by MB

I'm afraid of quitting. For every person who declares victory by disentangling herself from corporate life, stress, the "churn," who dares follow her passion, how many more fail?

Everyone who knows my secrets has assured me that I will not fail. I am not a failure type of person. And if I do fail, they tell me, I will find a way to pick myself up and try again. To some extent I believe them, these people in whom I confide, because they know me more than I know myself. They make up for what I lack in distance, perspective.

People quit all the time. They quit jobs and diets and groups, they walk out on marriages and kids and conversations. These people are ordinary, which isn't to say they are mediocre, but only that their lives are not defined by their quitting. It is not revolutionary to quit your job, to give up on a project, to skip a workout or cancel a meeting. Quitting need not be a courageous act of rebellion, a defiance against societal norms.

But that's what I think of when I think about quitting. The heart-stopping, life-altering, sound-boom-crossing moment, where my life is separated into before and after. The quitting I am aching for is the split-yourselves-in-two kind of quitting, a curtain dropped in the middle of the second act. As if it were that simple. As if the act of cessation will take with it all of life's ugly parts - my eating disorder and my shame - my relentless perfectionism and dissatisfaction in my body. Quitting won't make me wake up one morning and decorate my apartment, hang picture frames and throw blankets over the gaping holes of my reality.

Exactly one year ago today, I quit New York. I quit the life I knew - the one I had built for myself. In retrospect it was a drawn-out recusal, but in the moment I felt as though my life was being ripped out from my very hands.

Nearly everything in my life has changed in the past year, but there's not one day I would trade in exchange for the life I quit Even the shitty days and the days where I cried myself to sleep, the nights I spent out until 5am and the mornings my head ached so badly I felt as though it would detach from my body. I am thankful for the hospital visits, the awkward conversations, the new friends and places checked off my bucket list. I'm grateful to have found the adventurous side of myself - the one who wakes up in a sand-filled tent on a beach somewhere in Southeast Asia. 

Just as was true one year ago, before I quit, my life isn't all in order. My credit card isn't completely paid off and I'm not contributing as much as I should to my 401k. I don't talk to my parents on the phone nearly enough and I have been terribly inconsistent in my blogging and writing. That has not changed.

Quitting my old life has not brought - as I envisioned it would - the giddiness that comes with the making of New Year's resolutions, of the freeing permission to begin again. It has not cured me of my eating disorder or my anxiety, nor has it altered my dislike for Asian food.

I quit a lot of my beliefs this year. Most of them, in hindsight, were limiting. I quit thinking of myself as a person who would never be married, who would never have kids. I quit thinking of myself as someone who doesn't deserve the life she has. I quit thinking that I wasn't a relationship person, that I was different - destined to be alone. I quit the stories I told myself about how I was or who I thought I ought to be. I quit believing that sex is shameful or wrong, and that there was something wrong with me for having needs. 

I quit repeating my closely-guarded and oft-mentioned mantra, "I'm not this person" and started instead to redefine the person I think I am becoming.