We St. Mary's girls are known for a lot of things: succeeding in athletics, academics and extracurricular activities. Being top in mock trial, AP scores, and high school musicals. We're renowned for a lot of things, but quitting isn't one of them.
We take on everything: honors classes, school plays, sports and volunteer opportunities. Sometimes it's because we genuinely love those activities, sometimes it's to pad our resumes for college.
Sometimes it's because we think it's something we should do or that our parents, friends or teachers expect us to do. What can you do when you're stuck doing something that doesn't make you happy? You quit.
I've quit a lot of things in my life. I quit Spanish, sorry Senora Walker. I quit a play, and I tried to quit guitar, but Doc wouldn't let me.
There's a difference between quitting and being a quitter. Quitters are people who run away when faced with adversity. They quit because they can't handle discomfort or hard work.
Quitting is when a quiet voice inside you says, "You're not meant to do this" and you follow it.
Quitters are cowards, afraid of doing something hard. But quitting is brave, because saying no can often be the hardest thing to do.
Here's my story.
When I was 16, I decided to become a sports writer. I immediately told Mrs. Mansberg who made two suggestions: 1) I should write for the Tatler, and 2) I should shadow some local sportswriters.
I took her up on both ideas. I became the first sports editor for the Tatler, and I found two local mentors who brought me to Grizzlies games and showed me the ropes.
As soon as I decided where to go to college, I emailed the sports editor at the school's student newspaper and asked him to assign me a beat.
At Indiana University, I covered men's basketball, going on the road with one of the most storied franchises in NCAA history. I met editors from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the New York Times. I even interned at the Associated Press one summer, where I covered the Yankees, the NBA Draft and the World Cup. I've interviewed Alex Rodriguez, Mia Hamm and Memphis legend Penny Hardaway.
Despite my success, I was miserable. In college, I realized that while everyone else was having fun on Friday and Saturday nights, I was in Minnesota or Pennsylvania watching the basketball team lose, writing about it and then being yelled at by the coach. I didn't enjoy a minute of it, except when the game was over, and I'd send my story.
During that time, I noticed a quiet voice that said, "This isn't where you're supposed to be."
But I was already a senior in college, and it was too late to change my major. I knew I was heading in the wrong direction when I got a job at a newspaper and everyone else was more excited than me. Sometimes people would ask, "What's new with you?" and I'd mumble something like, "I got a job, but please don't ask me about it."
After a year of working at a daily newspaper and paying my dues, I quit. I got a job at a nonprofit where I worked regular hours and worked for a mission I believed in.
During that time, I also started a blog, writing about my attempts to pay off my student loans in three years. I had blogged for my newspaper about living frugally and often came up with excuses to blog more than I was writing for the paper.
I started chronicling my debt payoff journey, even though no one was reading except for my mom. But I kept doing it, writing in my free time. You know you're passionate about something when you do it without an audience.
After a couple years, I attended a conference for financial bloggers where I learned that tons of people were making money doing exactly what I was doing. I even got freelance gigs, writing about the topics I found most interesting.
I kept at it, writing on the side while working 40 hours a week. I'd get home, work out, walk the dog, eat dinner, and write until midnight. After a year, I was making the same amount on the side as I was at my day job.
You can probably guess what happened next. I quit. Now I work at home, creating content for financial clients. I still write on my blog, where I've created a course helping other people pay off their student loans. I got here through hard work and perseverance, but mostly, by quitting.
Every time I've quit, I've gotten a bit closer to what I'm supposed to do. I quit things when they don't align with my values or my time. I've quit things I like because they don't leave room for things I love.
Remember there's a difference between quitting and being a quitter. Is there a voice telling you that no matter how good you are at softball, you want to play a different sport? Is there a voice saying you'd rather focus on English than AP Calculus?
You have to nurture that voice. Unfortunately, it's a very quiet voice, more like a Neville Longbottom than a Hermione Granger. What other people say can dampen that voice, but they can't erase it. And even though it's a quiet voice, it's a very powerful one, if you only listen to it.
Here's how you hear it: sometimes there's a feeling in the pit of your stomach. Sometimes that feeling is nausea, but other times it's that voice trying to get your attention.
Sometimes you don't have to quit anything to listen to that voice. You just have to follow your interests and curiosities and see where they lead you. And if you don't like where the road takes you, you can always quit. And start again.