I’m a quitter. I own it. Whether you are a job, a book, a hobby, a house, or a relationship, I will quit you if you stop being right for me. I respect you and me way too much to waste either of our precious time on this planet.
I have been married and divorced twice. I have quit countless jobs. I have read about three pages of many of the great books in the world, and only finished a handful of them. I have lived in myriad houses in my adult life, and now, I don’t even live in one house. I’m just not ready for that kind of commitment. Which is supposed to be a bad thing.
In our culture, if you can’t commit, you’re defective. You’re supposed to stick it out. Whether “it” is a marriage or a job or a mortgage, you’re supposed to be in it for the long haul, no matter what. My question is why? I’m going to die. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe 40 years from now. But I will. I don’t get to take anything with me when I go, except maybe the experiences that colored my soul, the memories that became a part of who I was, the authentic loves I gave and received. Why would I waste one second of the precious, limited quantity that is my life on anything that isn’t right for me?
Today, I sit in a house in L.A., a house in which I have experienced untold adventures and delights with people I genuinely love. Next month, I’m off to France to live for two months in a village that resonated with the deepest, most sacred parts of my being. I have traveled the world. I have sold books. I have starred in plays. I have seen and done so much because I wasn’t afraid to quit.
Had I been afraid to quit, I would still be a tortured, suicidal housewife living in Edgewood, New Mexico, still married to the guy I thought was right for me when I was 18, because even though people grow and change exponentially over time, damn it, marriage is for life. Divorce is blasphemy.
You know what I think is blasphemy? Wasting the precious life you’ve been given because you are trying to follow someone else’s dumb rules, because you are so concerned about what the neighbors will think, you can’t possibly begin to think for yourself. That’s fucking blasphemy. Life is sacred. Wasting it is a crime. I think some of the holiest things I have ever done have involved finding the courage to walk away.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying if something is hard, I quit. Sometimes, the things that are right are also hard. Selling my books was hard. It took decades, and most of them were filled with rejection, disappointment, and Ramen noodles. I didn’t quit because even though there was no rational reason to keep at it, I knew writing was what I was born to do. My soul knew.
Being a mommy was hard. Waking up at midnight to change diapers and mop up vomit was hard. I didn’t quit because my kids were the best things that had ever happened to me, the greatest loves I had ever known. My soul knew that they were worth every minute of sacrifice it made for them.
But had I been wasting my time schlepping away at some shitty cubicle job I hated, would I have had the strength I needed to keep fighting for what really mattered to me? I’m not saying you shouldn’t stick things out. I’m not saying you shouldn’t fight good and hard for the things that count. Just make sure the things you sacrifice for are the right things. Your soul knows.
I admire people who quit. I admire people who leave what is wrong for them to find what is right. I’m not automatically impressed if someone tells me she’s been married for 25 years? Oh, yeah? What kind of marriage is it? Why did you stay? You stayed for love? Then fuck yeah, go you. You stayed because your church said you should? Yawn.
I think commitment-phobia is a virtue. It’s sort of like jumping-off-a-cliff-phobia. It’s rational. It’s well-founded. You shouldn’t sell your sacred life away to anyone or anything that doesn’t deserve it. You should make damn sure the person, place, or thing you are about to commit to jives with your truest soul.
And if it doesn’t, hit the road, Jack. The neighbors may not approve, but then again, they won’t be your neighbors anymore anyway, so who the hell cares?
P.S. I give you Roger Clyne’s “She Took All of My Horses When She Left Me Last Night.” It’s become a bit of a theme song for this girl, a celebration of the art of leaving in style.
P.S.S. And here’s Miley singing “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” I think she’s uber-talented, and for all her foibles, she’s brave as hell. I’ll take brave over spit-shined and perfect any day of the week.