Knowing When to Fold Your Cards Brings Peace and a Measure of Joy

I quit the Master’s program a few weeks back. Because I decided to withdraw after the midpoint, I will receive two failing grades. Knowing that I might be seen as a failure normally makes me so anxious that I continue on even when I can feel the stress of the tasks hurting me. But I recently learned that, just as Kenny Rogers said in the movie the Gambler, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run.” (Writer/s: Don Schlitz Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)

It was time to fold them and run! It was taking me so much time to grasp the concepts in my courses, something that 17 years ago when I earned my doctorate at age 54 was not a problem. I started suffering sleep deprivation, and I was always tired. Because I had serious digestive issues, I lived in fear of accidents that would cause me embarrassment and interrupt the classes. Yet I still continued on, writing papers and attending classes in sheer terror. Aiming for a B was not an option, for only As were acceptable to me as a retired professor.

Douglas wanted me to quit for my health and his sanity. He and others who cared for me asked me what I planned to do after I finished the program at age 73 or 74 that I needed to endure the massive stress. I couldn’t get them to understand that I thought that giving up the program made me a quitter or a loser, and just the thought of Fs on my transcript was enough to almost drive me to drinking alcohol.

But the day came when I just could not get up from my bed and find the strength to go to class. I was too tired to even care about the subjects being taught. I realized that I wasn’t planning to go back into the work force. I had to admit that it was time to let go.

What was so strange was that when I sent the emails to my professors and to the chair of the department, I felt a load lift from my shoulders. I was so happy to know that I didn’t have to write one more 15-20 pages paper, give another presentation, debate another concept, catch one more bus, or walk through the streets of downtown Atlanta with my backpack held tight and praying I wouldn’t be seen as an easy target.

So, I folded ’em, and it was the best decision of my life. Douglas and I have spent a week at Hilton Head and plan other trips. We have planned and already arranged seven weeks in Europe in May and June, with all the flights, Airbnbs, and a car reserved and paid for. Can’t wait to feel the earth drop away beneath me, as a jet lifts us toward Paris, Amsterdam, and Porto.

Sometimes in life, you have to stop and reflect on what is most important to you, and at this time in my life, it is not trying to gain the approval of others and suffering in the process. Instead, it is about having the courage and faith in the Lord to let go of what hurts me, to enjoy peace and a measure of joy. That doesn’t make me a quitter or a loser! And guess what, I can blog again! Yay!

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