I Quit Something For the First Time in My Life: Am I a Terrible Person?

“The key to being happy is knowing you have the power to choose what to accept and what to let go”

~Dodinsky

 

For my entire life, I have taken pride in the fact that I always finish what I start. From a very young age I was taught that if I made a commitment to something, I had to see it through, even if I didn’t feel like it when the time for action actually arrived. It is the basic underlying principle of integrity, isn’t it? When you say you are going to do something, you do it. Simple.
 

So, even though there have been many moments in my life when I just wanted to throw in the towel, cut my losses, and move on from situations that were unfulfilling or negatively impacting my life, I didn’t. Integrity, and a desire to see things through from start to finish, always won out. At some point, though, we all have to learn that life isn’t quite so black and white; the grey areas extend their reach further than we expect. My moment of reckoning came a few weeks ago when I quit something for the first time in my life. It wasn’t a little quit either, like cancelling plans with friends. I quit my job.
 

That’s right…. I quit my job. Halfway through the season in Italy, I decided to leave the team I was playing for (retiring from indoor in the process) to focus solely on beach. The decision was not easy. It was actually agonizing, and almost made me sick to my stomach daily. I also cried…. a lot. The sick feeling mostly came from the thought that I was a terrible person for even entertaining the idea of backing out of a serious commitment I made. I not only made a commitment to the club I was playing for; I had also indirectly made a commitment to my teammates, to the coaching staff, to the fans, and to my agent that I would stand by them all season. All I kept asking myself over and over again was, “What does this say about me that I am actively considering this?” I felt that this meant my integrity was gone.
 

What it said about me, though, was this: after decades of always making the “right” decision, it was time to put myself, and my own well-being, first.
 

One of the things I quickly learned when I first became a professional was that you are your own advocate, and that people will push you as far as you let them. If you keep doing every single engagement for free, people will expect you to do all things for free. If you always push through practice when it would be smarter for your body to rest, people will constantly expect you to continue to practice when you are injured. Basically, if you never take a stand and advocate for what you need, happiness included, you will break.
 

I was expecting to retire from indoor after my season in Shanghai last year. I felt good about my indoor career, and while I still loved to play indoor, I was at the point where I was ready to be in North America more often than not. Certain circumstances came about, though, to make this offer in Italy seem particularly interesting, and since my husband had wanted to live in Italy one more year before I retired, it seemed perfect. We decided to give it a try.
 

Right off the bat, things were not what I expected, and to make a long story short, almost every single reason I had for returning to play was not present. I was miserable. I was still performing well, giving maximal effort in every practice and game, and being very professional, but I was waking up every single morning with a knot in my stomach and tightness in my chest. It was difficult to take a deep breath. I was clearly experiencing some serious anxiety, but I couldn’t imagine walking away from the team and the commitment I had made, so I just kept pushing through it.
 

In addition to feeling the way I was, I also knew that by continuing to play indoor for the whole season, I would miss some really great opportunities on the beach, including playing in the first ever beach volleyball event at the Commonwealth Games. I just could not imagine being as sad as I was and then feeling even worse by missing things that bring me so much joy. Eventually I started thinking about the implications of me leaving indoor.
 

What I perceived as being a massive lack of integrity was the biggest roadblock to me coming to the decision to leave. Here were some of the other factors that influenced my decision:
 

  • I am 31 years old; I have established myself in the professional volleyball world with the type of player and person I am, having played pro for 10 years already.
  • I am at the point in my career that I shouldn’t have to be literally sick from anxiety and just deal with it. Life is too short to be anything but happy.
  • I was considering retirement from indoor after the season anyways.
  • Indoor volleyball is a big part of my career, but it’s not my only career. I am not leaving indoor to go and do nothing. I have big goals and dreams on the beach to chase.
  • My teammates understand where I am coming from, and respect my decision. I had called a meeting with the girls on the team to tell them what I was thinking, and they were all incredibly supportive.
  • My friends and family support my decision, and want me to be happy above all else.

 

After really taking a look at all of these factors, the idea that I lack integrity didn’t really hold much water anymore. I don’t plan on quitting things often, if ever, again, and one “wrong” decision out of the thousands of “right” ones I have made, does not erase my integrity. I don’t even consider this to be a wrong decision, though, because even by doing something that I wanted to avoid (quitting), I went about it in the most professional way I could, and more importantly, I did something for myself, for my physical health, and for my mental well-being. I was pursuing happiness, and for that I feel good.
 

xo, Sarah

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