Calling Bullshit On The Idea That Winners Don’t Quit
The Debrief: Yep, we're obviously talking about Zayn
Good for Zayn! I might regret putting these words on the internet when I’m stocking up on canned goods for my Directioner-proof underground bunker, but RUDDY WELL GOOD FOR ZAYN.
Contrary to popular propaganda, quitting isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, quitting jobs can be brilliant. Except for the first bit, when you often feel scared, lost and as though you might vom on the HR lady’s shoes. And the bit where you need to find a new job, or explain to your parents why you have five different luxury subscription boxes and ￡0.67 in your ISA. But apart from that – totally brilliant. In fact I’d say quitting jobs is one of my favourite things to do, just beneath ‘getting jobs’ and, currently, eating hazelnut butter off a spoon in the bath.
Not that I’m saying that Zayn leaving the world’s biggest pop act is *exactly* the same as when I left my job in a digital content agency last year – at least, we’ll pretend I’m not – but you don’t need to be worth ￡14 million and have the world hanging on your every haircut to understand the tremendous rush of saying, ‘Fuck this, I’m off’ to a situation that’s making you unhappy.
Of course, the secret to both the quitting and the hazelnut butter is doing it sparingly – too much and they lose their power, leaving you either a) skint and with a really gappy CV or b) covered in a light oily sheen and smelling like the heir to the Nutella empire. And of course, the luxury of being able to quit is a tremendous privilege; not everyone has a ￡3 million super mansion, or a parental spare room to move back into as a last resort. But in the right situation, and in the right frame of mind, a good spot of quitting can be the best thing you’ve ever done.
Even after the first giddy joy has faded, even if what follows is a hard, soul-numbing job search, the chances are that quitting will still become the first step on a much better path. Web developer Jon, 27, knows that the high comes with lows, too.
He says: ‘I’ve quit jobs and not known what I was going to do next. All it takes are a few days for the panic of how you’re going to pay the bills to really take hold, but those first few days were pure bliss. I felt so free. And even once the panic sets in, I’ve never regretted a decision to quit.’
Having struggled with stress and the pressures of fame on such a huge public stage, taking the decision to walk away was probably the best move Zayn could have made – both for himself, and as a role model for millions of young fans. Even those of us old enough to have been hardened by Robbie, Geri and the other pop departures of yore could still take a few tips from the 22-year-old megastar.
Mental health experts have applauded him for talking so openly about the reasons behind his decision, especially powerful given we still live in an age where most of us would rather pretend to have the shits for a solid fortnight than admit to our boss that we’re suffering with anxiety, depression or other cognitive ailments.
‘All along I’ve wondered how long One Direction would all last, put under such pressure and scrutiny,’ says therapist Nancy Siragusa. ‘We should remind ourselves that even people who “have it all” can struggle inside, and it’s OK for us to too. Good on Zayn for admitting he’s struggling right now and isn’t where he wants to be.’
Then there’s Sam Taylor-Johnson, who, in a less shocking move, has packed away her wipe-clean spank paddle and quit the 50 Shades franchise after only one film. We don’t know much about her decision, but we do know there was conflict between the director and the book’s author EL James. We also know that despite the budget, the hype and Jamie Dornan, it was a colossally damp squelch of a movie – and possibly an irresponsible one too. To turn down a fat cheque and keep hold of her artistic merit might have been hard, but it isn’t a decision you can imagine Sam ever regretting in years to come.
‘I'm a big advocate of quitting,’ says Rebecca, 24. ‘I think if you know something is wrong for you and it’s not making you happy, to stick it out just for the sake of not quitting, or having pride, is ridiculous.’ She left her first graduate job in PR after six months to become a journalist.
‘It was a big salary, a lovely team, had brilliant benefits – so it was really scary to jack it in with nothing to go on to afterwards. But eventually it worked out. If I’d stuck it out, I’d literally still be nine months away from promotion, whereas now I’m writing full time and am much, much happier.’
We’ve known more or less since the first caveman made his first million on the rock market that money doesn’t equal happiness – and nor does ‘success’, in the limited terms of fame, power and people bringing you posh mineral water every 20 minutes. We know all that, and yet here we are, still struggling to find the courage to do stuff that makes us happy and say balls to all the rest.
The joy of quitting doesn’t need to mean throwing the whole towel in, either. We could take a few tips from Zayn and Sam in smaller ways – just learning to care a bit less about jobs we don’t really love, saying no to colleagues who take advantage of us, and enjoying a full lunch hour with our head held high rather than shovelling in a sad salad over our keyboard could all be a massive boost to our mental wellbeing. Being the office hero who goes the extra mile can be lovely and everything, but not when it’s through gritted teeth and everyone else has gone to the pub.
We can embrace the joy of quitting in our personal lives and relationships. Nobody likes a flaky friend, obviously, but frankly, sometimes nothing feels better than hitting ‘send’ on a bailing-out text and pulling the duvet back over our heads. Life is short, and seizing the day shouldn’t have to mean filling it up with a load of extraneous stress.
So let’s all tip our hats to life’s big quitters, shall we, and spend a bit more time checking that we’re actually happy?
‘Soz, can’t make it tonight! Zayn has inspired me to relax and enjoy some time out of the spotlight, so I’m going to stay in and eat some hazelnut butter in the bath. I know I’ve let you down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart.’
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