Words by Kathryn Monsewicz 

Have you ever wanted to give up on something? Be it the first time your toddler toes touched the water and you were scared to swim, or you’ve listened to your professor ramble on enough you don’t think the notes are worth it anymore. Maybe you gave up on your boyfriend of six months because things didn’t “click” anymore, or you consider that promotion at work to be way out of your league.

I’ve given up before. Whether it was ballet class, karate, baton twirling, playing the piano, playing the violin, trying to score higher than a B in geometry class; bottom line, it is human to want to give up when things get tough or when you don’t “feel” it anymore. That’s what I was told, at least.

“If you don’t feel it, don’t do it,” Brian says. Brian is a local musician who comes into the grocery store I work at every day to buy cheap cans of Honey Brown booze and occasionally some discount, $4.99 cigarettes. He’s 51 years old, has been playing music since age 16, writes the music and leads the guitar for his band and refuses to play anything other than his own pieces.

I’ve never before been told to give up, that it was okay if you didn’t think you were able to accomplish something because you could just give up. But there’s a second meaning to what Brian says. Sure, if something doesn’t settle right with your abilities, then giving up is an option. But giving up so you can foster the skills in what you’re truly good at is not quite giving up.

Rewind to my first week in microeconomics class: opportunity costs, when you give up one opportunity for another.

This opportunity cost to Brian, his playing only original work instead of practicing the pieces of the music masters before him, was his decision. He abandoned his music theory class in school, snatched up a recording contract, but seems to be stuck shoveling snow in the winter and buying cheap booze and stale cigarettes every day of the week.

He believes that if you don’t feel it in your gut, if you don’t love and cherish the work you are doing, then give up on it and make room for what you do love. Sure, he shovels snow or mows lawns as a season-specified job, but that is not his career. Music is his career as much as writing is mine. My job is customer service at a grocery store, but my career is built by the keyboard keys I’m tap-tap-tapping on right now.

Imagine for a minute the life you want for yourself. What future are you thinking about? Are you in love with your spouse, your family, your career? Do all these things make you feel happy? They should. And if they don’t, there’s a sign that maybe somewhere along the way you should have given up. You should have given up the idea for the ideal.

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