Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Quitter Jitters

There is a little bully who sits on your left shoulder.  He antagonizes your every move and delights in your demise; he's your nemesis.  I have lived with my own little bully for thirty years and I can promise you one thing: he isn't going anywhere anytime soon.  No sir, he is quite comfortable right where he is. But to be fair, I have had my share of obstacles; and the little nagging bully sat upon my shoulder and delighted in my defeat...

First it was gymnastics. I was just a little kid looking for a way to kill time.  I wanted to have something of my own to get involved with while my brothers were busy excelling in their various sports and activities.  I had mastered a cart wheel and the balance beam but thats about it.  But I was fairly determined to stick with my newfound extracurricular activity until the day something truly traumatizing happened: I was trampled on the trampoline.

A stampede of children big and small were all bouncing up and down and having a blast.  But then, to my horror, the instructor had us all run from one side of the bouncing tarp to the other in unison.  This wasn't such a bad idea, until the moment I tripped, fell flat on my face as a herd of energetic wannabe gymnasts ran right across me.   Not one of them stopped to help me up.  I was squashed: gymnasium roadkill.

Well, as embarrassed as I was, it was even more embarrassing to face everyone and declare myself a quitter.  Gymnastics was not my thing.  I sat in the car and tried to figure out what to do next...

Maybe I ought to try Karate... Yeah, that would be kind of cool! That way if I get trampled, I can at least defend myself...

I suited up and tied the crisp white belt around my waist.  I felt like a ninja and looked like a pint sized badass.  It was awesome... for a couple weeks anyway...  It was another day of practice when we were paired off to spar.  Okay, let's do this!  I turned to face my opponent: a strawberry blonde boy who was probably a good three inches shorter.  We bowed to acknowledge the match, and then we faced off.  As I extended my right arm to mimic the action of a sturdy blow to the forehead, I overshot it a little and knocked the kid square between the eyes.  There was a collective gasp in the room as the boy burst into tears.

When he removed his hands from the spot where I punched him, a small indentation was revealed.  I immediately recognized the mark.  Ah crap, I forgot to remove my ring! The karate master noticed it right away.  Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit... 

I was in my very own version of Big Trouble in Little China.  The master went to retrieve his bamboo stick: you know, the one he whacks you with when you've really screwed up and pissed him off.  It was at precisely this moment when he approached me with that stick, that I promptly decided that my days as the next karate kid were over! I QUIT!!!

I never looked back...

Figure Skating sounds like fun... I'll try that! The outfits were way cuter than the boring white robes of my former karate days.  I had a hot pink spandex unitard.  It had black geometric shapes and was totally 90's coolness.

I was really good at the skating forwards part, and even a few small spins.  But then it was time to practice jumps.  And let me just say, jumping on ice is not easy.  Falling on ice is frosty coated misery.  How many times do you have to eat it before landing on your feet??

It didn't take long to figure out that I was not meant to be the next Michelle Kwan.  I skated my way right out of there.

At this point, it seemed that the only thing I was any good at was quitting.  The little bully sat on my shoulder, my earlobe as his punching bag, tormenting my failed attempts: quitter, quitter!

At this point, I must tell you that I eventually did land upon a sport where I found my stride, excelled and didn't quit. (But that is another story for another day).

Back to the tales of my tormented youth... Yes indeed, I felt like a giant loser, an epic failure, and above all else: a serial quitter.

It's been many years since then and I have come to realize one of the most valuable lessons of my life; Quitting something because it hurts doesn't make you a failure.  I would argue that in some ways, calling it quits can be one of the most defining aspects of your character.  It is important to recognize your limitations and set boundaries accordingly.

I did not intend to punch that boy in the forehead in Karate.  It was an honest mistake: an accident.  But the master wanted to teach me a lesson so that I might not repeat that mistake again.  He had every intention of striking me with the bamboo stick that day: but I knew a little something about self defense that he didn't see coming.  I understood that sometimes, you just have to walk away.

I didn't want to fight.  I didn't want to fall.  I didn't want to figure skate.  I didn't want to fail...

After many years of self discipline and care, I do know where I excel and where I do not.  And I am grateful for the times that I had the courage to take a stand and walk away: even if it meant I was a quitter.

Quitting the wrong things, opens up the doors for the right things.

It took a long time to develop this perspective.  For many years I feared myself to be a quitter; a failure. But I see now the strength and courage it takes to know when it's time to call it quits.  It takes faith: to believe that the right thing will come along and in that, you'll shine!

In two days, I will be released from the bar where I have served my time this summer.  And quitting this job was not a decision that was necessarily easy to make.  I have what I call quitter jitters.

It's the kind of cold feet where you wonder where to go next.  Another bar? Another city or state?
I may not know right now.  And although it is unnerving to not know for sure where I am headed, I am armed with the satisfaction of walking away from something that ultimately hadn't made me feel very good inside.

Knowing when to quit something that isn't serving you doesn't make you a failure, it just makes you human.


The Russian Standard Gold

2 1/2 oz Vodka
1 oz Ginger Liqueur
 Sake and strain into a martini glass

Rim glass with edible gold dust! 

1 comment:

  1. How well I remember those times, especially the incident in your Karate class. There a song by Kenny Rogers called the Gambler.You have to "know when to hold them, know when to fold them"? That is referred to as exercising good judgement. Sometimes you have to go through and close one door to find and open another door.