I walked past a book about quitting the other day, why we’re scared of it and so forth, and I thought that is one book I do not need, I’ve never been scared to quit situations.
In fact I wish often that I had more endurance when it comes to not giving up on unfulfilling projects. I’ve quit every job I’ve ever had except the two where I got fired. And it would be easy to say I got fired because I’d preemptively given up.
I’ve quit a lot of friendships, I don’t need to go down that road again for my long time readers.
I gave up on Caught Off Guard when I felt I’d always be a second tier band member. Because at first I was, I was playing songs that already existed and trying to fit into a team that had a dense history. And it was fun. Later when almost all my writing contributions got cut I realized fun was all it could ever be, never truly fulfilling and because it took up the vast majority of the time and energy I could put toward music in a week I had to quit.
Greystone was a bit different obviously but not as different as one would think. I wasn’t satisfied with the pace and the attitudes the others had about that pace and instead of seeing a path to fulfillment I saw a path to mockery. I saw it becoming a group in name only. We weren’t playing shows because we were recording and we weren’t putting out recordings because they all sounded high school. I felt like a phony. I felt like we were play acting being a band.
And it’s the first time I felt like my instinct to quit was wrong. I usually stay at a job for three years if it’s any good but I was too deadly serious about music and quit after 15 months. Especially after Caught Off Guard I was worried about throwing good time after bad and sticking with something that wasn’t working out of fear of having nothing else. After all I’ve quit everything else without knowing where I’d land so why wouldn’t this work out the same? I quit the diner because I felt under stimulated and futile with no plan and a day later I got the job at the gateway. A job I’ve repeatedly said I love.
The urge to be somewhere besides the gateway is kicking in now though and I feel a bit disappointed in myself. The truth is the team has changed, the corporatists have won. It’s quite likely going to turn into every other kitchen job I’ve ever seen with everybody taking frustration out on anyone who won’t fight back and only reporting things up the chain that make them look good, everyone blaming someone they don’t like or just isn’t there for anything they’re upset about, good people getting passive and the most volatile become defacto authority because no one wants to bother with confrontation, and the bean counters take credit for any good and blame the workers for any bad and never spend an hour in the kitchen observing how things actually work.
So of course I think about what I could be doing for work instead of watching this kitchen meltdown and I remember that my only professional skills and all my connections are in kitchens and I’d just be trading this one for another one.
And it takes ten seconds of osmosis for me to have no satisfying answer why I do anything at all. And let’s acknowledge that suicide is the ultimate act of quitting.
I think part of fear of the sin of persistence comes from a fear of ridicule. In my early days I was the permanent bottom rung of the social ladder, the kid it was always okay to mock and beat up when you wanted to feel better about your station. No matter what I did it was worthy of derision. There were no win conditions. So later when I moved away, grew up, got charming, worked on myself, worked on my art, and found varying levels of acceptance I still always felt that it could go away, that I could be hated by everyone at any minute, that anything less than perfection – any set back even – meant I deserved derision and mockery and hatred.
I heard once that white people commit suicide at higher rates than other races because other’s experience oppression and discrimination and it’s easy to blame the system for their unhappiness whereas white people, when the world which is supposed to belong to them and cater to them doesn’t fulfill them they’re inclined to believe it’s some intrinsic flaw with them as an individual.
While I’ve been dredging up childhood feelings here I realize I get my sense that I’m fundamentally broken from home. The most charitable way I can put the message I got there is you’re smart and you could do anything if you stop being an asshole and fucking everything up. Rather than feeling supported I always felt like, at best, a broken thing to be tolerated.
And it’s a message I still hear from people around me. Rather than being a good person gifted with intelligence and cursed with depression, the story of Alastair most tell is that I’m shitty person who needs to be different and should be smart enough to do it. The story I can’t help but tell myself is that no matter what little good I do for others it will never be enough to give me meaning and I every time I let someone down – even people I don’t like – it’s a sign of permanent disorder. I’ve been struggling my whole life to be a good enough person in any way I can and like I’ve been starting from scratch again every few years when everything has fallen apart. Now I’m thirty two and I feel like I just starting putting together the emotional and intellectual tools I needed 15 years ago to be anywhere near where I want to be now.
These days I’m just trying to be humble, to not want anything and focus on other people. And I’m focusing on not quitting even when things feel meaningless or I haven’t put effort into something for a depressingly long time.
But it’s hard to not-quit when you’re not really doing anything. Spending all day at work feeling defeated and thinking I’m squandering time isn’t anywhere near fulfilling either. If it’s important to keep fighting til you lose or you win how do you know when you’ve lost?
I thought a while I may be going through a period of extroversion (because everyone does go through periods of introversion and extroversion in their life). When Simone and I were moving apart and I decided to couch surf rather than find a place it was because I had a sudden dread of being alone. That has literally never happened before in my life. The thought of being alone in a room made me dread.
But I don’t think it’s that I’m an extrovert these days as much as I know that having more than 20 minutes to think let’s the suicide fairy in. Anytime I’m in the prep hall at work I end up bummed out for the whole day because I can’t think my way into hoping for or about anything. I’ve been relentlessly focusing on not being sad for months now, and it includes being desperately social. But I can’t really grow if all I do is distract myself whenever possible. I can’t grow by running away I’m sure of that but I’m not sure I like what I’d be growing into if I stay somewhere too long.