Why I’m Bad at Leaving

I think we all have those moments we can look back on and say, “There. That is when I should’ve left.” Whether it be a job, a toxic relationship, what have you.

At least that’s how it is for some people.

Others have been through enough, adapted, or are just naturally skilled at recognizing warning signs that the building is about to collapse on us while it’s still happening. With me? I’ve been through more than enough and, depending on the situation, I sometimes still find myself in a burning house where structure is crumbling and I’m that one misguided yet hopeful individual tossing glassfuls of water at the flames thinking that maybe, just maybe, the situation can be saved. That maybe, just maybe, the foundation is strong enough and I’m well-intentioned enough that I won’t leave this building with that many scars. While others, more proactive self-preservationists, haul ass out of there at the first whiff of smoke.

Maybe it’s curiosity, loyalty, stubbornness, idiocy, fear, or a wonderful combination of all of these factors that makes me want to commit to see something through to the end. Maybe I’m the type of person who would rather run something into the ground and look back and say, “Well, there was nothing else I could’ve done!” and wash my hands and finally walk away. Because that means there was an end. No maybes, no coulda-shoulda-woulda-beens, no room for whistful, unrequited fantasies. There’s a relief in that kind of certainty. Maybe it’s more romantic to dream of the what-ifs, but the older I get, the worse I get at romance, it seems. I’ve always been fairly good at navigating/creating disasters, though. Go figure.

But things don’t always end in flames. Sometimes it’s my own preconceived expectations that get me.

Not too long ago a friend and I were both in a situation where we wanted to quit an academic program. It wasn’t what we thought it would be. In the end, we stayed and things worked out, and she said something that stuck with me: “Who was I to believe there was absolutely nothing I could learn from this experience?”

Sometimes there’s a silver lining. Sometimes the firetrucks come in time and you realize you pulled the alarm too soon and you truly benefited and grew from the experience in a healthy way, not a stubborn toxic way. That can happen too.

To be clear, it all depends on the sitatuion. If someone or something is hurting you, I know it’s hard to see it when you’re in it, but I really hope you have the strength and some kind of support to get out. Smell that smoke. Haul your ass. There were too many times when I didn’t. But again, it’s a learning process. As much as I joke, don’t let anyone move you at a pace that you’re not comfortable with. You will learn and heal on your own terms. Hopefully. It’s so easy to say what you would’ve done when you’re past it or it’s not even you in the situation at hand.

You get comfortable with dancing in a burning room. At least you know what to expect, right? You expect your feet to be on fire as you stamp over the embers and to no longer be able to recognize if those are tears or sweat trickling down your face… too much? It feels a bit much.

I digress.

Best case scenario, one day you’ll be able to bypass a situation entirely, saying,“Girl, you know better!” and things will be okay.

Because I’ve learned and I do know better. I really do.