On Tuesday, Eric and I paid $60 for a repairman to come out and plug in our garbage disposal. When it wouldn’t work, we thought perhaps it wasn’t plugged in, but upon further investigation, all cords seemed to be in place. Turns out, when we had our cabinets painted, they taped up the cord and then it was painted over, effectively camouflaging it. There was really no way to know that without knowing exactly what we were looking for, but still, wasting $60 on it hurt. And we felt stupid for not knowing more about garbage disposals.
Later in the evening, I was talking to my friend Dallas about not being good at certain things and trying to decide how long you attempt to do them anyway and improve your skills, and when you just give up and pay someone else to do it. Having a house has meant I’ve been making this decision a lot more often lately, but really, I’ve found myself thinking about this a lot over the past 18 months or so.
On the one hand, I feel like I owe it to myself to learn to do basic things. Every adult should know how to, say, iron her shirts, right? It doesn’t seem like it’s that hard and knowing how to iron your shirts can save you time and money in the long run. On the other hand, I’ve tried and tried to iron my shirts, and while they are technically less wrinkled than when I started, they always look like crap, no matter how much time I spend on it. At this point, it seems like dropping them off at the cleaners is faster and cheaper. Yes, when I read about people DIYing things around their home, from repairs to improvements, I’m really inspired to do the same. But when I look at the crappy job I did trimming our kitchen (despite actually having a lot of experience painting), I’m like, Why did I insist on doing this myself?
Then yesterday, I got some negative feedback on the new blogging project I launched last week, and last night, I wondered if maybe what I was doing with that project was the Internet equivalent of trying to have a baby to save a failing relationship. Maybe it really was the worst idea ever and to think that it would solve my frustrations with blogging was just unrealistic. Why didn’t I take a cue from Netflix when they split into two? Or maybe it was a cool idea and I just needed to give it more time and work harder. I didn’t know the answer, and likely won’t for some time, but the good news is, it doesn’t matter — it’s easy enough to just password-protect it. I wish I had more confidence in what I was doing, or more confidence that it was truly horrible, but with this project, I just don’t know yet. I thought I did, but I don’t. I’m going to continue to work on building it because that makes me happy, but I’m not going to do it publicly for the foreseeable future, because that makes a lot of people (and me, by extension) unhappy. So I’ve quit making it public. I can’t remember the last time I quit something so quickly. When it comes to quitting I tend to have this mindset of…don’t. And that brings me back to the home improvements.
Eric and I have this joke about Lowe’s, where we now go at least once every weekend; their slogan is “Never stop improving.” He imagines a drill sergeant shouting at us as we paint; I imagine a dominatrix. “Never stop improving!” she’d shout, and then crack her whip. It sounds terrible, but it’s an oddly effective marketing strategy, because our culture likes improving and hates quitting.
I try not to feel guilty about my choices and own everything I do, but quitting is definitely hard for me. When I quit something, my instinct is to prepare a million arguments rather than just preparing to shut it down with “Sorry I’m not sorry.” It’s hard to convince people that you had the right to quit, or that you really had exhausted all your options. It seems like everyone’s knee-jerk reaction is to just tell you that one thing you had never considered that would have totally fixed the problem. A few weeks ago, my friend Meghann got ripped apart for saying she had given up trying to make coffee because she failed every time. And that’s just coffee. With creatives, the immediate reaction is to remind you that quitting squashes innovation and “Where would we be if [daVinci, Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga] just quit?” And, you know, they have a point. But the creatives we love for their willingness to push through when they were told no also probably discovered at some point that sometimes it’s best to keep things close to the heart, and the people you trust (who are also not your mom or spouse), for a long time before you go and tell the world, “LOOK AT THIS THING I JUST CREATED!”
Whether it’s coffee, or art, I just struggle with the fact that when we’re not good at something, people feel the need to tell us to change ourselves rather than reminding us that we can just move on. We call it support and encouragement, but it feels rather sadistic. It seems like all it does is encourage more people to stick with their own shitty situations that are making them feel bad or that are just ineffective. Lately, I’ve found that I have less and less interest in punishing myself by doing everything I can to stick things out. I’m starting to realize that not everything that is hard should be looked at as a challenge, or a reason to buy more self-help books and devote more time to the cause. Maybe it’s a reason to just stop doing that thing, move on with your life, and not be sorry.