In Defense of Giving Up
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Lately, I’ve made it my mission to try to reconcile these two statements. Easier said than done. As I wrap up my second full year of retirement, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the time and motivation to experiment with all sorts of new activities. I’m a naturally curious person, and I’m also game to try almost anything. To be clear, it doesn’t mean I'm brilliant, or even competent at everything I attempt. But I'll surely never know unless I dive right in.
Unfortunately, success has not been consistent, and some of my failures have been pretty spectacular. In those moments I’ve experienced sadness, anger, shame, humiliation, or even a fancy combo platter of two or more of those. It’s pretty uncomfortable.
Speaking of discomfort, I was so excited to go horseback riding the very first week I was retired. I hadn’t ridden in about 20 years (when I had really short hair), and looked forward to sharing my love of horses and trails with my neighbor. I was not prepared for the excruciating pain that surged through my body with every step. Apparently, that hip replacement of 2013 may have affected my ability to ever be comfortable in a saddle again.
But I digress…
I went into retirement looking for who I really wanted to be. I spent almost three decades doing a job at which I was more than competent, but one that really did not define who I was as a person. On the weekends, competing in dog sports, people’s jaws would drop when they learned I was a lawyer. What did that say about me in that moment? How is a lawyer supposed to conduct themselves in a dog sport setting? What do people think of when they think of lawyers?
Never mind, don’t answer that…
Part of being authentic, in my opinion, is having a certain level of self-awareness. I’ve had to have some serious talks with myself about my temperament. There’s the type of person I wish I could be, and there’s the type of person I actually am. The older I get, the more I realize how baked in some of my behaviors and attitudes are. Don’t get me wrong, they are not all good or all bad. None of us are all good or all bad, despite our best efforts to convince ourselves otherwise.
What I’m trying to do at this point in my life is simply play to my strengths. I’m my own boss and I love learning new things. It’s delightful and extraordinarily frustrating all at once, probably because those two words define exactly the kind of person I can be in any given moment. But as I go forward, I want to showcase the delightful side, and try to avoid getting myself into situations where I end up frustrating myself and/or others.
This summer, I made a decision to walk away from an activity that I’d hoped I’d be better at than I actually was. It wasn’t easy, but in the end, I know it’s the best thing for me and my sanity. At almost the same time, another opportunity I had been hoping for opened up, bringing with it a renewed sense of purpose and joy.
Since retiring, I think I’m ahead on the “success vs. failure” tally sheet. I wrote a book. I also successfully grew sweet corn, tomatoes, melons and asparagus, and replaced a bathroom faucet. I learned new ways to train my dogs. I learned to make pickles and salsa. I learned how to feel good about myself…and how to give up things that cause me pain, like horseback riding.
Best of all, I’ve given up comparing myself to others and trying to be perfect.
I highly recommend it.