If You Feel Like Giving Up
This is a snippet from a conversation with a mentor in 2010, when I really wanted to give up and was secretly hoping he'd tell me I should.
Me: I'm finding it so tough, working freelance and never knowing what the future holds or where my next job is coming from. I feel like giving up.
Mentor: why do you work in the creative industries?
Me: because it's so inspiring.
Mentor: and which words would you associate with creativity?
Me: innovation, spontaneity, imagination, colour, surprise...
Mentor: ok, what about words like predictable, routine, and secure?
Mentor: well if you want to sail the ocean, you've gotta learn to enjoy the waves.
In all honesty, I wanted to punch him in the face. He had a point, but waves are terrifying if you don't know how to move with them.
The first time I attempted to swim in the Atlantic on a breezy day, the (not very big) waves kept smacking me in the face and I struggled to breathe. The sensation was so overwhelming I couldn't get past the shoreline, and I didn't realise if I just swam out a bit further the water was much calmer.
That was exactly how I felt about my career at the time, and I just wanted to get out of the damn water. We love a pithy metaphor, the internet is full of them, but it's so rare they cover the nuances of real life.
Maybe you need swimming lessons, or a coach, or to be on a bigger boat with a crew, or to learn in calmer waters, to spend some time in the pool or a river, maybe you're out of your depth and need a rescue team. Maybe you're someone who just thrives on dry land.
In my case, I needed to find a better balance between security and spontaneity. One allowed space for the other. It took me years to figure that out. That conversation left me with a sense of shame for not being able to just enjoy the waves, so I continued scrambling and getting smacked in the face.
The honest truth is, it's hard, and we all feel like giving up at some point. This is a blog post, so I should be trying to come up with an elegant sentence or witty metaphor about never giving up, but that would just create more shame.
It's not shameful to give up.
Sometimes it's the best option. There is no honour in sticking to something that's making you miserable and ignoring your intuition. Knowing when to stop or change direction is an important skill, which you can't develop if you never give up.
A lot of us are looking for permission to give up from someone else so that we don't have to feel guilty. The trouble is, that person can't answer this question:
Am I running away from this situation because it's easier than confronting the reason I'm in it ?
Only you know if changing career, moving away or breaking up with someone means a fresh start or just starting the same old pattern somewhere new.
The giving up we should be doing is of our negative patterns, beliefs, thoughts, old stories and behaviours, and that's easier said than done.
Had my mentor challenged me as to why I was so drawn to a career that lacked predictability, routine, and security and how I could potentially create space for both, that penny might have dropped a little sooner. Or perhaps it wouldn't and I would've still had to learn the hard way.
Either way, I had to give up on the idea life has to be tumultuous and difficult, accept that I was choosing it, and that I could choose something else.
So, feel free to give up on something. Give on something up that no longer serves you, and use that space to create something that does.