I’m a quitter. In my first year of my first graduate school in 1959, I didn’t like it and I wanted to quit. It did not seem like a good fit and although I was succeeding academically, I was not happy in pursuing those studies. So, I decided about mid way through that first year to take a test to see if I could learn to fly with the U.S. Navy. I made an appointment and traveled about 45 miles from Princeton to Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey.
The test was a long day of examinations, written tests and physical exams. The results came back a few days later and I had passed. I was told that I could report to Pensacola, Florida, to begin flight training in January. As I considered this option several thoughts came to mind. I had already started something and I usually finished what I started so I thought of a compromise.
What if I finished at least the first year and delayed my start of flight training for six months? Would the Navy consider that? Yes, they said they would. Would the graduate school hold a place if I washed out of training? Yes, they said they would, so at least I had a back up if I needed or wanted it.
Between December and June, three incidents changed my mind about flying. Two close friends of mine in college were both killed in separate accidents flying for the Navy. One was killed in training in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the other flying off an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. A third pilot, older brother of a high school friend was killed flying for the Marines. I will spare you the details. Suffice to say, the impact was sufficient for me not to pursue the Navy offer further. I had seen the devastation of the families up close and believed that the risk/reward ratio, and the statistics, were not in my favor. It wasn’t fear as much as it was seeing the aftermath. I actually quit before I began.
I returned to graduate school, finished another two years, got a master’s degree and gave my best efforts to practicing a profession about which I had continuing questions, doubts and concerns. Seven years later, I quit that profession and went back to another graduate school to get another master’s degree, a doctorate and continued working for another 43 years, a total of 50 years of full time work, enough to “quit” once again just five years ago.
Although I had been schooled in my early years by the adults in my life that quitting was negative and undesirable, I learned later that quitting could be a good thing. In fact, I quit and left more than one job for one reason or another and, as I look back, quitting was the right thing to do in almost every instance. Would I do anything different if I had to do it over? Maybe. I might have quit sooner although the timing in most cases seems to have worked out just fine. In other words, quit before you have to quit. It wasn’t so much about quitting as it was about a change, welcomed and embraced. When you quit one thing it’s an opportunity to begin something else or even something similar in a different place with a different cast of characters. This is true whether in work, life, health or relationships.
This journey of living and working has been rich with change, with growth and with evolving into someone who is both the same and different. It has been and continues to be a marvelous experience for which I am most grateful. I continue to explore the opportunities and adventures that I can explore and look forward to even more. Close one door, open another.