On Showing Up (and Knowing When to Quit)

I’ve been thinking a lot about showing up lately; about being present in my life, living according to my values, and playing to my own strengths. In particular, I’ve been examining the ins and outs of my day-to-day, thinking carefully about what is working about my routine and what isn’t. What feels right and what feels wrong. 

Until about a month and a half ago I was enrolled in the CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant) PREP program (or “preparatory courses” as they are now called). My plan was to squeeze these super-condensed courses in one at a time around the edges of my full-time work schedule, eventually leading me to prestige as a CPA some five or six years down the road.

Except I wasn’t in it to be an accountant. I thought the program would be a great way to gain knowledge and skills to apply to my work in the world of nonprofit community organizations. And, to be honest, I think part of me just wanted to show off those three little letters behind my name. What I didn’t realize was just how intense the program would be and how negatively it would impact my ability to perform in those aspects of my life that I hold dear (volunteer work) or that are necessary to keep me level-headed and effectively manage the depression and anxiety that I’ve lived with since I was a kid (self care). 

After struggling to fit in approximately 20-25 hours of study each week on top of 40 hours at work, I began to question my motivations and ability to live this way for the next five years. I sat down and had a conversation with myself, asking a few difficult questions. Was this path in line with my values? Was the damage to my mental and physical health worth the outcome? Was this really all that important to me? Could I still have an impact and a meaningful career without this education?

What I decided, eventually, was that becoming a CPA just wasn’t important enough to me to continue, but that trading that time for something else - investing myself more deeply in volunteer and community work, doubling down on self care, and really sinking into my life - is what feels right and in line with my values right now. In the short time since deciding to drop the program I have stepped into a more executive role on WFC's board of directors; started reading and learning more about poverty in Winnipeg's inner city; spent real, quality time with friends and family; and, this past weekend, made the journey out to Steinbach, MB to take part in the first Steinbach Pride March. 

Ready to march in Steinbach.

Ready to march in Steinbach.

The change in my mood now from a short time ago is something else. I’m sleeping better, eating more healthfully, getting more exercise, and spending more time connecting with the people and the world around me. I’m working on not being afraid that “just” having a bachelor’s degree and boat loads of relevant skills and experience won’t be enough to keep me employed in my field of choice. And while I’m not done with professional development just yet, I’m now looking forward to attending seminars, reading books, and learning more about things that truly interest me.

Have you ever quit something that just wasn't working for you? What happened?