I spent several months in college thinking about dropping out, but not actually doing so. My whole world took place on campus, my interests revolved around my major, and my plans were made in accordance with my class schedule. Being a college student became my identity.
When I finally pulled the trigger and dropped out, I left behind my identity as a student. I killed off that version of myself. It was painful and scary, yet if I hadn’t, I could not have become who I am now. In an article I read just after I dropped out, Ryan Holiday talks about how killing off old versions of yourself is what leaves room for the discovery and growth of who you’ll become next. But it can be hard to let go of a version of yourself, especially when we’ve been taught to hold on.
Growing up, we’re taught that quitting, dropping out or changing paths is bad. We’re told to pick a major, pick a career and then go spend several years preparing for it. When we were little and we were asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ we could have a different answer to the question each day. Yet at some point, we were expected to have just one answer, a practical answer that we had a plan for and would stick with for many years.
It’s no wonder that we often hear of the person who hates their job but won’t quit. We hear about the girl in law school who absolutely hates it. Yet for so long her entire identity has been, ‘I’m a lawyer’, and she cannot picture being anything else. We were told to pick an idea of who we will be and what we’ll do, and stick with it.
We’d be much happier if we quit pursuing the goals we no longer want to complete and if we killed off the versions of ourselves that we no longer want or need to be.