I am a Grade A professional quitter. A real career quitter, if you will. The first time I dabbled in quitting traces back to early childhood. One of my earliest memories is abandoning horse camp after my mother had networked heavily to get one of the limited summer spots. I was overcome by the sheer size of the horses and underwhelmed by my perceived instructor’s attention to safety. I subscribed to the Sherlock Holmes definition of a horse: “dangerous at both ends and crafty in the middle.” One small kick from a spooked horse sent me calling home to leave early. I was told I was the only kid in the history of camp that had left early. I carried that guilt with me for a long time.
My dossier of quitting grew, but with higher stakes. I quit a coveted role at a television network because I could no longer stand the toxic culture. This was before the Me Too movement and exposure of the entertainment industry’s often insidious work environments. I did not have another job lined up and had recently relocated to California for the opportunity. The quitting continued: I quit relationships, diets, hobbies, and two other jobs. I quit parties early. I quit California (only to come back a year later). I was dangerous in a way. Fear never held me back from abandoning ship if I felt it was the right thing to do, despite the guilt I often felt.
I spent a year in therapy trying to gain a deeper insight into this behavior. It turns out anxiety fueled many of these early choices, but the fact that I survived cancer in my 20’s contributed to many later decisions. Through months of analyzing, we discovered that buried deep down, and I mean deep down, I had survivors’ guilt. I was guilty I lived when so many do not. I had circumvented death, but lurking behind the scenes was the constant fear of a reoccurrence. What if I was not as lucky this time? The fear and guilt drove me to not waste time on something I felt was not important or beneficial to my life. When gifted a second chance at life, your norms trajectory gets vectored. Relapse anxiety remains a constant.
After I met my husband and moved back to California (round two), I began quitting less. Perhaps this was a by-product of finally feeling I was living a more purposeful life. This combined with the uncomfortable year spent in therapy. I found a meaningful job I love with a brand I have admired since I was a kid. We bought a house and I became pregnant. The pregnancy was a surprise as I was informed by several doctors and specialists that it would be difficult to conceive after the type of radiation and chemotherapy regimen I received.
I am now in the first year of motherhood with my sweet baby girl. It’s chaotic, sublime, terrifying, and at times has brought me to my knees. When I was pregnant, I spent months and months researching what the first year would be like. No amount of research, reading, and talking to other mothers can prepare you. There are too many unknown variables. For instance, nothing found in a book prepared me for mothering during a world pandemic. My constant fear of illness has crept in again. This time it’s tenfold because I am worried about my family and my precious baby.
Our days are now filled with excruciating decisions and a constant flood of bad news. My brain is filled to the brim; my tank is on empty. We are all juggling too many plates on a precarious surface. There is no room for what isn’t necessary to survive right now. I would love to pack up my family and quit right out of this nightmare, but there is no place to go. In light of our current landscape, I have decided that there are a few things worthy of quitting. The first to go is the comparison game. At the beginning of this pandemic, I spent a lot of time analyzing what others were doing. How were they balancing working from home with caretaking? What activities were they doing with their kids? Which quarantine exercise challenge were they partaking in?
Oftentimes, this led me to feel bad about myself, question my parenting style, and was an unnecessary time suck. I realized people cope in many different ways. Some pour themselves into projects and others (like myself) are trying to survive the day to day. That is okay. Whatever you need to do to get through this unprecedented time. We all have unique circumstances to contend with and even if someone appears to be thriving, it does not mean they might be a second away from a 51/50 hold. I quit comparing myself with other’s journeys. I am focused on myself, my family, and what we can do to get through this time in the healthiest manner for us. Unfortunately, some days that might mean third-day leftovers and unwashed hair.
Secondly, I quit expectations (for the time being). We are fielding constant changes in the last few months to every facet of our life. I have whiplash from pandemic advice and changes to our daily routine. Even the most basic parts of life are unrecognizable. I did not expect the first year of my child’s life to be spent inside the confines of our home and away from family. My parents have seen their only granddaughter once this year and I am sad they are not witnessing any of her first-year milestones. There are far worse tragedies and injustices in the world right now, but it still stings.
Continual crushed expectations led me to overwhelming disappointment that began transforming into anger. I quit expectations until we have a better grasp of this. I focus on each day and try to field what comes our way. I don’t label it with my expectations and, in turn, have felt less disappointment. This has been one of the toughest years in history and anything that is unnecessarily making it harder can and should go. These are the things that are worth quitting because there are a lot of things we can’t give up on like our community, supporting those on the frontlines, and the one thing we will never quit: trying to be the best parents we can.
Oh, and one last thing—bras. I quit bras because after having tasted the sweet freedom of a bra-free day, I can’t return. When the world is in lockdown, the last thing we need is another restriction.
About the Author
Jillian Edwards is a Denver native living in Long Beach, California. When she’s not writing, you can find her at home navigating new motherhood. She has had several essays and articles published since 2013. She is a proud cancer survivor and uses her voice to encourage women to share their own unique stories.