The Cultural Gutter

going through pop culture's trash since 2003

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

You really should have given up

alex macfadyen
Posted August 22, 2014

Let goI’m still thinking about willpower from my last article, and while it’s true that ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ (as my Grandma used to call it) is an important skill, it also really helps to know when to bail. Oddly, even though the desire to give up comes pretty naturally, deciding when you should actually do it doesn’t seem to. Watching the things that have made me and the people I care about unhappy in our lives over the years, I feel like learning how and when to walk away can’t be overrated.

I think maybe we’ve been sucked into seeing our lives through the narrative lens of movies where the characters almost always get something good in the end for sticking with it. We’ve seen it happen so many times it’s hard not to believe that if we just work long and hard enough we’ll win the prize, but in my experience the real-life ratio on that is significantly skewed towards failure. I’m not trying to crush anyone’s dreams – if it’s important to you and you believe you have a shot, then you should take it – I just think that we’re often not very good at being realistic about what our chances are or how much we’ll end up having to pay.

In the movies, the audience is supposed to identify with the heroes, so as long as they pull through it feels like success, but there are usually a bunch of secondary characters who went through the same stuff and got a crappy prize for it. Like all the loyal sidekicks who died trying, for instance. So for anyone who suspects that they might actually be a sidekick, or even an expendable extra, here are some movie scenarios in which you should give up and walk away:

1.    If the cabin you rented for the weekend looks like a haunted house and inexplicably has a basement full of rusty weapons, don’t stay there. Go rent a motel room somewhere and demand a refund when you get home. It’s not worth having your entrails eaten to get your money’s worth on the deposit.

Evil Dead cabin

2.   If you’ve already invested more time and energy than you can count doing x and you don’t even like x anymore, don’t compound it by working harder to prove something to your absurdly successful neighbour, your perpetually displeased mother, or your ex who thinks you’re a loser. Odds are you’re not going to like it any better even if you do succeed, so cut your losses and put your energy into something you actually care about.

3.   If your closest, calmest friend keeps telling you that something’s not a good idea, listen to why and sleep on it. Probably it’s not a good idea.

4.   If you’re living a life you’re pretty happy with and someone comes along and tells you there’s some big secret you could find the key to if you’re willing to risk everything you know and love, seriously consider whether you want to do that to yourself.

I’ve been wondering how to explain the balance between perseverance and letting go to my son when he’s old enough that his eyes don’t glaze over after 3 sentences – I’m an optimist, so I do actually believe this will happen someday – and I think what I’d like to say is that developing the ability to force yourself to keep going when you really don’t want to will help you in life. It’s how you get really good at pretty much anything you want to do, get more of what you want, and make sure you’ll be able to do whatever you have to when it counts. Working hard and practicing will usually get you where you want to go, and even when they don’t, they have some intrinsic value.

It’s one of the reasons I run. Honestly, I kind of hate running. I love that it’s something I can do by stepping out the door – there’s no equipment, just me in the outdoors, which is the best gym ever – but when my body decides it’s time to stop, I feel like I’m going to die if I don’t. I found it very entertaining when Simon Pegg’s character in Run, Fat Boy, Run gets stuck in the middle of an empty stretch of road staring at a brick wall only he can see. Run Fat Boy Run brick wallI can make myself keep biking, or cleaning the kitchen, or carrying my son, but for some reason when I hit that wall running I find it really hard not to quit. I keep going because knowing that I can is actually worth it to me.

The flip side of that, though, is developing the ability to stop and walk away from something you’ve put effort into when it’s not worth it anymore, and anyone who has ever stuck with something that made them miserable in the end can tell you that’s even harder than it sounds. It’s not just major projects we couldn’t stop working on, jobs we should have quit years ago, or relationships we stayed in when everyone including us knew we should leave. It’s little everyday things, like the hikes my family went on where we kept going and going because it always seemed like the lookout point was just over the next hill, or the movies none of us were enjoying but we kept watching just to see the ending, which we predictably didn’t enjoy either.

The good thing is that every minute is a chance to make a different choice, so as soon as you find yourself thinking “you know what? I don’t care anymore!” you can stop and do something else. The hard part is knowing when it’s worth trying, even if you fail.

~~~

All that said, alex MacFadyen’s favorite Wipeout contestant was middle school teacher Deborah Blackwell, who yelled “Never give up, never surrender!” all the way through the course, fading into the distance as she tumbled ass over teakettle into the icy water.  When she came back for the All Stars episode, her battle cry was “Tarnations to 2nd place!”

Comments

Leave a Reply





  • Support The Gutter

  • The Book!

  • Of Note Elsewhere

    The Projection Booth tells you of days of high adventure in an epic seven hour podcast on Conan The Barbarian (1982).

    ~

    Actor, director, writer and artist Leonard Nimoy has died. Nimoy was most famous for playing Spock in Star Trek, but he also appeared in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), In Search Of…, Ancient Mysteries, Columbo, Fringe, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Faerie Tale Theatre, Mission: Impossible, Dragnet and Bonanza.  Nimoy directed Three Men And A Baby (1987), two Star Trek films and an episode of Night Gallery (“Death on a Barge”) among others. The New York Times and The Guardian have obituaries. Here are some tweets from William Shatner’s online memorial for Nimoy. George Takei remembers Nimoy. Zachary Quinto remembers Nimoy. EW also has other remembrances, including one from President Obama. Code Switch’s Steve Haruch discusses Spock’s importance as a biracial character. Nimoy talks about his work at the Archive of American Television. You can see some of Nimoy’s photography here. And a reminder that Nimoy had an Etsy shop.

    ~

    At Graveyard Shift Sisters, Ashlee Blackwell considers Jonathan Demme’s Beloved as a horror film as part of their Black History & Women In Horror Month series. “Beloved takes us on one journey of the Black American experience of slavery through the body of a Black female protagonist.”

    ~

    Watch Nigerian writer and director Nosa Igbinedion’s Oya: The Coming Of The Orishas here.

    ~

    At Bitch Media, Sara Century wonders why Michonne isn’t in charge and considers which medium is better for the ladies of The Walking Dead: comics or tv. “As I was thinking about the numerous questionable writing choices made with these could-be-so-great female characters, I got to wondering, which medium is better for the ladies of The Walking Dead: the TV show or the comic? In other words, which one is less sexist?

    I wrote up a short list of the main female characters that appear both on the show and in the comic to decipher the differences in how these women are written. These descriptions contain spoilers through season five of the TV show, because it’s impossible to write about The Walking Dead without talking about how people die all the time.”

    ~

    Vixen Varsity shares Olufemi Lee-Johnson’s tribute to Milestone Media and Dwayne McDuffie. “For the first time in my life, I was around comic writers of color telling stories that mirror or surpassed the storylines of America’s favorite heroes. Icon dealt with being the ultimate immigrant and not understanding current black culture. Rocket (Raquel Irvin) was his guide, but also aspired to be more than just a woman in the projects. Static (Virgil Hawkins) was just a normal teenager dealing with fitting into school and then was put into this extraordinary circumstance of being a hero. Hardware (Curtis Metcalf) wanted respect from his mentor, but later learned about the bigger picture when it came to being a hero and the characters from Blood Syndicate…they were just trying to make it day by day and maintain their respect as a gang.”

    ~

  • Spilling into Twitter

  • Obsessive?

    Then you might be interested in knowing you can subscribe to our RSS feed, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Tumblr.

    -------

  • Weekly Notifications

  • What We’re Talking About

  • Thanks To

    No Media Kings hosts this site, and Wordpress autoconstructs it.

  • %d bloggers like this: