In the thick of a pickle, pt. 2
When should you quit, give up, or bail on your plans?
A few months ago, Blogyenta was knitting a sweater with some reluctance. According to the pattern, there were 30- or 40-odd rows left to knit, but she thought it was plenty long enough. Still, a pattern is a pattern, and in things like knitting it’s completion that really matters. Then I mentioned the sleeves. You see, unlike some patterns where each piece is knit separately, the sleeves and body for her project were worked together into a yoke. Because she’d already attached the sleeves, the undue length of the sweater did not just turn the body into a tunic-long sheath, it made the sleeves worthy of a giraffe! At that she gave up and ripped it all out. I’ve done the same with other sweaters. Sometimes no matter how much you’ve invested, going forward is just throwing good time, or energy, or money, after bad.
If only I had learned that in high school. Senior year was the long-awaited chance to get into Harvard, which goal I’d been bent on since freshman year. But somehow I got the application quite late, leaving just one short week to put it together — this, one of the most involved such packets. I remember wondering then if I should give up, but stubborn commitment impelled me onward. How could I get to the point I had been planning on all throughout high school to just give up? I soldiered on and finished, despite secret doubts that Harvard was really the school I’d be most happy at after all.
I even got an interview, with some alumnus in central Phoenix. But as Mom and I drove home afterward, I remember feeling misgivings, a sense that the Harvard evoked in our talk that day was either not the school I’d always imagined, or that what I’d always thought my ideal school was might be something I wouldn’t like after all. By the time they sent out rejection letters, I almost regreted I’d even bothered applying. However much those three years of silly dreams and expectations had cost me was nothing compared to the four years of time and money I could have wasted just to satisfy a girl who no longer existed. In that case I hung in too long, but sometimes adversity tests both your wisdom and patience.
When should you hang in there, persevere, and follow through?
I first approached an agent with my book idea almost a year and a half ago. At the time he blew me off, said my title was crap, seemed to regret he’d agreed to meet with me; his only advice was to start at Condé Nast somewhere, slowly make my way through the ranks and make friends and eventually climb my way out of writer’s hell — in which he judged a blog level seven or eight, if not nine. That was February. Six months later the agent who’d signed me was accepting an offer from Random House.
It’s not that the first guy’s advice was all that bad, but something in my gut told me I was onto a good idea. The same sort of sense I’d often felt and chose to ignore that whoever my present crush was wasn’t the sort of guy I should be with. Sometimes struggle isn’t a sign you’re on the wrong path, just that your character could use the work. And sometimes your heart, if you really listen carefully, is telling you which way to go. I say that cautiously, for mine has proven corruptible, but God has nevertheless worked through faulty instinct to caution and to encourage. Usually when I’ve pursued things to my folly, it was by drowning out the quiet voice of warning within that gainsaid this latest recklessness.
Bottom line? The next time you’re feeling restless or just plain frustrated with some aspect of your life, take time to think about what the real issue is. Face the fears that might be keeping you from finishing, and the fears that might push you to following through on something you should give up. And if you’re a Christian, quiet your heart before God and see what motives He exposes. Many times He’s blessed unlikely, even seemingly unwise moves on my part (like how I came to New York), but even more times He’s withheld blessing on things I wanted more than to please him.