Friday, May 25, 2007

"Time to Quit"

My sensei frequently reiterates the saying, “If you fall down ten times you get up 11.” I’ve taken this to mean that we should not let life’s missteps keep us down. We should continue to pursue or goals and pursue perfection. This philosophy is dolled out in all aspects of life: “You got to get right back on that bicycle,” “Keep pounding the pavement,” “Don’t take, ‘No’ for answer,” “Practice makes perfect, etc. My question to you this Memorial Day Weekend is how do you know when to quit? I remember co-producing a sketch comedy show which I co-wrote. The production was a nightmare. Everything continually went wrong. The stage managers kept quitting, we had trouble assembling a cast, at one point it snowed, and because Portland, OR (where I was living at the time) hardly ever gets snow the city was caught completely off guard. The city basically shut down for a week and half and we couldn’t rehearse or get anything done. I had produced theatre before and I knew it’s never easy, it’s a lot of work and a lot of hours but the ridiculous amount of problems this production incurred went beyond hard work. I wondered should we just throw in the towel and call it a day. I didn’t know if that was me being weak or lazy or cowardly. I wound up not quitting because as those in theatre say, “The show must go on.” (Theatre people like the rest of don’t quit) The show went up and we had many a sold out night. I also got to see my writings come to life. So I guess I can say I’m glad I didn’t quit, but the show could have easily been a disaster. It was as much chance as anything that it wasn’t. If was a disaster would I have wished I quit? We are never taught that lesson in school. I was never told, “Rachael, you probably will never understand Geometry no matter how many hours you study or how many tutors you get. Drop the class and move on with your life.” Instead the only message we hear is “You’ll just have to work harder.” At what cost, though? How many times must you fall off your bike and watch your knees bleed and your chin swell before you say, “fuck it, I guess I’ll walk for the rest of my life?” 3 times? 10 times? I honestly, don’t remember how many injuries I sustained before I was a competent two wheeled cyclist. I just know that I can ride I bike and I know I fell more than once. I don’t remember if the thought ever occurred to me to quit trying. I do know that at one point I had a skateboard and I know that I really can’t ride a skateboard, I tried learning to ride, but the fear of falling kept me from really excelling. I must have quit skateboarding. I guess it’s easier to quit things you don’t care about or that garner no reward. By the time I tried skateboarding I already knew how to ride a bike. A skateboard seemed dangerous and less energy efficient (there are no gears on a skateboard. Imagine a skateboarder and cyclist racing up a hill.) It becomes harder to know when to quit when you enjoy something about it, and/or you feel there is a real benefit to sticking it out. Like a kid who endures sprained wrist after sprained wrist learning to ride a bike. He/She suffers the physical pain in hopes that he/she will learn to ride the bike which will allow him/her greater autonomy and the ability to play more with his/her friends who already ride. For him/her it’s worth it, unless of course they never gain the skills to keep the bike upright. And how do you know you will never learn?

So do we keep pursuing our career goals? Keep working at our difficult relationships? Keep rewriting that screenplay, do we keep kicking and punching in hopes to perfect our character? Do week keep fighting a war? I don’t know the answer to these questions. Enjoy Memorial Day. Remember car pool.

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