Do you HAVE to finish what you start?

Story time? Of course it is.

When I was eight or nine, I took four types of dancing lessons. I took jazz, I took modern, I took ballet, and I took tap.

I was good at jazz, I was okay at modern, and I was very good at ballet.

Tap was… a surprise.

I had two main issues with tap dancing.

First, I was not good at fake smiling. In jazz and modern and ballet, you were allowed to have emotions other than happiness. In tap? Well, in tap you had to be overjoyed no matter what.

Ask any of my husbands – I’m not good at faking happy.

(Remember that line, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? In my house it’s, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody in the dark about that.” Doesn’t have the same ring, but we strive for accuracy.)

My other issue with tap was that I was afraid of loud noises.

Now, when I started out in tap, I was very excited indeed. Ballet shoes are pretty and all, but tap shoes? You could dance and make music at the same time.

Holy LORD, I was excited.

I had big plans.

But the reality didn’t quite match the fantasy.

It didn’t work out.

Now, if a young girl is afraid of the sound of her own shoes, what do you do?

Do you not-too-gently remind her how much you paid for those shoes?

Do you tell her that she’s only had 11 lessons, and that in life, you have to at least try your best to like it?

Do you tell her that we don’t always like what we do, but we have to do it anyway?

Do you tell her that she can’t quit now, because the big recital’s coming up?

Or do you let her call it a day and get on with doing the dancing she loves?

We have a big bias towards “finishing what you start”, but…

If tap dancing isn’t working, you are allowed to find something that does.

Flash forward twenty years or so, when I got my first house.

I was VERY excited about this house.

I’d spent the last several years watching four hours of home renovation programs every Saturday morning. I took the bus to Home Depot for fun. I used to study the Home Improvement 1-2-3 book, reading about projects I didn’t even have a use for, just because I thought it was cool.

Then I got my house.

It had a lilac tree. And a deck that faced a beautiful ravine. The entire first floor was an office. It had a room just for yoga.

Holy LORD, I was excited.

I had big plans.

But the reality didn’t quite match the fantasy.

It didn’t work out.

Moving into a fixer upper was… a surprise.

The workload didn’t bother me, actually. The mess and the confusion and the chaos I was fine with. I just wasn’t prepared for the decision making.

I wasn’t prepared for deciding whether we should redo the floors or patch the ceiling. Should we fix one room at a time and have the rest of the place be mayhem but with one small oasis, or should we do the biggest projects first and have it all be mediocre for a while? Should we get carpet or hardwood?

I answered those questions perfectly fine while watching Trading Spaces – hardwood’s better because you can sweep it, right? – but when it was *my* seven grand on the line, I choked.

I couldn’t do anything.

At all.

Like, at all.

Did you take The Money Calls a few years ago?

I did those calls in an unfinished basement surrounded by lumber I’d owned for several months. When I moved out of that house, I left the lumber.

Now, when you think you’re going to make the greatest fixer-upper in the world and you realize that perhaps, under these circumstances, that might not be the case, what do you do?

Do you wait to move until Child Protective Services takes your kids away because they show up at school with construction equipment related injuries?

Do you dramatically declare, “I’m just not cut out for fixer uppers” and swear you’ll never cut drywall again? (Tell Rhett I said hi.)

Do you stay, and hate every weekend for the next six years?

Do you get drunk and make to-do lists and berate yourself?

Or do you say, “Let’s call this one a loss and find something great”?

We have a big bias towards finishing what you start, but…

If your house isn’t working, you are allowed to find somewhere that does.

Meanwhile, back in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Around the same time as I was getting drunk and berating myself, Dave was coming to the end of his marriage.

Dave and his wife had been together for almost ten years. Back at the beginning, they’d found out she was pregnant in July. They got married in… July.

(Stop me if you’ve heard this one.)

They were perhaps not the best-suited couple in the world. Under the circumstances, there hadn’t been a whole lot of time to determine long-term compatibility. In the Bible Belt, long-term compatibility tends to take a back seat to scandal avoidance, and so a-wedding they did go.

He went into the marriage very excited. His wife had a young son from a brief relationship in college and the boy had never had a father figure. Dave was looking forward to being a dad.

This particular marriage was… a surprise.

Holy LORD, he was excited.

He had big plans.

But the reality didn’t quite match the fantasy.

It didn’t work out.

He tried to do it right, but when your wife sleeps on the couch, refuses to eat at the dinner table and keeps five feral cats in the master bathroom, there’s really only so much you can do.

But marriage is sacred, right?

Well, in the world of Dave’s upbringing, *marriage* is not sacred. *Not getting divorced* is sacred.

So what do you do when you realize you’ll never be happy and neither will your wife?

Do you listen to the fundamentalist brigade telling you that divorce is a sin? (So is gossip, while we’re talking about it.)

Do you crap all over yourself for just not trying hard enough?

Do you spend $40,000 on therapy knowing that the actual problem you’re trying to solve is that you both hate each other and always have?

Do you teach your sons by example that the most important thing in life is keeping the promises you made at the business end of a shotgun?

Or do you try to find a little bit of peace, sovereignty, and maybe even some happiness?

We have a big bias towards finishing what you start, but…

If your marriage isn’t working, you are allowed to find one that does.

Now let’s talk about you.

If your business is going great, you’re free to go. If you’re happy and successful and you’re actually laying on a beach right now while your naked assistant reads this article to you, please, go back to your mojito with my blessing.

But if you’re wondering if maybe things aren’t going quite as well as they should be, I encourage you to read on.

We have a big bias towards finishing what you start, but…

If your business isn’t working, you’re allowed to find one that does.

There are a lot of ways to define “not working”.

You could be making pots of money but the golden handcuffs stopped chafing and started cutting a long time ago.

You could be doing okay – making ends meet, kinda – but you fantasize about trading places with Sisyphus because that dude had it easy.

You could be outright failing and haven’t made a goddamn dime.

You’re allowed to do something else.

Your family might think you’re a flake.

Your mother-in-law might think you’re a failure.

Your Twitter followers might think you just couldn’t hack it.

But if this isn’t working, you’re allowed to quit and find something that does.

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About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.