Why Quitting Can Actually Be A Good Thing Sometimes


They say that quitters never win, but no one has ever made it clear what exactly we’re competing for.

Just two weeks ago, I resigned from my position as a resident at the pediatrics training program of the hospital where I worked. It was a decision that was difficult as it was easy. Quitting was never in the cards for me, not in the many years that I’ve been a student, not in my extracurricular activities, and never in my personal relationships. I’ve always pushed through. Always.

My ego was bearing the brunt of the difficulty, but that was about it. Everything else inside me knew that this was the right direction to take. I’ve spent the last six months trying to assimilate myself in the training system, which, while not as difficult as the other training programs, still felt like a unique form of torture on its own. It wasn’t so much the endless work hours, or the stress of being held responsible for everything that went wrong during one’s tour of duty. That was all expected, all within the bounds of training possibility. I wish I could point out a tangible reason for this, so other people won’t have to look at me with pity, disappointment, or both. But all I could tell them, when asked the question ‘why’ is that I feel like this is the right thing for me to do.

Why did I quit? I feel like pediatrics, and maybe residency, isn’t for me. I felt like I was just getting by, going through a routine, with no real motivation behind my actions. I feel like I was trying to become someone that I don’t want to become after all, like I was lying to myself and I was too scared to admit it because that would mean quitting, and failure, and shame.

But still, I quit. And I’ve never felt better.

I expected to feel sad, to feel sorry for myself. I thought I would end up sitting in my room, hating myself from throwing all the opportunities I’ve been handed out of the figurative window. But it’s been weeks since I’ve left, and every time I think of what I did, all I feel is relief and a sense of calm. I did it. I quit, and nothing ever felt more right in the world.

Quitting seems like a mortal sin, an unspeakable thing, because we’ve all been taught to think that we are all in this quest, a race for one goal. You can’t quit, because if you do then you’re voiding your chance at getting to that prize, letting all the others run towards it while you get left behind on your own. And that might be viable, if there was one great goal for all of us. But the thing is, there isn’t one. We all have our own goals, parallel to each and everyone else’s. We are not necessarily all running on one track, or playing on the same board.

This isn’t to romanticize quitting, no. It’s to put it in perspective, because sometimes, you have to let go of one honorable dream to pursue another equally honorable one. There are choices we have to make in life, and it’s important to stick to a decision you’ve made until you’ve made your goal. But it’s also acceptable to pause and re-evaluate, to reconsider if it’s really the path that will lead you to your goal, or in one of my favorite author’s words, if it gets you closer to your mountain.

So yes, quitting is okay, but if, and only if, you can honestly tell yourself that you are going to bounce back and try again. You’ll let yourself have a clean slate, but this time, you’ll have lessons from your previous attempt to guide you.

There is nothing wrong in admitting that you made a wrong turn, and you have to turn back and start again until you find the right one. It’s perfectly okay. And if other people shame you for it, don’t cave in to the humiliation or disappointment. Instead, remind yourself why you chose to quit. Take solace in the fact that you were able to admit your mistakes to yourself, something that not everyone is able to do, and were strong enough to do something about it. Take a few minutes to be humble, and then be proud for the rest of your life.

featured image – Chris Zielecki