the benefits of quitting

When we were kids we delivered junk mail twice weekly; dad figured it would be an ideal way to foster in us those wholesome qualities parents want for their children; a healthy work ethic, a sense of responsibility and so on. Lured by the prospect of having a couple of bucks to spend at the school canteen, my siblings and I willing consented, however by the time the novelty had worn off, the pamphlet run had established itself as an integral part of our weekly routine. In no time, catalogue distribution had simply become something we did. No exceptions. In hindsight, I suppose distributing advertising material did teach us accountability, though more significantly, we quickly learned the fundamental rules of survival; how to dodge a well aimed rock, for instance. The strength that lies in numbers. To never take the precious hour of twilight for granted. Needless to say, being the neighbourhood catalogue kids was tough.

Unsurprisingly, to varying degrees we resented the pamphlets, and as the years progressed, my sisters and brother slowly resigned, trading rubber bands and ink stained finger tips for the bright lights and heady delights of the hospitality industry. But although I’d harped on with the best of them, enraged at having my weekends interrupted by an ever growing mountain of advertising material, I found it difficult to give the job away. So while I accepted a position at the local fast food restaurant, commenced a full time university degree and willingly agreed to a regular babysitting commitment, I was hesitant to throw in the pamphlets; I didn’t want to let anyone down. Besides, at some point over the years I’d acquired an unhealthy degree of satisfaction from the speed and precision through which I could fill a street of letterboxes with my quota of commercial garbage. After a decade’s service there was no obstacle that could break my stride. My efficiency was without equal. I pumped out that junk like nobody’s business.

Despite how much it irritated me, throughout my youth and into adulthood, I excelled at keeping busy. It’s not that I enjoyed the constant demands imposed by my numerous obligations. In fact, my tendency to continue with something despite my disinterest and discontentment was a source of constant inner turmoil. But my reluctance to disappoint and my belief that quitting was a brand of failure had me resigning my autonomy and accepting a fate for which I felt I had no control. Time and time again.

When I decided last year that I needed to walk away from my life and begin anew, I had reached breaking point. I was terribly unhappy. I felt betrayed by a society that encourages us to embrace uniformity and behave conservatively. I was terrified of challenging the status quo; I was afraid I would fail. After identifying these feelings, I saw only one solution; quit it all, so that I might finally experience the liberty of standing on a shaky limb and leaping off.

Unfortunately, rather than approaching the experience with the grace and poise implied by the afore mentioned imagery, the reality has seen me dangling shamefully from the spindly branch, willing my raw fingers to loosen their grip so that I might begin the bumpy descent. It’s been more than a little scary.

I’ve quickly come to realise that behaving unconventionally is hard. It’s also virtually synonymous with being utterly broke. In my old life I had a job which provided a reliable source of income, savings that offered constant security and the assurance that I could make the rent and pay the bills each fortnight. It’s true that I was often miserable, but no matter how bad things became, I knew I could always pep myself up with life’s little luxuries; eating out, frequenting the cinema, purchasing pretty things. Those days are officially over.

This week saw me sitting for a little over two hours at the local Centrelink office, where I successfully registered for a fortnightly allowance. While I waited, an inner dialogue ensued in which I attempted to persuade myself it’s all about perspective; a lack of personal income is all part of the adventure, a sort of levelling exercise. The sceptic in me was unconvinced. It’s true I’d come armed with a book to keep me occupied through what I’d predicted would be an arduous wait, but if I’m honest, was it really my way of informing the room that I was above all this? After all, I wasn’t your standard dole bludger; I was the intellectual variety.

The changes are certainly radical when you exchange your conventional lifestyle for a spendable income of around ten dollars a day. Once you’ve covered the weekly groceries, you’ve about thirty bucks with which to play. This week I spent the majority of that on a second hand arm chair and a little adaptor that lets you plug your modem into the old style telecom phone socket.

Yet in spite of my new found relative poverty, I’m strangely content. I may not have money, but I have a library card, a cupboard full of Mi Goreng noodles and the wondrous internet; I think I’m going to be okay. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that a simple life can be both cheap and very rich.

From the vantage point of my spindly branch, I’m grappling with a new truth. Perhaps bailing doesn’t have to be the indicator of failure that I’ve always believed. I’m beginning to sense that quitting may have its benefits; not all of which require a two hour stint in a Centrelink waiting room.



12 thoughts on “the benefits of quitting

  1. I’m so moved and inspired by your story, Michelle, and how beautifully you write it. Full of heart. Living life according to your own rules can be really challenging at times, and not having money is really tough, but I’m sure you’ll be successful as a writer. You have a really strong, clear voice. Thanks, I loved reading this post.

    • Thank you so much, Jennifer! Your words are kind and make me feel a little more hopeful. : ) I’m afraid and full of self doubt most of the time, but I figure the worst that can happen is failure; at which point, at least I’ll know I tried. Here’s to a life of no regrets! x

      • Welcome to the writer’s reality, Michelle. Many writers spend their entire careers uncertain and full of doubt. What makes a writer is the ability to feel this and write anyway, and often use it as the incentive to write. If you can do this, and it looks like you can, you’ve already overcome the first major hurdle.

  2. Hi Michelle I love this blog and whol-heartedly agree – crying a great balancer of emotions and the journey you’ve been on in recent weeks is probably the most important one you’ll take. Painful and difficult, but at the same time and strangely, there’s comfort in those too hard places where angels tread and demons never go. Good luck mate.

  3. I’m working my way through your blog, Michelle, and I’m nodding my head and agreeing with every decision you make, path you follow, and thing you say. Very inspiring, great writing, and you know what? I don’t find your choices scary at all. When that inner part of you screams out for change, then you’d be a fool not listen to it (those that ignore it, do so at their peril and live with regret). We have very similar outlooks on life and I’m looking forward to tracking your journey… as I hope you do with mine.

  4. “It’s becoming increasingly apparent that a simple life can be both cheap and very rich.” Just one of several dozen insights in this post. You are very brave and very insightful. So many of us struggle with the same urges and dicontent and never do a thing about it. You hit the nail on the head with your observation that it’s difficult to live an unconventional life. We all want to be relatable. It’s too bad that, these days, relatability has more to do with whether we both have the newest iPhone than whether we both like the same book. Good luck on your defiant journey. I’ll be following along!

    • Rian, I’m so pleased you came to visit. : ) You’re right; today’s society seems to place a disproportionate value on stuffs that can neither make us happy, nor help us to foster meaningful connections with one another.

      Let’s hope we can somehow reach some insight regarding this muddled up life we’ve been gifted. x

  5. I have to admit I clicked on the link to this blog from the Truth and Cake blog and have to say I’m very thankful I did. So many of us seem to be embarking on similar journeys, yet just as unique as we are, so are the paths we trod. I have a saying “difference is not indicative of change, change is the snowflake patterned expression of ones soul through self”. I too “quit my life” I suppose you could say, in addition to battling the “proper job and paycheck” I’m also battling the “picture perfect” ideology of what a family should look like and be. I’m divorced and have a little girl and have starting writing a story that wouldn’t let me go (wouldn’t quit me) by night and work in pharmacy informatics by day. I’ll be following your journey as well 🙂 Here’s a link to my blog if you’re interested 🙂

    • Life becomes so much more complicated when we do things that go against social ‘norms’. Good luck juggling your hopes and responsibilities; your little girl is lucky to have someone to show her how to pursue her dreams, no matter what that may involve. x

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