Cowardly or Courageous?
Quitting. The very word makes me physically uncomfortable — in fact, I am nervous just thinking it, as if the contemplation alone could send me down a path of…quitting? …Needless to say, I do not identify well with the concept of “quitting” and have long equated it with “failure” and “not being good enough” (two of my biggest fears).
Recently however, I have been wrestling with the notion of courageous quitting. Is it possible that quitting something could be the brave, bold choice? Are there times where sticking with a thing that makes you unhappy becomes the cowardly choice — one you take to avoid that feeling of self-judgement, in fear of letting down yours (or others’) expectations?
Part of my identity has long been the “good student:” good grades (ideally, the best grades), hard working, self-motivated, timely… I left high school confident I could go to any university and any program. Some of that ego was shattered that first year (okay, a lot of it) but my grades were high for the remainder of my degree, and once again, I felt confident that when I was ready to apply, I could study with any (geography) professor I chose.
Well, here I am. 1 year into my Master of Science degree. My coursework is finished and I find myself staring down a long, long, unending road…my thesis.
I am going to confess something. My thesis does not excite me. Our professors have drilled into us that we need to love our projects…our degree requires we pour hours, months, even years into this research with little distraction. The very notion makes me…dizzy. Ill. Miserable?
I don’t think I want to pursue geography/hydrology anymore. I don’t intend to segue into my PhD in geography, nor does the idea of working in government, researching these topics appeal. Don’t get me wrong — there is still something thrilling about research and science…but some spark has gone out of this work for me. Perhaps if my thesis were different…yet I find myself unwilling to entertain the possibility of changing topics and starting from scratch, when my overarching feeling is that…I don’t really want this degree anymore.
Well, okay, I do want it — sort of. I want to have my Master, just to have it. I want it because I literally always expected I would get it (it was only the PhD that was up in the air). My parents both have, at minimum, a Master degree, as do both of my siblings (at minimum). I’m smart. I do well at school — isn’t this my calling? Maybe. Maybe not. Or maybe I am in the wrong field.
I also want it as a safety net — a wild card of sorts, that might open doors to opportunities yet unknown. I desperately want to find the ability to power through and earn this degree…except that would entail a year or more of me and this thesis, every…single…day.
And I find myself very unhappy. I find myself, for maybe the first time…unable to self-motivate. To set deadlines. To sit down and do the work.
I find myself…waiting. Waiting to be happy. Waiting to live my life. Last year I was waiting to move to Victoria, to go back to school, to regain weight and become healthy and womanly again…And now, I am waiting for my thesis to end (assuming I can bring myself to start). “Just one more year” until…I can do what I want? Until I finally feel fulfilled?
Honestly, I don’t think quitting my thesis will make that feeling magically go away. But perhaps it will free me from some unhappiness — push me to find what really does light me up. Nutrition and nutritional therapy? Yoga and yoga therapy? I won’t know until I try.
So, my question — is quitting my Master cowardly or courageous? Is it me giving up in the face of hardship, me starting a dangerous spiral of never seeing anything through? Or, is it the brave course of action: choosing uncertainty, insecurity for a chance at happiness. Risking discomfort, regret, self-criticism. Giving up my current income as a graduate student.
Currently, I have no idea. I do know that I am done passively making my way through each day. I know that I do need to make a choice. One way, or another.