Quitting is Always an Option, Just Wait a Year First – West Point Life Lesson #7

Quitting is Always an Option, Just Wait a Year First – West Point Life Lesson #7

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“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.

“But Mom…”

“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.

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  1. Erick…this was great…thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Caren, Mom’s are great!

  3. I like your Mom, Erick 🙂

  4. Thanks, Barb. She is awesome and has a compelling story, but does not like to talk about herself very much. She led hundreds of women to financial independence back in the 80s and elevated herself to top in sales in the U.S. for a major home decor company. To this day, the ladies she helped still stay in touch with my Mom and look to her for leadership. She truly is an amazing woman. Thanks for your comment!

  5. Lt I was a team leader in 2/536 mp co. I was one of your TCS NCOs from Ft Irwn, CA. I remember when you arrived in our tent at LA LISA. You were so clean and shiny. We all relished the idea of getting rid of LT Baggett. You kept your head, listened and learned how to lead and follow. Thank you for your service LT.

    Jim Conroy
    MP Sniper

    1. Jim, I remember you! Thank you for your words, I appreciate it. It was my honor to serve with you and the rest of the Wolf Pack over in Bosnia. It was an awesome experience. You were a solid soldier and showed me incredible grace as I stumbled my way through leading my first platoon, thank you. Thank you for your service as well.

      By the way, do you remember the Wolf Pack Olympics we hosted at Tuzla? Do you still have the plaque with our platoon picture on it? Mine is proudly displayed in my home office.

  6. I know this is an older post, but I came across it and wanted to comment (for the record, I happened upon your blog because the phrase “no excuse, sir!” popped into my head earlier, and I goggled it out of curiosity and figuring I might find something humorous).

    I, too, though of leaving West Point during Beast. Lord have mercy it was awful. But I got the same sort of advice from my folks: give it time.

    I struggled a lot at West Point. Homesick, a bit depressed, not doing altogether well academically or physically…all of that combined to get me down. But I plugged on and gave it time.

    But…I didn’t stay.

    I gave it until the end of Yuk Year. I evaluated my options as the spring semester ended, I prayed about it, and I just couldn’t reconcile myself with the rest of the commitment. I didn’t think it would be right with either myself or the soldiers that I’d be leading. I approached my sponsor, a fellow Mississippian, and asked “sir, are you disappointed in me?” He just looked at me funny and said “Joseph, you’ve already applied and been admitted to another college. You’ve secured scholarships and a place to live. You’re doing what’s right for you. No, I’m happy for you. You’ve got a plan and aren’t letting anybody pressure you into staying here just because they think you ought to.”

    I’ll never forget the good or the bad of West Point. I learned a heckuva lot there, and I don’t think I would have had the success I’ve later enjoyed without it. I don’t regret going, nor do I regret leaving. But I don’t know that that would be the case had I left even at the end of plebe year. So, from a Half-Pointer, let me highly recommend your advice to give it time…and I’d say that to any plebe that happens to come across this!

    1. Hey Joseph, thanks for your powerful words! I know that was a hard decision for you, but it truly sounds you made the right decision for you and I know how much you struggled to come to that conclusion. You did the right thing, you gave it some time and then made a rational decision, good for you! In fact, I wrote a post about when it’s time to quit and move on to something new in life. You can check it out here.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and for sharing your story!


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