We live in an age where society is telling us to do more. College kids compete to have the most activities on their college applications. On LinkedIn, people have four or five titles next to their names: “Barry: Marketing Wizard/Writer/Actuary/Venture capitalist/Goat yoga instructor/Insufferable knob.”
You don't have to do everything, nor should you. How can you be completely and utterly devoted to something and get better if you're doing too much? Life is too short to waste time on frivolous ventures that don't make you happy.
I'm serious. Are you slogging through trying to read a book you don't like? Do yourself a favor, close it, and toss it out of the closest open window. If that book happens to be Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, go a step further and just douse it in lighter fluid and set it aflame. Metaphorically burn those “commitments” that are no longer serving you.
Writer/Retired Soccer Star/Annie Doppelganger/Quitter
Erin Maher is a writer and Westchester native. She has written on a myriad of topics, including life as a millennial and tennis. When not writing, Erin can be found on the tennis and pickleball courts or lovingly scrolling through pictures of dogs on Instagram. For more of her musings, visit erinmaherwrites.com, and follow her on Instagram @erinmaherwrites and Twitter @erinmaherwrites
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