On Freedom

It’s good to know when to quit.
Last week, I officially passed control of Orange County Atheists – an organization I founded in 2005 – to three long-time members and friends. They’ll plan the meetings and be in charge of all the little things like restaurant reservations, website updates, and mailing lists, and I’ll just be a member, coming to meetings as I please, with no larger responsibility.
When you break it down, I’m only freeing up about 20 minutes a month (not counting the meeting), but on a grand scale, it’s been absolutely liberating.
No longer am I “in charge”. I don’t have to be the “face” of the organization, deal with new (and sometimes very odd) group members, or feel responsible to be at every meeting. And while no one thing was actually stressful, combined it become something I no longer loved doing, and that was reason enough for me to pass it on.
To a lot of people, this is quitting, and there’s nothing good about it. I used to feel the same way, too – my life is full of projects like this that I eventually gave up on, or stopped doing, or sometimes passed on to others. I was always happy for the free time, but there was often something lingering in the back of my head that said “you could have done better, and you should have spent more time on it”.
For a long time, I believed it.
But more recently, I’m finding that so many of the stresses in our lives are entirely up to us to handle. And for me, pending, regular obligations (even of things I love/loved) grate at me like nothing else. To use the cliche, they take up valuable real estate in my brain, the same way that long-term work assignments or homework do. They’re always back there, and while not overwhelming, I’m generally happier without them. And as soon as I made the decision to stop leading OC Atheists, I felt that happiness again, so I knew it was the right decision.
So what’s next? Somewhat paradoxically, another project. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing these things, but everything has a life cycle, and I have a part in that cycle that I’ll love for a while, put up with for a while, and perhaps learn to hate after a while. Knowing when to get off the ride (while keeping things tidy on the way out if others count on you) is knowing yourself, and a path toward happiness.

4 responses to “On Freedom

  1. Oh boy. Are you in my head, Mr. Doss? This post of yours is exactly what I needed to read. I’m giving notice on Thursday for one of my jobs, and stepping down from the board of a non-profit because it’s not fun for me anymore. And yet somehow I feel like a “quitter” even though I am stressed beyond comprehension lately. How I love this post. Happiness and creative thinking are paramount to good relationships in the rest of our lives, which is the main reason I am leaving these two posts.
    Also, Congrats to you for figuring it out now rather than later. Congrats on your 6-years! You can still be a member, and volunteer to bring the fruit tray. 🙂
    PS, I gotta hear about these odd members. 😉

  2. Wow, I don’t think of this as quitting at all. After all, you founded an organization and helped it grow. It’s natural to move on from projects sometimes, and in this case it seems like it was a complete success.

  3. Nice article, Mike. I really enjoyed it.

  4. Thanks everyone! Comments make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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