When I was a kid, my sisters and I planted a garden in the backyard.
Nothing fancy; we grew cucumbers and green beans and carrots and tomatoes. It was a small square of space against the side wall that we spent an entire weekend digging, tilling, cultivating, and doing other "ing" things in order to prepare it so my dad would take us to the store and buy us our promised packs of seeds.
I remember the ride home, still to this day. I sat there smooshed between my dad and my sisters on the bench seat of the blue and yellow tow truck, with a paper envelope of cucumber seeds in my hand. I turned it over, and turned it over. Examined every square inch. I read every single word on that package. I'd memorized the instructions by the time we got home.
I was so excited to grow things.
As time past, and the garden began to sprout, my dad noticed that the plants I was singularly in charge of, were not growing.
Not only were they not growing, they were dying. No. Let me be honest: they were exactly dead.
He watched me more closely, and saw that I wasn't not caring for the plants. I watered them the right amount, I read them stories, I drew pictures of them, I talked to them and fed them and obsessed over them.
But those motherfuckers were still dead as all hell.
Finally he put one of my sisters in charge of my plants, and voila. Back to life!
He sat me down one day and said very simply "Some people are gardeners. They have a gift for it. Everything they touch, grows. You are not a gardener. Your plants are all dead. Please find another hobby."
Well. I thought this was not exactly fair. I mean, this was my first garden! Why should this - clearly diseased - tomato plant determine my gardening fate for all eternity?
I can garden, I said.
So I pressed on.
I kept trying, and in the end...I killed every single damn thing in that garden.
My dad shook his head. "You are terminally hopeful, aren't you?"
Over the years I've had many plants.
Tomato plants that lasted a month, countless Basil plants that lasted a week. A rosebush that looked like a Tim Burton creation within a few days. Cactus that met unfortunate ends.
Still, every once in a while I pass a particularly beautiful plant at Home Depot, and I bring that sorry, cursed little bastard home...to kill it slowly and painfully.
I am terminally hopeful, and this extends to all areas of my life.
No matter how many weekends my dad didn't show up to get me from my mom's house, or how many weekends she didn't show up to get me from his, I still packed my pink and purple Barbie suitcase, and sat outside at 5 pm, until the streetlights came on, and my sister forced me to go inside.
I had hope.
They were coming, this time, they were coming, I just knew it.
I have never known when to call it, when to fold, when to agree that something just wasn't going to happen.
A lifelong believer in fairy tales, I am perpetually convinced that the miracle is always only five minutes away. Right around the corner.
It will happen because it's supposed to.
Because I want it to.
Because I worked for it.
Because I'm so hopeful.
It's taken me 27 years, and will probably take me 27 more, to realize that destiny doesn't give you any extra points for having hope.
So when do you quit?
When do you give up?
When do you stop waiting and stop trying and stop watering the plant that just won't stay alive, and agree that you are not a gardener?
I think what makes giving up so hard, is the small moments of progress that happen on the road to failure.
Even if I killed those plants, before they died they all sprouted little buds, and showed small, meek signs of possibly flourishing some day soon.
Even if no one ever came to pick me up, on the phone that week they sounded extra sure that they'd be there! Or they were extra sorry for missing last week! Or they promised this time to come, and they even made plans to take me to a movie and they NEVER did that, so that MUST mean they're coming!!
I lived for those signs, no matter how often they turned out to not mean anything in the end.
"Everything I've ever let go of has claw marks in it." - David Foster Wallace