the art of quitting
Earlier this year I auditioned to become a barre instructor at a local studio. The audition consisted of putting on a microphone, and teaching the first 10 minutes of class to the studio owner and her right hand in command. Until this point other than one-off trainings at work, I had never taught in a formal or consistent setting. Terrified and excited, I passed my audition with that “it factor” they were looking for. They would teach me everything else. I replied - I want to become one of your best instructors.
You can understand their shock when I told them five months later that I wanted to “step back” from teaching.
I can count the number of activities I’ve “quit” on one hand, probably due to a combination of not signing up for a lot of things, but also I dislike not following through on things. I doubt anyone really does, but the feeling of letting the other instructors down was the play button to my mental mix tape “quitter... quitter...quitter...”
I recently read Essentialism by Greg McKeown, which is now one of my favorite reads. Ultimately it’s a book about minimalism - both physically and mentally. Most people are more familiar with the manifestation of minimalism in the physical world. Minimalism in the mental world ends up translating to the importance of having the mental space and freedom to not only do the most important things, but also have the breathing room to figure out what the important things are. Make room to be proactive, instead of reactive. Stop playing defense.
The subtitle is “do more by doing less”, which is a struggle in today’s world where we often associate status with how “busy” someone is. I was recently talking to a friend about this topic, and how you get that “jolt of dopamine” when someone asks you how you “do so much” or “did xyz so well” - and then you are motivated to do more.
In the beginning of the book there is an image that accurately hints at where the next hundred some pages will take you.
I’m definitely guilty of trying to pack things in, and take pride when people tell me how amazed at how many things I do. The downside is that I’m usually late to things because I never bake in enough buffer or travel time.
Towards the end of my short teaching career I was thinking about this image, wondering if I wanted this to be one of my arrows. How I could be spending these 5-6 hours a week focusing on my own health, spending time with my dogs, my family, my relationship, my friends. Sleeping. Or maybe just some down time doing something creative. Or nothing at all.
Do more by doing less. So I quit.
I did enjoy many aspects of teaching, and I don’t regret the experience at all. Clearly I write this as I am still justifying this decision to myself - but I’m writing outside in a tent with the rainfly off, lying next to Parker in the late summer sun listening to the river flow by.