As a freshman counselor, I spend a lot of time telling other people to keep going.
Not getting tapped doesn’t mean you won’t be able to sing with another group later. An emotional breakup may be hard now, but you’ll move on if you give it enough time. One disappointing midterm should not dissuade you from being a chemical engineer.
And, for the most part, I’ve followed my own advice. For years, I stuck to the two majors I liked, the few extracurriculars that appealed to me and the general career trajectory that I found meaningful.
But this year, I did something different: I gave up. I quit. And I’ve never been happier.
The story began in a way that will be familiar to most students here at Yale: The perfect storm of high stress, little sleep and overcommitted extracurricular life meant I had walked into my economics midterm fully unprepared for the slaughter that would await me. It was almost a relief when I got back a failing grade just a couple of days later, giving closure to 48 hours of dread.
As always, first came the initial wave of panic: I’ll never recover from this. My already fragile GPA will take yet another hit. Who was I kidding when I decided to be an economics major, anyway?
Then my FroCo senses started tingling: You’ll bounce back from this! You can get a tutor who will help you! Talk to the professor, and you’ll definitely be able to work something out.
But to what end? Why exactly did I want to work things out? With due respect to the professor, I hated this class. I was spending precious hours every week nodding off in lecture, plowing through problem sets and reading a book I’d rather use as a doorstop. At Yale, we get 36 credits — 36 bites at an apple as sweet as we make it. And I was intentionally coming back every week to this rotten fruit in the belief that one day some employer would nod approvingly at the effort I put in. What a waste of my time at this institution renowned for its intellectual vigor.
So after spinning through the stages of grief a few dozen times, I eventually latched onto an idea I couldn’t shake: Just quit.
It was, admittedly, a bit of a radical idea. After racking up 10 of 12 credits necessary to graduate with an economics degree, I would be dropping my double major just as I was about to cross the finish line. But it’s hard to convey just how relieved I felt after considering what life would look like on the other side of quitting, as if this was the path I was supposed to be taking all along.
So I quit. And it felt good.
Suddenly, I felt the need to tell other people. And soon, I realized my experience was far from unique. It didn’t take long after telling my own story for everyone else at the table where I was sitting to eagerly chime in with a story of their own about quitting. Quitting a varsity sport. Quitting a leadership position in an extracurricular activity. For a semester, even quitting Yale! One by one, we ticked off our favorite quitting experience, and the emotion lighting up each of our faces was always the same: shameless joy.
Quitting just feels good.
At Yale, we spend most of our time trying to jam as much as possible into our daily schedule. And perhaps some of that is warranted. After all, this place has an incredible variety of experiences to offer its students, and you will rarely have the chance to pursue the kinds of opportunities available to us here ever again. But even so, there are few things quite as thrilling as letting go of the things that drag us down or make us feel bad about ourselves.
And aside from the pure euphoria that comes with hacking off another commitment, the best part of quitting is the opportunity to try something new. For me, it means more time to learn Spanish — a language I decided way too late to start. It means more Netflix. It means more Skype dates with my boyfriend. It means more political science classes next semester that I will actually look forward to taking.
But most of all, it means taking more time for myself. And it took quitting to realize I had almost forgotten how to do that.
So take up your axe, and start hacking away at the drains on your time. You might be glad you did.
Tyler Blackmon is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. His column runs on alternate Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .