In honor of my upcoming 30th birthday, I’ve researched countless “things to do before 30” lists. And while there are plenty to choose from, I kept coming back to “Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.”
The List was originally published in Glamour by columthe nist Pamela Redmond Satran in 1997. Over the next 30 weeks, I’ll be tackling each item on The List and reflecting about it here… publicly (gulp). I hope you enjoy and we can grow together. After all, turning older is a privilege denied to many.
By 30, you should know…
19. When to try harder and when to walk away.
Similar to last week’s task, this challenge made me think a lot about what it means to quit.
Often seen as a pejorative term, quitting is frowned upon — usually without taking into consideration our human and humble needs. It doesn’t have to mean you’ve given up, or you haven’t tried hard enough or some other iteration of being a whiny baby.
To be clear, it’s understandable why “winners never quit and quitters never win” was drilled into our heads as kids. The point is about learning resiliency, and how there will often be things in life you have to do — whether or not you want to.
I was on a cycle for years of starting the year strong with Girl Scouts. We’d come off an amazing summer trip; I’d be pumped for the year ahead; and then around the time we had to sell cookies or calendars, I wanted out. Girl Scouts was dorky, or I was frenemies with a troop member or camping was gross. My parents wouldn’t let me quit mid-year, though — I was to see myself through the end of the year and then I could choose to not sign up for the following year. And what would always happen at the end of each year? Another amazing summer trip, and we’d start the routine all over again.
What if my parents had let me quit any of those times I cried dramatically about hating it? I wouldn’t have completed thousands of hours of volunteer work; nor earned my Silver Award, my Gold Award (the highest honor in Girl Scouts) nor my college scholarship for scouting service. I wouldn’t have continued what have become some of my longest-lasting friendships. I wouldn’t have cried at the thought of my former camp suffering from a massive brush fire last weekend.
Instead, I would have learned it’s OK to give up when things get tough.
I went through similar lessons in my years of athletic competition. Whether it was a practice, scrimmage, game or tournament, I’d want to give up when I just wasn’t feeling it. But I’d learn at the end of each season how perseverance paid off and hard workers were often rewarded. Setting records, learning leadership, forging friendships — these are just a few of the perks of sticking a tough situation out. And earning those after you’ve been ready to give up is all that much sweeter.
Now, what’s equally important, is knowing when to walk away.
This is one I clearly haven’t mastered, as evidenced in last week’s essay. Comedienne Kathy Griffin writes this week’s response to The List, and she provides the classic example of leaving an unhealthy relationship.
The problem for many of us, though, is not seeing how unhealthy a relationship is until we’re out of it. Hindsight is often 20/20… so how do we bump it up into foresight?
Objectively, you can look at the data. See what patterns emerge from past relationships (or jobs, or friendships… you get the idea). Do you leave feeling used or bad about yourself or some other negative way? Is it really possible for the situation to change, or are you giving it your all without ever receiving anything back?
Griffin points out how stereotypically easy it is for men to move on from relationships. They leave without looking back. But women, often, are “more analytical and accommodating. We tend to hang in there and try harder.” That’s not necessarily wrong of us, but it can explain why we can feel like it’s our fault if/when things don’t work out.
The point this week, I think, is finding the balance and trusting your instinct. If you feel you should try harder, then set a timeline to check in with yourself again and see if things have improved. Don’t give up, per se, but reevaluate what’s worth your precious time, effort and energy. And if you feel it’s time to walk away — or all of your friends are saying so because they’re acknowledging what you won’t — then know that you will be OK and aren’t a failure for doing so.
At the end of the day, it isn’t selfish to prioritize your needs and learn these lessons. It’s self-care.