whitewater rafting Colorado

Why I’m Not a 20-Year-Old Boy: On Quitting Rafting

On Quitting Rafting

Remember how excited I was to be a whitewater raft guide this summer? Yeah, me too. But those days are no longer.

I admit I struggled during those first two weeks of training, wondering whether I had what it takes to be good at the job, wondering if I really wanted to be good at it or if the pressure of responsibility for others’ lives would prove too much.

But I finished the course confident in my still-developing skills that I have what it takes both mentally and physically to become a great guide. And I thought I still wanted it, though my reasons for continuing were a bit skewed – a great upper body workout, a job with no makeup, where a tan would be possible in late summer, where I make my own schedule…

whitewater rafting Colorado

Those reasons are wrong, yes, but they were covering something else: my fear of being a quitter.

I’ve been raised to never give up. “We finish what we start,” my dad used to say, and so I pushed through the basketball season even when I hated it. I pulled rye in the burning sun with the remnants of last nights alcohol resurfacing throughout the day – my father’s way of teaching how to work hard after playing hard. I completed fashion school, even when I wondered what I would use my degree for.

But I certainly don’t blame any of this on my father. Perhaps more pertinent to my stubbornness is my Aries within, that personal desire to succeed, to be the best I can, to give it a good fight.

I struggled with quitting rafting, even when I tried. I did talk to the boss. I told him forthright that I thought I should be done, if only because I’m not willing to commit to the preferred seven-day-per-week schedule, or even five for that matter. I told him I knew this would ultimately be reflected in the paid work I get. I told him I don’t live and breath rafting like so many seem to. I told him I wasn’t sure I wanted to guide commercially down Class IV rapids, if ever, and that I wondered if purchasing the $200-300 in required gear would be worth my investment if I in turn didn’t get the amount of work needed to pay it off (at $35 per trip, that might be more time than I have this summer). I told him I’m not a 20-year-old boy, the kind who dominate this field of work, because I don’t thrive on unnecessary competition, and I think the system is silly and unorganized, though fair, I suppose.

whitewater rafting Colorado

Photo courtesy of A1 Wildwater

He heard my words with understanding, and told me he still wanted me around. He saw potential in me. He wanted me to help change the stereotype of a raft guide, to be a statistic.

And part of me wanted him to say just that. To validate my fear of quitting by telling me to stay. To shoot holes in my shoddy excuses.

So I went back. Two days more, I showed up to work, unpaid and ready to raft, to learn. I forced myself against my will to drag myself to that side of town, and I left feeling like my time had been wasted. The rafting part, it turns out, is a very small part of the process.

I reevaluated once more. I asked myself why I wanted to stay, again, and the answer was that I didn’t. I have no regrets for the time I’ve already put in for I’ve learned a lot about the river, about safety and rescue and about 20-year-old boys. But I also have no regrets about walking away for the final time.


Why I’m Not a 20-Year-Old Boy: On Quitting Rafting
Written by:Jessica J. Hill
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16 Comments

  1. Mo says:

    You definitely should have no regrets, girl. Glad you tried it, now you know! 😀

  2. I feel you entirely. I too struggle with quitting and succumb to the maybe-it'll-get-better's that keep me going down a path I'm not feeling or necessarily obligated to only for the fact that I started it and should do my best to finish! When is it time to quit something?

    • jessicajhill says:

      Good question. I guess it’s time to quit when it no longer benefits us or makes us happy. I just need to get over the personal struggle I have with feeling like quitting = failing. I know it’s certainly not, but something about it sure feels that way. I wonder if ours is a cultural feeling, or personality based?

  3. Some things just aren't to be. Just consider it following your gut instinct t

    • jessicajhill says:

      Very true, Carrie. Following my heart never seems to lead me astray. Sometimes I fear giving up too early before really giving it a chance though. I’m glad I waited it out.

  4. Love your honesty in this article. Sometimes we have to try things to realize that just aren’t who we are. Don’t think of it as giving up, but instead think of it as learning who you really are!

    • jessicajhill says:

      That’s a great way to put it! I thought I signed up for a summer job, but it turns out rafting takes several summers to perfect, and I know I’m not a rafter at heart. Best to cut my losses now, I suppose. Thanks for chiming in!

  5. Better to have tried it and quit than to have never given it a go and end up with that lingering regret. You shouldn’t feel bad at all about your decision, at all. You should be empowered, really, because instead of suffering through it all and possibly building up anger/resentment you recognized that it wasn’t for you. On to the next!

    • jessicajhill says:

      Great point, Devlin! I think I may have resented it, like you say, and I definitely have no regrets about my decision. Just getting there is the hard part 🙂

  6. Maggie Jones says:

    I just passed my check off run. Miss you 🙁

  7. Lasha Halsey says:

    Oh gosh I think part of it must be our culture to always push forward to succeed… quitting certainly doesn't mean failing (unless it's a habit)… I like to think of some of the things I've quit just as an exploration of my interests that turned out to not be something that was right for me; either at that time, or maybe never… 🙂

    • jessicajhill says:

      You’re so right. I don’t know why sometimes it feels like failure, even when all the logicality proves otherwise. I like that, “exploration of interests…” thing, and I’m realizing I just have way too many interests and it’s time to narrow them down to the ones that matter 😉 Thanks for weighing in!

  8. Jennifer says:

    It’s just one of those you never know unless you try it things. At least you gave it a shot and know you can rule our rafting instructor as the job for you.

    • jessicajhill says:

      Absolutely! I need to reign in all the things I’m interested in. I certainly have no regrets about giving up on being a commercial guide though!

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