40 Years Ago: Giving Up (for the nonce)

never-give-upAlmost a year ago, I read this in Mark Evanier’s blog:

One of those folks who didn’t want me to post their name wrote…

Your comment intrigued me. Don’t you think there’s a value in not giving up? My folks taught me there was no such thing as a lost cause. My father used to say, “A man who won’t be defeated can’t be defeated.” If you believe in something enough, whether it’s a political cause or a dream you have, shouldn’t you pursue it with every breath you have left in you? If you give up on something, doesn’t that mean you never really believed in it in the first place?

Sounds like Man of La Mancha.

Mark replied: “I have found that for me, it’s healthier to be realistic about what you can and cannot accomplish and to cut your losses on the latter.” I totally agree with that, but had I been asked, I would have just quoted The Gambler by Kenny Rogers: “You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them.”

Every December 4, I remember the tremendous relief I experienced when I was able to drop a couple college courses in 1974. The Okie, to whom I was married, was moving from New Paltz to Philadelphia for unstated reasons at the end of November. I couldn’t afford to live in our apartment on my own, and had to move, myself, as it turned out, for a month. Unsurprisingly, I had difficulty concentrating on my classwork.

But I knew it was past the mid-semester point when I could drop courses without academic penalty. Someone in the dean’s office said the only exception was if I could get a note from a doctor or psychologist or other professional stating that I was having physical or emotional distress.

As member of the student government, I had had opportunities to talk to the campus minister, Paul Walley, not about my situation, but general campus issues. Still, I went to see him, asking if he could sign the form waiving the drop-course deadline. And, to my great relief, he did.

I dumped two courses, and ended up getting A’s and B’s in the remaining three. I remember wandering through the Campus Center on the evening of December 4, the day the drop-course forms were approved – there was some party going on – with such a sense of release, that this unmanageable burden had been lifted, that I cried with happiness. (Heck, I cry just thinking about it, four decades later.)

Sometimes, you just have to give up.

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