I spent the earlier chapters of my life embarking on ventures with starry eyes and high expectations, only to eventually quit when it was no longer easy – opting to give up, throw in the towel and, with hands in the hair, walk away in angst. It never got me anywhere worthwhile, though. There was never any reward.
Not long ago, I attended a friend’s bachelorette party in the mountains. The weeks prior were spent in a state of excitement over my friend’s upcoming nuptials to a man who has already proven to play a lead role in the best stories of her life. But I did not anticipate that the 225-mile journey from my home to the cabin would be so frustratingly eventful – to put it delicately.
After venturing through multiple delays – with culprits ranging from the reconstruction of a bridge to the typical tourist-induced congestion, I began my pilgrimage through the mountains.
The roads were narrow and winding – mostly steep and offering the occasional unexpected dip. But that wasn’t the most hair-yanking part. I got lost on such narrow and winding mountain roads – twice – when my phone’s connection to the satellite was disrupted. My nerves were rattled, my equilibrium was thrown off and I felt as though I was lost inside of a maze.
At the height of my frustration, I pulled off into a scenic overlook and allowed myself a moment to cry and unleash my angst. I even considered getting out of my car and – Hollywood-style – slamming the driver’s side door before giving my tires a kick or two. I kind of wanted to quit and I definitely wanted to give up.
Instead, I took a deep breath, repositioned myself in the driver’s seat, returned the key to the ignition and – once again – placed my foot onto the gas pedal. I decided to continue.
When I rounded the final corner and realized I had arrived at last – after a solid hour of huffing, puffing and sweaty palms angrily smacking against my steering wheel – I was met with a view that silenced the chaotic crowd of voices in my head. Beauty punched me in the face and hushed my foot-stomping toddlers of negativity.
So was it worth it?
I poured myself a glass of chilled wine and positioned myself onto the deck – awed by what laid out before me. I marveled at the greenery against the backdrop of the mountains. I tuned in to the sounds of nature. The contrast of breathing in the healing mountain air after having been confined inside of my stuffy car for far too long brought with it great pleasure. And I then proceeded to have a fantastic weekend creating hilarious memories with friends I love.
Every time You Quit, You Surrender Your Future Reward
I have since considered how the entire excursion served as a metaphor for everything in my life which has ever been worth having. There have always been trying moments on the winding road to anything genuinely fulfilling. Nothing worth having comes easily and – truly – I wouldn’t want it to.
We would never know the exalting heights of beauty, love, pleasure or triumph if we never encountered their shadowed opposites. They wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying.
I continue to affirm this truth with the unfolding of my career.
Some weeks, everything seems to go according to my most skyrocketing aspirations. I feel as though I’m finally reaching my dreamy mountaintop destination. I land new celebrities to interview, I am granted features in media sources I once only fantasized about publishing me,I receive applauding emails from strangers and compliments from editors I greatly admire.
Other weeks, I feel irrelevant. I worry that I’m on the brink of falling off of the side of the mountain I’ve worked so hard to climb. I feel like a fragile little flower blowing in the windstorm of my own high expectations and perfectionism – nearly losing all of my petals. On the most trying days, I feel like a squirrel trying to avoid falling prey to a family of ravenous bears. And – even worse – sometimes I feel disregarded by them, as though I’m too small and unworthy of being dined upon.
The truth is: Some days the road to greatness offers jaw-dropping and victorious heights, and some days are spent hanging out in the dirt-kicking detours; choking on the dust. It has been said: “For every level, there is another devil.”
Each dimension of your journey will contain its own challenges and vagaries to push through. But are they worth it?
That’s part of the magic of it. White appears at its whitest against the blackness. A candle’s flame burns brighter against the backdrop of the night. The warmth of the sun is most pleasurable when it cuts through the cold of winter. So I don’t want everything in my life to come easily because, then, how would we know the glory? We must welcome even the arduous moments.
Don’t Quit. If It Comes to You Effortlessly, It Won’t Be Fulfilling.
I have no desire to ever win the lottery. I don’t want some heavenly being to wave a magic wand over my life and grant me with effortless opportunities; I want to earn them so that I fully grasp the value of them.
I want to toss and turn every now and then so that I more fully appreciate the nights when sleep comes effortlessly. I want my stomach to growl in hunger so that I can experience the satisfaction of refilling it again. I want my muscles to shake with exhaustion as I work to refine them.
Think about it: If you’d never experienced hunger you wouldn’t know what it means to be satiated. And, if you never stood – with awe and longing – at the bottom of the mountain, you could not fully appreciate the view from the top of it.
In regard to the fulfillment of your heart’s desires, you will sometimes move through altitudes and terrains which cause you to feel lost and out of balance. Sometimes you may lose your satellite signal. Sometimes you may even make a wrong turn. But – in the grand scheme of life – it is your choice whether or not you return to your intended course.
The desires of your heart are only vulnerable to being devoured by one thing: your own decision to give up. Once you know there is equal option to return your key to the ignition, to reposition your foot onto the gas pedal, to continue progressing up your mountain and to move in faith through every dip and sharp turn, there is no longer any reason to give up on the things unequivocally worth having.
So don’t quit. Because all of the annoying detours and wrong turns are precisely why the things you want will one day matter most to you.
There is only but one worthwhile option: You must continue.