Last week, defying six centuries of tradition, Pope Benedict XVI resigned. The sudden announcement shocked and bewildered the world. For me, however, the Pope’s resignation was a moment of pride: now, my people, the Quitters, could count a pope as one of our own.
Quitting is a simple art, but one rarely practiced in our achievement-obsessed culture. The threshold inquiry is twofold:
1. Is _____ making you unhappy?
2. Have you ever considered not doing what makes you unhappy?
Try inserting all the little nuisances that clamor for your attention into the _______ : sub-citing for your journal, drinking, going to class … Then ask yourself if you would like to stop being unhappy. Would you like to get some more sleep? Maybe spend some time with your friends? Would you like to be happy?
If you answer affirmatively to both of those questions, then you might consider the issue at bar: What would happen if you stopped doing ______ ? Winners have a good answer to this:
1. You won’t get whatever you think ____ will do for you.
2. Everyone will hate you because you quit, because they were counting on you.
3. It’s too late to quit.
But before you feel resigned to a life of _____, give the Quitter reply a chance:
1. Being unhappy isn’t worth whatever _____ will get you. The Pope had a lot to keep Poping on for: he could have reformed the Church, advocated for human rights, maybe even earned his way into a higher Heaven bracket … And y’know what he said? Not. Worth. It. Whatever you think _____ will get you is probably not worth the unhappiness you are feeling right now.
2. Yes, a lot of people talked a lot of shit about the Pope because he quit. And y’know what the Pope said? Haters gonna hate. Forget them. And a lot of those people were counting on the Pope to do something about the child sex abuse scandals. But y’know what? That’s someone else’s problem now. You are actually completely replaceable. Whatever you did, someone else can do, and probably better than you. Nobody wants to work with your sad ass when there’s someone else out there dying to do whatever you hate doing.
3. It’s never too late (or too early) to give up. The Pope is 85 years old. My understanding of old people is that he had maybe two more years left in him. Tops. He could have just stuck it out. But he didn’t. Because the Pope knows nobody owns your time. Every minute of your life is your own. It doesn’t belong to the Church, it doesn’t belong to Harvard Law School, it doesn’t belong to your boss, it doesn’t belong to your girlfriend, it doesn’t belong to your journal … It’s yours. Own it.
For Winners, quitting is hard—harder than even trudging along, unhappily. It takes practice and effort to be a Quitter. Maybe it starts with a simple mantra: “I give myself permission to be happy.” And maybe one day it will grow and this oppressive Win culture will succumb to a happier Quit culture.
Antigone is a column written by an anonymous Harvard Law 3L.
The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Harvard Law Record.