There was also a working Strength Test Machine: a red box with two metal bars sticking up. After you deposited two dimes and wrapped one fist around each bar, an increasing electric current would begin to course up your arms. The machine timed how long you could endure, up to a minute.
My date went first. He held on for nearly the whole time, shaking and purple-faced by the end. It seemed like some kind of record.
Then I stepped up, popped my dimes in and held on. At the first tickle of electric buzz, I let go. Fuck that, I said. It was going to be a minute of senseless pain I didn't care about and could avoid. Why?
Quitting in general has been on my mind. When is giving up abandonment and when is it liberation? Quitting broken systems and structures heals.
I've quit some things too soon and some too late. I don't doubt--or I should say I no longer doubt--my own tenacity or dedication to what matters, but what about my tenacity or dedication to what doesn't? Why haven't I, historically, released the hurtful, the broken, the restricting, the outgrown? When do I still cling?
I wish in the years that followed I had consistently held onto the clarity I experienced at the Strength Test Machine. I'd have had more of myself left for what's worth holding tight to and sometimes suffering through. Over the last few years, however, letting go has become a favorite activity, and it is largely what my collection of poems quitter is about.
Days before the book was officially released, I came across this essay about quitting and raising kids to be quitters by Nora McInerny, and her writing here makes me feel like a human being. If you haven’t read it yet, you might like it a lot.