'When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.' - an often heard quote.
Almost all of us know this quote. Most of us have had somebody repeat this to us at least once in our lives. It is an inspiring one but sounds a bit flawed to me. Don't you think so? If you feel like quitting, first ask yourself why you feel this way. If it is exhaustion, rest, take a break, and get back to it. Do not give up. But if you feel like quitting because your quest lacks passion and drains your soul then I say, by all means, QUIT.
Does your mind and body feel clamped up? Mine does too. It is because giving ourselves the permission to quit is a fairly new concept. One that goes against every fiber of our being, for generations. *Deep breaths here everyone - in and out.*
Here's the thing - a lot of times you may think you're passionate about something, but it turns out that it's just something you really, really like. Books like Ikigai talk about ways you can find your true passion. So here's a question - what if something that I have been passionate about for years and years, say, for example, dance, is now causing me immense anxiety and pain? It fails to bring me any joy. Not just my career, but my entire identity and self-worth are attached to me being a dancer. How do I let myself quit then?
I didn't! I resisted, I fought with myself, I reminded myself of why I started, and I kept going. Finally, I reached a point where I had to remind myself of 'why I started' every single morning with a side dose of anxiety. That is a horrible place to be in with yourself. And there's nobody around to say: 'Hey, maybe your answer to that question isn't valid anymore.' Even if you had the courage to say this out loud to yourself, nothing prepares you for the vulnerability that it unleashes. Your entire world is turned upside down. You feel like you’ve become the first human on earth with no sense of past, present, or future because it's all tied up in a Gordian knot. You go through the seven stages of grief when you lose the artist in you.
It is like losing your inner best friend. One random day, they said "Alright! I'm outta here!" and decided to move to a whole different country or something. You're in shock. You think it's just an impulsive decision and that they will be back in no time. Except, now it's been months and there's not been a peep from them. You keep wishing that if you had done things differently, if you had trained differently, spent more time practicing your craft, you wouldn't be here. You let yourself wallow in the guilt of the "if onlys". Slowly, the guilt turns to anger. Soon you are listing all the sacrifices you have made - the hours, the injuries, the fights with your family and many more. You now have finally hit your lowest low - the deep loneliness and isolation that loss causes. You feel alienated from the community you once belonged to because you can't relate to them anymore. Anxiety starts to build up and you have to constantly tell yourself that you are okay and that you will figure this out. After what feels like a really long table tennis game where the ball just kept going back and forth with no one winning a point, you have finally arrived…arrived at a shift in mindset that you are in control of your perception and how you can change it. You accept that the artist in you has served their purpose and while they will always be with you, you are now looking for something more. Letting go of your best friend isn't a loss anymore, instead it’s an evolution.
Because like grief, creativity isn't linear. That's why I say that it is ok to quit. It is ok to question your passion. It is ok for your passions to change. I see creativity as a group of interconnected wells (yeah, the kind you draw water from). You pour into one and somewhere, another one is filled to the brim. I don't identify as a dancer anymore. My resume describes me as 'a multidisciplinary storyteller' and between you and me, I'm still figuring out what that means. And that is okay! So what if you don't make original choreographies or have now become a vocal coach instead of a singer or stopped being a dancer and started your own line of athleisure wear or resin jewelry shop online? This doesn't mean you aren't an artist anymore; it’s just that now, you channel your creativity differently; maybe in a way that is more authentically ‘you.’
Finding one’s passion can be a lifelong quest for some, while for others, it drives their every action. Some have only one true passion in life, while some have multiple things to be passionate about at different stages in life. There is no right or wrong way. It is a mystery with a customized design for each one of us. The point is to be on the quest because that's where the fun is.