Manila—On this same month last year, I quit grad school. It was my second attempt at getting a master’s degree in a social science field. My first try was more than 10 years ago while enrolled in a development communication course.
It wasn’t a dramatic walking-away scene, but I threw up on the night I decided to quit. The course was online, four days a week, with three-hour classes that overlapped with my work as a TV producer and writer. My routine while listening to the professor was sending an abrupt chat message that I had to leave class because the countdown for the live broadcast was starting, which meant I had to change gear.
On that day, my tummy turned over as I was sick with an anxiety attack from too much stress. That was it. I didn’t know how to quit because I was on a full scholarship. Fortunately, the school listed me among students who missed one technical admission requirement. Some of the students rectified their errors; I saw it as a chance to leave.
It was a different quitting more than 10 years ago while working for an international organization based overseas and studying development communication remotely. I had missed a few report submissions as I was always on travel and was too embarrassed with the professor prodding me to continue. I couldn’t set aside time for it. I felt trapped.
I was attending a conference in Hanoi when I received a final deadline to give my reports. I didn’t know why but while jumping out in the middle of the life-and-death intersection of Hanoi’s Old Quarter— where you could get instantly killed with one misstep as the cars and motorcycles were coming from every direction – I decided to let go. After surviving the deadly intersection, I went shopping. Back in the hotel, I emailed the school. I felt free.
My parents were university professors; my dad had a doctorate in education and my mom had a master’s in social psychology. The pressure for graduate studies is evident in the academe, and my parents handed the same urgency on to me and my siblings.
That overseas job? I also quit after a three-year contract. I decided not to renew and be in the same toxic work environment again. There was no song in my head on the day I quit; but at the Bangkok airport on my way back home, I had that exhilarating feeling of facing change and not knowing what would come next.
I have also left one or two jobs to move on to the next one. This was before the rise of the “great resignation” that everyone is now talking about. Some give it different names, such as the “great relocation,” “reinvention” or “reprioritization.” I can call mine any of those, plus the “great self-care.”
People see quitting differently; that it’s not the right thing to do, and that quitters never win and winners never quit. Many quitters like me have varied experiences about acting impulsively or undergoing difficult decision-making processes.
But I have won as much as I have walked away. I have also quit friendships and relationships but that’s another story. I have also quit potting lavenders because they keep dying. On the day I quit lavenders, I planted four-colored kiwi succulents, and they’re growing and blooming. Life is still good.
Diana G. Mendoza is a veteran journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.