Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Quitting"

Traditionally, quitting isn’t something that’s looked upon with favour. With the possible exception of the act of giving up smoking, quitting always seems to have negative connotations. Quitters are seen as losers. People who persevere at things they don’t like, who continue doing something that gives them no pleasure, who continue with what does not come naturally to them… such people are seen as admirable. The unhappier you are at what you do, the more you do it – because if you give up doing it, you’re a loser.

All the emphasis is on trying again and again and again… sometimes you achieve success, but more often than not, you don’t. All that you’re left with is the exhaustion of endless toil – no joy, no peace, no satisfaction. People spend their entire lifetime not quitting… and what an awful pity that is, most times.


Quitting isn’t such a terrible thing. Have you ever felt the blessed relief of just giving up something you don’t like doing, something for which you don’t have any real aptitude? Have you ever given up something and secretly felt a huge load taken off your back - even though you felt guilty about it? I know I did.

In higher secondary school, I started out taking computer science as an elective because I was in the commerce stream (with accountancy and economics), and computer science was the “logical” choice – it would give me better options for a suitable degree when it came to college and thence in finding employment. But I sucked at it (as much as I did at accountancy and mathematics), so in my final year I gave up computer science to study history instead. It was that or fail the year and thereby screw up my life entirely.

I didn’t check with my parents (I wasn't living with them, in any case) when I made this decision – I don’t think I considered it a decision, even. I didnt debate it in my mind or anything, it didn't seem that big a deal. It was just instinctive. But I guess it came as an unpleasant surprise to them when they learnt that I’d quit computer science, just like that.


To me, the pleasure of finally doing something I liked and was good at, was somewhat mixed because of the side of guilt that came with it. But that guilt, I realised a lot later, arose from letting down other people’s expectations of me. Because, for myself, all I felt was utter relief, an easing of the pressure that I hadn’t even known was so heavy. I had no expectations of myself in the subjects I disliked, other than scraping by with enough marks to pass the final exams every year.

So, to put it baldly, I quit computer science (and accountancy and maths and economics as well, when I thankfully chose to study English Literature in college). Would it have done me any good to continue with the subjects I hated, rather than quit them? Built "character"? I don’t think so! If I’d somehow scraped through with a pass in school, gone on to do a college degree in any of those hated subjects, it would have done my confidence no good to be continually considered a dunce. Because I have no doubts at all that I'd continue to be terrible at them. On the other hand, I effortlessly achieved the top rank in college and was a gold medallist – because I was studying something I loved, something at which I was very good. Believe me, quitting was the best thing I did.

To those people who say “You’ve got only one life, you’ve got to make a success of it”, my reply is “I’ve got only one life, and I’m going to live it as happily as possible”. That’s success enough.

18 comments:

Kamini said...

I agree with you. In my youth, I doggedly and bull-headedly persisted with some activities/jobs (when I had the choice to not do them)only because I felt I was in some way failing myself or being a ninny for quitting. Thank goodness I'm older and wiser now! It did not build my character (which was already fine, thank you) or my bank balance. Just made me crabby and irritable!

B o o said...

Oh Shyam! I so hear ya! A post after my own heart! Why would I want to live my one life doing what other people expect me to? I so regret not quitting that damn computer science in college!

Richard Crawford said...

It's certainly difficult to get past the stigma of quitting. A few years ago I dropped out of the Library Sciences program with no criticism from my friends or my family, but I still can't get past the self-imposed shame of having done so.

AUGUSTBORN said...

Shyam

How about some detail on how you went about changing it? :-) Letter to Ignatius?

Granny Smith said...

I agree with you completely,and think this is an excellent essay presenting your (our) views on quitting.

chronicworrier said...

I agree completely..that's my mantra too. Besides, why must happiness almost always be equated to success..

churningthewordmill said...

"I’ve got only one life, and I’m going to live it as happily as possible"--- i loooved that!!! and i cudnt agree more!

churningthewordmill said...

btw, i quit maths like that..dint touch the subject after 10th.. my poor g'dad was upset.. but i kept telling him "wud u rather i do the subject because i shud, struggle the whole yr and finally fail the final exams?!" it took him a while to accept that..

shyam said...

Kamini: Oh it's good to be older and wiser, isnt it? :)

Boo: College would have been HELL if I'd done anything other than Eng Lit.

Richard: We're SO conditioned to thinking that quitters are losers...

Kumar: Cant actually remember how I did that, come to think of it. All I remember is appa telling me off for not telling them first!

Granny Smith: Thank you so much! :)

CW: Success CAN equate to happiness for some... it just isnt that way for everybody.

Mandira: Maths... ugh. I'm so glad it's never cropped up again in my life! :)

Teesu said...

Super-ly put;)Me, I have never been more put off by other people's expectations of me than I am today! So...you...I stand up and applaud.

Still, I think firstborns have a unique way of standing up for themselves and ALWAYS towering over many...he he.

Pam said...

I have learned over the years that quitting something that doesn't fulfill you is healthy. It is a struggle, though, when we have been taught to persevere.

shyam said...

Pam: Exactly what I'm trying to say, except you said it better :)

shyam said...

Teesu: It helps to be tall when you're towering :D Thanks for the applause, but please, dont stand up! :)

anthonynorth said...

Good on you. When it feels really wrong, it's best to quit, no doubt.

mumbaigirl said...

Absolutely agree. I still feel guilty, but would never go back to do doing some things I was supposed to make a success of.

texasblu said...

Shami,

That's awesome! (I know, I sound like my 14 yr old daughter!) I believe we all innately are given gifts to expound on. Sure, you could have continued and developed some new talents, but at what price? Always follow the innner voice!

I don't see that as quitting - I see it as choosing! :D

shyam said...

Anthony: Glad you agree :)

MG: Good for you (minus the guilt)!

Texasblu: It's difficult to drum up talent for something in which you have no interest. Follow your dreams, use your gifts. That should be a pretty good recipe for happiness, dont you think?

Ravi said...

Wow Shyam! I hope all those parents drilling their wards to become just another "professional" will take a clue from your post to change their thought process.

No wonder you did English literature. I love the writing style of your posts be it your recipe or here.