I have always loved to write, and fancied myself as a professional writer from a young age. (I imagined myself on a successful book tour at the ripe old age of 12. I could just see myself on talk shows answering the hosts’ burning questions about my incredible book, and my amazing talent. Oh, I planned to be so famous!)
I must not have been as talented as I imagined, because my dream of success at 12 didn’t happen then, and still hasn’t happened (not for the writing dream, at least). But the dream persisted, and led me to take a correspondence writing course where I was mentored by a published author. I had to submit a writing sample as part of the application process, and I was very flattered to be accepted.
It was fun, at first. But it got hard pretty quick. I wasn’t used to having someone find fault with my work. I had a difficult time coming up with plots for stories. I felt so unable to relate to kids or teens—the audience I was writing for—that I became discouraged. And then I had a baby. Trying to find time for writing while taking care of a newborn was a real challenge. I got to the point that I dreaded the class work. I no longer enjoyed writing. I no longer wanted to get published. I just wanted to be done.
So I quit.
I didn’t think I regretted it, until a few weeks ago. I received a letter from the writing school, offering to let me back in to their class to finish what I had started.
Again, I was flattered. They wanted me back! They saw potential in me! Maybe I had quit too soon.
Maybe I was a quitter.
That was the idea that took hold in my brain and wouldn’t let go. I have certainly had other experiences where, when the going got tough, I quit. The writing class was only one example. I didn’t want to be a quitter. Didn’t I want to teach my children to do hard things? Didn’t I want to push through the hard times to get to the reward of success on the other side? Aren’t those important life skills?
I convinced myself that they were, and I signed back up.
My first assignment was due this week. I tried to write it. The words would not come. And when I finally sat down to put some real effort into it, I realized that I no longer had time to put together a good attempt. That’s okay, I told myself. I’ll just submit something from the blog. But there was a nagging question—why do I want to do this? DO I want to do this? What is the end game? What do I want out of this?
Answer: I am not a quitter.
That was my end game? I am not a quitter? That was why I was adding unnecessary stress to my life was to prove that I was not a quitter?
Lightbulb moment: I am not a quitter already, and some things are worthy of quitting.
There is a vast difference between quitting because something is hard, and recognizing that persisting in something will not help you to accomplish your goals. I am a big advocate of doing hard things. I am a big advocate of personal development. Sometimes developing character means doing hard things that don’t have a fiscally measurable return on investment. Sometimes it will be hard to remember why we are doing the hard thing in the first place.
And sometimes, we need to quit.
Seeing value in doing hard things doesn’t mean that we need to do ALL hard things. We don’t need to sign up for something just because it’s hard. Life is generous in that way—we’ll get plenty of hard things to do just by virtue of being alive. We don’t need to pile it on ourselves. Conversely, having a goal, a really hard goal, even, can be a great and important thing.
So how do you know when it’s time to quit?
Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know that my biggest goals, my eternal goals, are to return to live with my Heavenly Father some day. To be with my family for eternity. To make and keep covenants. To be truly united with my husband as we lead and love our family. Any goal that distracts me or directs me away from those things is not in keeping with my chosen destiny, and is not worthy of my time and effort. And sometimes, it requires the assistance of the Holy Ghost to know when that is the case.
Those are the things that guide my steps every day. There are a lot of opportunities that come along in the course of this mortality, and I’ve attempted to pursue some of them. More often than I would like, I feel a nudge away from the things I have chosen, with an oh-so-subtle whisper that what He has in store for me is so much better than what I am attempting. So I retreat. I let go of my dreams, hoping that His plan for me will be as fulfilling as my plan would have been. Letting go of my dreams has been heart-wrenching. Every time I do it, there is a mourning process to go through. It is as much a loss in some ways as my miscarriages have been. But, as with my miscarriages, there is a peace that God is in control, and He knows what He is doing. And He knows far better than I do.