Time to give up

WEDNESDAY, 22 FEBRUARY 2012

One of the few sayings I hold as dear as a universal truth is that one should never give up. I have 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 has always confirmed 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 or baseball caps with wording that confirms this. You forward links to videos depicting this message. You share viral 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 running shoes: “Never give up.”

The giving up to which these sayings refer, is the fatal type, the existential type. It refers to a decision not to take action anymore; you’re done with everything, done with trying. If you’re serious about this kind of giving up, you should, in fact, sit down within a few minutes, or better yet, lie down. And you should sit or lie down for as long as it would take to physically expire. You will not take in any fluids; you will not take in any food. And when nature calls, you should do it right there, on the spot. Because what does it matter? You’d have given up.

Yet, despite the vital conviction you keeps so close to heart, you occasionally come to a point where you have to give up.

There is difference, though, between this giving up and the type usually referred to on bumper stickers: 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 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 of the edge of a steep cliff.

Because sometimes one has to give up in order to survive.

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