Quitting is Always an Option, Just Wait a Year First – West Point Life Lesson #7
“I know what you want me to say, Erick.” My mother’s words were slow and steady over the phone, “I’m not going to say it.” My heart sunk and despair percolated through my body like a heavy spring rain. I closed my bloodshot eyes and tried to understand my mom’s motives. I was her son, and I was hurting. She of all people should empathize with me and allow me to come home!
I had been at the United States Military Academy at West Point less than three weeks and I was ready to give it all up and head back to the comforts of my home in Indiana. I had already dreamed of other alternatives in my head during a long forced road march in some back road in upstate New York at West Point a few days earlier. Most of my high school friends were attending either Indiana or Purdue University, it would be easy to reunite with them and slowly forget about the Academy.
By the time I spoke to my mom on the phone, I had already made up my mind and I just needed her blessing, but she would not give it to me! She was always level headed about these types of life decisions and I respected her. I could not quit West Point without her on my side, besides if she said it was “o.k.”, then I knew it was the right decision. I was not expecting her response. My mind cringed and my heart ached at the thought of spending another week at West Point, and it made me sick to my stomach.
I protested with her through tear filled eyes. “Mom, you don’t know what I’m going through.” I pleaded.
“I know, son, but you need to give it one year and then we can talk.” I gasped, ONE YEAR! The idea tumbled through my mind like hot amber. I could not make it here one year, not going through what I experienced so far.
“Erick, listen to me,” she interrupted with a calm voice, “I’m not given you permission to quit, because I know you will regret it later.” There was a pause; I didn’t know what to say. “You are going to form special relationships there that will stay with you the rest of your life. You are going to have wonderful experiences that very few will. Give it one year, and then we can talk.”
I lowered my head and made an agreement with her over the phone. I was not happy with her and I was devastated at the thought of staying even another day at the Academy, but I did it because of my mom’s strength, not mine. I buckled down and did what I had to do to make it through the next few weeks.
Over time I found my groove and made some great friends. It eventually became a lot easier as my mind and soul began to adapt to the West Point way of life. I accepted my new life and was actually enjoying the experience.
At the end of my first year, Mom and I were basking in the warm spring sun at Trophy Point, a land mark overlooking the great Hudson River. My first year at West Point was over and we were waiting to take wedding pictures with my sister and her new husband, a freshly minted West Point graduate and newly commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. They had just married at the Cadet Chapel a few hours earlier. The whole family was there and it was a happy day. It was happy because my sister was beginning her new life with her husband and for me because I survived my first year.
I was officially a Yearling (sophomore) and had the freshly sown stripes on my uniform to prove it. My mom and I never discussed whether I should stay at West Point again, because she was right. I formed the foundations for lifelong relationships that first year and experienced wonderful moments that stayed with me forever.
I leaned on my mother’s wisdom 22 years ago and made a decision that affected my entire life path. I found out later that she was hurting too and wanted nothing more than to have me come back home, but she understood what I understand now. Quitting is always an option, but only after you give your experiences time to form so you can fully understand what you are giving up.
Too often we quit before we give life a chance. My mom would not allow me to be a quitter that day I called her, and I have never forgotten that life lesson. To this day, I tell my own kids, “Give it a year first, and then we can talk.” What a lesson she taught me, thank you Mom!
What is going on in your life now that is making you want to quit? I suggest you take my mom’s advice and give it some time, and if you still want to give it up, then at least you know you gave it a chance and there will be no regrets.