I have made so many mistakes, and I will continue to make them.
When I say mistakes, I don’t mean my ailing grammar (though that is also an issue - sorry!);
I mean the big ones. The ones that we seem to repeat over and over -- like trusting the wrong people, getting in over our heads, or running head first in the wrong direction.
I feel like a lot of my life has been me as the woman running towards the spaceship in an alien invasion movie. And we all know that means I obviously don’t get much screen time before I meet my inevitable doom.
That being said, on reflection I’m so grateful for those risks I took: for falling, for failing, for having the privilege to say ‘this just isn’t right,’ ‘this just isn’t me,’ and to start my story again; to have the time to feel sad in an esoteric way. Even if my stomach shrinks to the size of a pea when recounting some of the things that I have fucked up in my life. I’m fine now; I promise.
Starting life again isn’t like a Hallmark movie. At least in my experience, there has been no moving to a small town, meeting an alarmingly handsome widower, and eventually becoming the community’s beloved mayor (though I’m always open to new opportunities).
For me, it was knowing that the marriage I had so faithfully believed in during my early 20s wasn’t the right marriage for the woman I had become. It was taking the job I had always dreamed of in the city I loved most, and eventually realizing that both gave me crushing anxiety. Remind yourself EVERY DAY that as perfect as most people seem on paper or insta, they are probably just as messed up and scared as you underneath.
For me, the dream on paper of an amazing job as a Fashion Director in NYC and living my best life with my beautiful, fun friends, meant realizing that I was lonely AF. That yes, I had ended my marriage; and on some level I felt liberated, but mostly I just felt like an asshole.
Being single for the first time in a long time is a weird grieving process, and one that no one really gives you much sympathy for. If you were the one who left, you also get to lie awake and alone at night with the guilt of knowing that you were the one who murdered the relationship. Cool.
I don’t think I would have survived that year without eating far too much Italian food with my friend Paul, as we perused tinder and even thrinder and then struggled desperately with the harsh realities our exceedingly charmed life by smoking cigarettes on my stoop.
I want to take a moment be clear that I’m very aware that my life is charmed. Starting again for me was leaving a job and ending a relationship -- it wasn’t travelling thousands of miles from a war zone with a child on my back, all for a second chance. I am aware that I had the luxury to ponder my internal unhappiness, and that I had the means to change it.
And change it I did. At warp speed, and rather clumsily, I got out of dodge.
I now find myself in LA, the city I had dreamed of living in since I first wandered around Amoeba records as a teen. With a surprise baby and a new husband, things are far from perfect (anyone who has ever owned a toddler will commiserate) but the happy far outweighs the shitty.
So what are my tips for ruining your life and putting it back together again (AKA “starting again”)?
1. You owe them nothing.
Recently, my younger sister FINALLY left a job that she hated. It was making her unhappy day after day, to the point that it was making her sick; but she had stayed and stayed, because she had a sense of loyalty about leaving them in the lurch. You don’t owe loyalty to something that doesn’t work for you. We do not need to diminish our own needs in order to serve other people’s needs. If you have the ability to step out of something joyless, take it. You owe yourself that. Even in a relationship, don’t stay out of loyalty or sameness. If you have worked at a marriage, yet something about it just isn’t right, then leave. However, this leads me to my next point...act with empathy.
2. Act with understanding and kindness.
Unless someone attacks you, threatens your career, takes legal action, or is abusive (in which case all bets are off), leave in the kindest and most helpful way possible.
Just because you need to do this for you doesn’t mean your relationship is no longer valid. Don’t screw them over. Offer to help train your replacement, or give your partner time to acclimate. Reach out to mutual friends to help provide your ex with a support network. Try not to say too much in the heat of the moment, and respect both your needs and theirs.
3. Don’t flip-flop.
Once you have decided, rip that band-aid off. Set a time frame for leaving with your employer; don’t give false hope to an ex because it seems kinder; don’t extend the lease because it’s tough to get your stuff out in time. Sometimes the only way out is through, and if YouTube videos of fire-walking have taught me anything, it is that you must calmly and swiftly proceed to the other side. Stopping, dancing in once place, or standing with one foot on the fire means it’s still burning, and the longer it burns the longer the healing process will be.
4. Be prepared for everything to be the same but different.
I was recently told that 93% of your future is decided for you by choices you’ve already made at age 17. While I don’t know if there is any science to support this theory, I do know that making changes in your life like getting a new job won’t magically make you a better person. Moving to LA was supposed to make me stop procrastinating, take up a daily yoga practice, and tidy up my bedroom. It didn’t. I still suck at all those things. “Rewriting my story” didn’t fix everything that was wrong with me, but it did help me take positive steps towards becoming the woman I imagine myself to be, in those 15 minutes each night where I run over the “tomorrow is a new day” speech for myself before sleep.
5. Be prepared for life to get MUCH, MUCH worse first.
Until I started my life again, I had never had an attorney and a lawyer (and my friend’s dad advising as a barrister). I had never cried myself to sleep night after night; never felt more lonely; never felt like such a shitty person; never spent so much money for so little gain. “Freedom” doesn’t come easily, and you won’t always fall on your feet. The dream life doesn’t come quickly in most cases. Yet I did it. I learned resilience, I learned when to stay quiet, and I learned to really follow my gut. And guess what? In the end, I made it!