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Happiness Is A Skill - Issue #27 - Don't quit because it's hard. Quit because it's stupid.

For this week's issue of Happiness Is A Skill, I'm sharing an old article I wrote while traveling aro
Happiness Is A Skill - Issue #27 - Don't quit because it's hard. Quit because it's stupid.
By Brooke Siem  • Issue #27 • View online
For this week’s issue of Happiness Is A Skill, I’m sharing an old article I wrote while traveling around the world in 2016/2017. My writing style has matured a lot since then, but the sentiment remains the same: somewhere along the path, we forgot that we have the power to quit the people, places, and things that are no longer good for us.

I blame Lance Armstrong and Instagram for ruining the power of quitting. As Lance was busy juicing his quads while also spouting platitudes like “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever,” some marketing intern who just learned Photoshop took that quote, overlaid it over a misty forest scape, and then released it into the internet like an injured bird out for its first flight.
And then a big cat came along and ate that damn bird because that thing was in a weakened state and Instagram is full of lies. But nobody saw themselves in that sad little bird, because they were too busy trying to force themselves to stick with something that actually needs to end. If Lance was really looking out for us, he would have said “Don’t quit because it’s hard. Quit because it’s stupid.” But Lance was otherwise occupied. So here I am, doing all of his leg work (without steroids, so it’s much harder) and wondering what it is about this quitting thing that makes people give themselves permission to be miserable. And because that marketing intern has now been stuck in her job for five years even though she really just wants to go make cheese on a farm in Wisconsin, she’s too cranky and hungover to make me my inspirational graphic, so now I have to do that too.
Listen to the little voice
You know when you’re on a road trip to Bosnia and all of a sudden you’re like, Holy crap, I’m in Bosnia? Did that not happen to you a few days ago? Because it happened to me. I got up in the morning and decided to take a road trip to Bosnia, as you do when you wake up in Croatia. You see, I’m currently traveling around the world. I quit my entire life back in August in order to travel and work remotely. Randomly going to Bosnia or Bali for the weekend has become a typical thing. I am very, very lucky. I know that. I know that few people get to do what I’m doing and that even fewer have the luxury to do it while exploring fantastical life projects like writing books and cooking with grandmothers from around the world.
It wasn’t always like this and it won’t always be like this. I’m living on limited finances and borrowed time after spending nearly a decade trying to make real-life work in New York City. The trajectory of quitting, though, lead me to this place. A place where I get to wake up in the morning and go to Bosnia, or perhaps, sip a cappuccino on the banks of the Mekong River in Cambodia. How did I get here? I quit. Frequently.
I went to culinary school and waited tables at an Italian restaurant until I quit because the owner told me I couldn’t look certain customers in the eye…because they were part of the mafia. So, I got a job as a coat check girl in a high end restaurant and then begged the chef for a pay cut and a job in the kitchen. I worked there until I quit because I got tired of getting yelled at over things I couldn’t control, like being short and not being able to reach a box full of apples. I took a better line cook job but quickly quit after a chronic injury flared up. I quit a food distribution desk job in Manhattan because I was physically bored, and then I quit a wine-making job on Long Island because I was mentally bored.
After months of unemployment, I co-founded Prohibition Bakery, NYC’s first and only alcoholic cupcake company. We opened a store on the Lower East Side in 2012 and published a cookbook in 2015 (buy my book! It’s awesome and you look like you need to get drunk on cupcakes right now.) Selling boozy cupcakes in Manhattan is not the way to mass riches and we poured any profit back into the business. The day to day stress and personal financial burden steadily chipped away at my physical health and already precarious mental health. I took a few freelance jobs in the fitness industry to stop the fiscal bleeding, which helped alleviate some of the stress, but happiness wasn’t even on my radar. I was just trying to get through every day.
It wasn’t until the opportunity to travel dropped into my lap that I finally looked around and realized that what I was doing to myself was just stupid. I wasn’t gaining anything from being sick all the time or from taking a cocktail of medications designed to get me through the life I chose to live. I had to make a change, and it had to be drastic. So, I left.
This series of disjointed career pivots makes for a terrible resume. It also pisses off people with kids. Right now someone is out there fuming, starting to write some sort of comment that basically says, “You obviously don’t know what it’s like to have KIDS and a MORTGAGE and ACTUAL RESPONSIBILITY. What a bunch of privileged, millennial, bullshit.” You are correct, good sir or ma’am! I don’t know what it’s like to have kids or a mortgage, which also means I don’t have any of that unconditional love thing. Or a home. So how about you take your unconditional love and shelter, and I’ll take my theories on quitting for the sake of sanity and personal development. We both win. Never quit being you.
What do I know is that I got myself in a position where taking an impromptu road trip to Bosnia is totally normal because eventually I finally listened to that little voice inside of me said this job/this relationship/this city/this business is no longer working for you. It didn’t matter if the job was perfect on paper. It didn’t matter if the relationship had a long history. It didn’t matter if I’d grown roots in a place. It didn’t even matter if it was my own business. All of these things had to end in order for me to get here, right now, writing as I gaze over the Adriatic Sea.
In Bosnia, December 2016
In Bosnia, December 2016
You know if it’s stupid
I’m not telling you to go barging into your boss’s office just because you’re kind of irritated with life today and scream, “You sir, are an idiot! Therefore, I quit! Also, we’re no longer sleeping together. And I’m moving to Wisconsin tomorrow to go make gouda.” This is still your life, so you know, make it easy on yourself and think about it a little bit. Just don’t get stuck in the thinking. There’s a difference between quitting something because it’s hard (or because you’re frustrated or lazy) and quitting something because it’s become so stupid that you come home every day, for months (or years) and wonder where it all went wrong.
And you know if it’s stupid. You probably know right now.
  • It’s stupid when it’s no longer serving you, when it’s more detrimental to show up to the job, relationship, or business than it is to push through.
  • It’s stupid when the best-case scenario is something you don’t have the energy to fight for.
  • It’s stupid when you hope to get hit by a car on the way to work every day just because that would mean you don’t have to go in.
And then when you do actually get hit by a car two blocks away from work, and your first thought is not “thank God I’m alive” but is instead “if they take me to the hospital it means I definitely don’t have to go in,” that’s probably a sign that things are pretty stupid and that maybe you should make a change. But you’ll probably still wait to make a change for months or even years after you get hit by a car (like I did), because for a while, it’s easy to confuse stupid and not worth it and really, really hard, but worth it.
All of those quotes, those Instagram clichés like, “When you feel like quitting, think about why you started,” and Winners never quit. Quitters never win” are cloaked in an undertone that tells us there is glory in suffering. We’re told to push through, even when it’s detrimental. We’re told to finish what we start, no matter what the cost. We’re told to ignore our intuition and instead, focus on the logic of the situation. Our world likes to reward tangible things that have a definitive beginning and an end, which makes zero sense because we’re three-dimensional human people and not a basketball game or the Tour de France. Things change. We change. The end of one decision is the beginning of another. You already know if it’s just hard or if it’s just stupid. And you’ve seen your future in that dead beach bird. So go on, and make your cheese. The world needs more gouda.

Not sure if you can muster up the courage to quit? Let the Fuckit Bucket™ give you a boost. Originally created because I wanted a tiny little bucket charm to remind me to lighten up, the Fuckit Bucket™ exists to to help us through all of life’s tomfoolery. Because sometimes you have to chuck it in the fuck it bucket and move on!
To Have Freedom In Your Life, Stop Avoiding This One Thing | by Benjamin Hardy, PhD | Thrive Global | Medium
On Self-Respect: Joan Didion’s 1961 Essay from the Pages of Vogue | Vogue
Happy Animal of the Week
So fluffy!
So fluffy!
Did you enjoy this issue?
Brooke Siem

After 15 years of depression and antidepressants, my mission is to help people find hope in the name of healing. HAPPINESS IS A SKILL a newsletter for people who are ready to dig deep and do the self-work required to create a beautiful life. You can learn more about my story at www.brookesiem.com.

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