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…
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.
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