Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The anatomy of quitting

Have you ever given much thought to quitting? I'm sounding a bit like a broken record, I know, but deciding to quit my PhD is kinda a big deal for me.

Jess, over at Sweet Amandine, suggested that I check out an old This American Life from 1995 that tells different stories about quitting. And I'm so glad that I did. The prologue introduces us to Evan Harris, a woman who takes quitting very seriously--so seriously, in fact, that she published a book about it (and would have probably written a great blog, if blogs existed in 1995. Did blogs exist then? I don't think I knew what email was in 1995).

Harris breaks down the anatomy of a quit so well. First you think about quitting (say for two years), followed by more thinking (another two years). Then you quit (done and done. Well, sort of. Have I mentioned that I haven't yet told my supervisor?), and then you finish off with the post-quit stuff. Right now, for instance, I am enjoying what she calls a quitting euphoria. At times I also find myself stuck in a bit of a "quitting ennui", where I begin to question my decision to quit and review each decision leading up to Quit Day. But mostly I'm riding the euphoria, and enjoying it immensely: I have a bounce in my step, a smile on my face, and I've even grown fonder of the cats.

In her TAL interview Harris suggests that "quitting is about being willful." I love thinking about quitting this way. Quitting doesn't have to be wrapped up in shame over past actions, but can be infused with movement forward. Since this is all about me, let me rephrase: I'm realizing that I don't have to keep talking about why I'm leaving my graduate program. I can instead talk about what I can do next. Because I want to.

Can you hear my shoulders working their way down from my ears?

If you are interested, Harris describes some of the quitting thoughts here.


  1. I'm glad that you liked the episode. And really happy that you're feeling so great, despite the occasional "quitting ennui."

  2. Thanks again, Jess, for the great suggestion. I expect the quitting ennui will happen for awhile. I was a grad student on the academic track for so long that I think it will take a long time to step out of that world.