Last week I started a novel that was one of the Globe and Mail’s books of the year. I have the utmost respect for the Globe book reviewers. If they tell me it was a book worth reading, and it sounds compelling, I read it. Often I agree with those reviewers.
This highly recommended book wasn’t a bad book, it was readable, but I was plodding through it. Then it hit me that I wasn’t enjoying it. The main character was a despicable guy from the outset, and he didn’t get any better. I didn’t want to know more about him; I just wanted him to go away. So I stopped reading. Not only that, I didn’t even skim the remainder of book to find out what happened because I didn’t care. Yes, I quit the book outright.
While I was plodding through this book, my overzealous conscience was haunting me, “You started the book. You’re half way through. You must finish it.” That same conscience prompted me to attend every single one of my lectures in university (does anyone do that?); it ensured I was over prepared for any exam I wrote (with mixed results); and it prompted me to obsess for days over any essay or report.
I can recall attending psychology conferences that bored me silly yet staying right to the end. Why, Annie, why? I’ve never left a yoga class I really didn’t like since I wouldn’t want to hurt the teacher’s feelings. My internalized Big Brother is watching me all the time.
Ditching last week’s novel may seem like small potatoes, but it was huge for me. It’s taken me years to learn I can let go of things I don’t enjoy. Why persist in activities that don’t bring me any pleasure or satisfaction? What’s the point? Wouldn’t my time be better spent engaged in something more rewarding?
I realize we can’t do only the fun stuff all the time. Even beach bums need money to buy food. If we want to graduate, we all have to endure the dreaded required courses we’d never choose to take. Sadly, there’s drudge work even in jobs we love. We need to fulfill those obligations because that’s life. Rather, I’m referring to those activities we take on by choice.
Now that I’ve tried quitting, I’d highly recommend it. Just like some workplaces are toxic and some marriages are abusive, some books are not to my taste. Why not redirect my energy to something I’d enjoy more? Consider Oliver Sacks’s wisdom as he neared death, “There is no time for anything inessential.” Even you cancer-free folks might want to consider this notion.
So bail on that continuing education course you thought you might enjoy but is actually boring you to death. Take a nice walk or enjoy lunch with a friend instead. Trust me, the teacher won’t miss your incessant yawning from the back row.
The following day I started another book, and it was so engaging, I couldn’t put it down. Maybe it wasn’t deemed worthy of the Globe’s annual list, but I’d highly recommend it, if that counts for anything.