Time to give up

WEDNESDAY, 22 FEBRUARY 2012

One of the few popular sayings I hold as a universal truth is that one should never give up. I’ve believed in this for many years, and I recite it to myself on such a regular basis that it could almost qualify as religious incantation. Everyone I respect who has anything to say about life confirms this: You do not give up. You should never, ever give up. If you give up, it’s over. You put posters on your walls that remind you of this. You buy T-shirts with wording that confirms this. You forward links to videos with this message, and you share stories on Facebook so that friends and family don’t ever forget. If necessary, you write it with a black marker on the soles of your sneakers: “Never give up.”

The giving up to which these sayings refer is the fatal type, the existential type. It refers to a decision to stop taking action; you’re done with everything, done with trying.

Yet, despite the vital conviction you keep so close to your heart, occasionally you do come to a point where you don’t have much of a choice. Difference, though, what you give up on is not life, and it doesn’t mean you will never try again.

Sometimes you have to give up on things that do not work anymore, or things that have never really worked. Sometimes people give up on a relationship, or a marriage. Sometimes, after trying for years to hang on at a company because heaven knows you needed the money, you give up. You quit. You wipe your hands of something you gave your best to make work.

And sometimes you let go of the steering wheel of projects you have driven over a thousand rocky roads. You let go of the wheel, you unbuckle your seatbelt, and you jump out of the car before it comes to a crashing halt at the base of a wall, or before it shoots off the edge of a cliff.

Because sometimes you have to give up to survive.

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