Overcoming the “Never Can Say Goodbye” Syndrome

It was the 6th time I landed in the doctor’s office that month and my iron counts were dangerously low. I was working up to 70 hours per week, often eating strange dinners like celery & 2 boiled eggs with salt, before plopping into bed, exhausted from the day. I worked when my partner was there. I worked when my partner wasn’t there. I worked on my days off. And this was the expectation.

At that point in my life, I thought that quitting was a sign of weakness. I’d bought into the lie that quitting was a flaw of character, and not just an action. And to be honest, I had my fears of quitting: what would that say about me as a person? would my resume be sullied? would I end up back home, after coming so far in my career? However, as I answered the doctor’s questions about what I was eating, how much sleep I was getting, etc. I realized that I already knew what his diagnosis would be… I had a case of the ‘never can say goodbye’s’.

In a recent, informal poll, I asked people about their thoughts on quitting. I asked what types of things were worth quitting and how they knew it was time to quit something. Some of the responses were that we should quit:

  • Being afraid
  • People pleasing
  • Habits that are harmful and counter productive
  • Thinking more of yourself than you ought & being self-righteous
  • Doubting yourself and others
  • Allowing people to bring drama into your life
  • Comparing your journey to other people’s journey
  • Things that no longer edify you or hinder your growth in any way
  • Smoking, complaining, and not making time for yourself
  • Saying yes when you want to say no
  •  Being hard on yourself
  • Relationships that aren’t good for you
  • Worrying

And when is it time to quit?: “When whatever you’re involved in becomes destructive instead of constructive.”*

The reality, as Bryant McGill so eloquently states, is that “there is a difference between giving up (quitting) and strategic disengagement,” and that we should “know the difference.” I knew that in order to maintain both my health and well-being, I needed to make decisions about my strategic engagement and / or disengagement. I knew that in order to be effective, I needed to think about quitting a lot differently.

Now, I am NOT saying you go out there and quit stuff at random.

What I am saying is that most of the decisions about your engagement or strategic disengagement belong to you… and are directly aligned with how happy, healthy, effective, and productive you will be in the long term. The goal is to critically examine our “yes-es” – the things that we have decided to engage in – and ask whether it is allowing us to thrive or to be deprived. In order to thrive in every area of our lives, we have to think critically about our resources: what can we reasonably do and give? What can we reasonably accept without it being a detriment to our health and well-being? What engagements will allow us to be most effective and efficient? Because I can assure you that saying yes to every opportunity without assessing our commitments and internal resources… just ain’t it.

So grab a few of your closest and truest friends, reflect internally, journal through, or comment below (if you’re feeling brave) and let’s work this out together!
– What are your honest gut-level thoughts on “quitting”?
– Do you have a case of the ‘never can say goodbyes’? or Have you dealt with this in the past? How’d you get through it?
– What are your current involvements (i.e. personally, professionally, spiritually, relationally, etc)? Would you say that they are ultimately constructive or destructive? What would 3 of your closest friends / trusted advisers / designated mentors say?
– What are you involved in that is a constructive & “strategic engagement”? (At least let me know this part, so I can celebrate with you!)

*One of my favorite books on the topic is I Quit!: Stop Pretending Everything is Fine and Change Your Life, by Geri Scazzero
*Thanks, salutations, and citations to everyone who participated in the informal poll!
Image Credit deathtostockphoto.com

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Overcoming the “Never Can Say Goodbye” Syndrome by Jade T. Perry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


  1. Thank you for this message! Quitting has always been a huge fear of mine. I’ve only left one job before, but that was out of immaturity. I do have a fear of going backwards, especially when you think about where I am career wise. On paper everything looks great, but that isn’t my reality.

    I am going to stop sacrificing my health and well being and start being reflective and figure out if my current situation is more constructive or destructive.


    1. Yes gurl! I can totally understand that fear of going backward ; in our profession a LOT of it has to do with professional perception, so I can understand. However, we are also accountable to maintain ourselves and our health and so finding that balance is so crucial as a young professional! Is there anything that you would add to this list of things to quit / strategically disengage with? Are there any other questions you might have asked?


  2. This was great Jade. Disengagement is the key word, I agree.

    Two of the hardest disengagements for me were leaving graduate school with a M.S. instead of a Ph.D. (still a little bitter about that), and making the choice to completely separate myself from someone I had thought of as a friend.

    In both cases, I was dealing with an unhealthy relationship and both were hurting me deeply. I could still be in my program right now, working toward a higher professional status, but I made the choice to retain my sanity. I could pretend to be friends with this person, but I would be lying, and probably unproductively thinking about ways to understand.

    But I disengaged, and I’m happy.


    1. Thanks for sharing that Steve and I applaud your decision! It can be SO hard to strategically disengage ESPECIALLY when it comes to furthering our credentials, professional development opportunities, etc. because then it’s a matter of parsing out what is best from what is good. I admire your ability to still feel your feelings but ultimately make the constructive choices in your relational and educational journey.


  3. As a blogger and a freelance writer, I strategically engage with other bloggers and writers online, as this gives me a sense of community in such an isolating job. I’ve had to strategically disengage myself from some blogs because I’ve realized that their content wasn’t teaching me anything new, entertaining me, or adding value to my life.


    1. That is absolutely fascinating; I would never have thought of it that way. I think that it’s so important in cases like that to be self aware: what kinds of content do I need to take in at THIS stage of my life & career? Is it content that will allow me to engage in an intentional way and / or at least bring a smile to my face, or am I following out of obligation? All very interesting questions. Out of curiosity, how do you connect with other writers in the blogging community? Was there any specific content you were more interested in at the start of your journey & how has that changed until now? (Sorry for all my questions! I’m still relatively new to the blogosphere, so hearing from other bloggers is always insightful).


      1. I go through phases in terms of what content I engage with. At first, it was all beauty and style blogs; then it was Black celebrity news/gossip sites (Madame Noire, The YBF, Necole Bitchie, etc.); and nowadays it’s a mix of lifestyle content with a generous dose of race/politics/pop culture stuff. Right now, I read a lot of Jamelle Bouie at Slate, Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic, Ebony.com, For Harriet (and their sister sites) (by the way, I read your piece on Jazmine Sullivan’s new album and loved the womanist framing of it – so good!), Black Girl Dangerous, Feministing, Ms. Magazine, Stacia Brown, Britni Danielle at Take Part, Very Smart Brothas, certain authors at The Root, Brittney Cooper at Salon and Crunk Feminist Collective, and a slew of others.

        In terms of connecting with other writers, most of the ones I admire and read a lot of are out of immediate reach, but I try to connect by subscribing to their newsletters if they have them and checking their Twitter timelines here and there. I also tweet about their articles on Twitter and leave comments on them when I have something to add. Admittedly, it’s tough to get noticed, though. I have more success with budding Black woman bloggers. The way I connect with them is similar: read their content, leave comments on their posts, engage them on social media (Twitter is my spot!), and just be authentic in my approach. :))

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