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Walking away

By June 17, 2010Myth or Reality

How do you know when something is no longer working? Could be a client relationship, a blog post, some marketing copy, your novel, a relationship, your life…take your pick. You know because:

  • You no longer feel good when you’re doing it.
  • Or after you’re done.
  • It’s no longer offering solutions.
  • It doesn’t give you what you need.
  • The pervasive feelings are dark: sadness, worry, fear.

So…you should stop doing it right?

But still, even knowing all of those things, it’s hard to walk away.

Because you used to want it, more than anything else. Because it’s familiar. Because change is hard. Because trying new things can be terrifying—stepping into the unknown. Because if you just try a little harder, you can make it work. Dammit.

Yeah. But I also think it’s this:

Junior High Syndrome

(which is oddly synchronous with the Stockholm Syndrome, now that I think about it)

There are certain things I remember about junior high. My bad, bad, bad short and asymmetrical haircut. Mean teachers. Making out with my first true love. Painfully matching Esprit outfits.

And I also remember the feeling of needing to be everywhere at once—and this is the Syndrome. That if some of my friends were going to the mall and some were going to the pool—I was screwed because I felt a dizzying desire to be in both places at once. It was scary not to be ‘there’, not to have a presence.

Why? Because something might be missed! Back then it was being in on a private joke or meeting a cute boy or having your best friend bond with someone else.

Today, what could be missed seems more critical: the chance to work on an incredible project, writing the best thing you’ve ever written, connecting with someone who could network you into the stratosphere, the single most important dose of inspiration ever, the truest of loves, real happiness and fulfillment.

But, wait!

All evidence up to this point has shown you that your current situation is 99.99999% likely not to give you any of the things that you want it to give you.

So why? WHY WOULD YOU STAY? Will you miss the struggle that much?

Why in the world wouldn’t you decide there was something better over there—better words, better people, better opportunities, better betterness. Why in the world wouldn’t you get up and walk away. Why?

Image credit: Shannonyeh

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Nicki says:

    Change – which is what we get when we walk away – is hard for most of us to deal with. Add to that the anticipation of the change if one holds the decision alone and it could be too much to handle.

    I have found, at least in business cases, that it is extremely important to embrace both the walking away and the change. Without either, a business will not grow.
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..Peanut Butter Preference? =-.

  • The Jr High Syndrome is a perfect analogy. The stakes are much higher as an adult which makes the choices all the harder. Wonderful post, despite the fact that I am now suffering flashbacks to my Esprit days …

  • Aaron Pogue says:

    Nicole’s right. The Junior High comparison is perfect.

    For me…I can’t walk away because I’m obsessed with the potential. It’s a relationship — a friend, not a romance, but we’ve been friends for so long that the stakes are about the same.

    And I remember the amazing person, the supportive friend, he used to be. He’s not anymore. He might well be the most negative force in my life, but I can’t forget how much he’s been to me in the past.

    More than that, though…I’m terrified he’ll get better. I’m terrified I’ll walk away, I’ll end one of the most important relationships I’ve ever had, and after that he’ll become himself again. And I’ll be cut out from that.

    Maybe that’s not the type of walking away you’re talking about. Because it’s not either/or. I wouldn’t be leaving this relationship for another one…I’d just be leaving it to get out.
    .-= Aaron Pogue´s last blog ..On Story Structure: Ariadne’s Thread =-.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Aaron –
      I’m sorry about this thing with your friend…but my gut says that if you can get out of it kindly and he does bounce back, he’ll figure out that you are important to him and he’ll work to get you back.

      If he really turns a corner – and I mean truly and completely – then he will be smart and on target enough to remedy things with you pronto.

      If he doesn’t, well then, did he really get ‘better’???

  • Steph Auteri says:

    When I was first starting out, I definitely felt a lot of that. I felt that if I didn’t jump at something, the opportunity would be lost forever.

    Now, I feel as if my reluctance to walk away from things is more about my fear of letting others down. It’s tough to remember that you have to look out for yourself.
    .-= Steph Auteri´s last blog ..Bringing More Life To These Writerly Life Lessons =-.

  • Amy says:

    Sometimes the problem is that we’re walking away simply because of the fact that the other is new, making what we have look less in comparison. Every time I get down on what’s working for me now thinking that perhaps the something else out there could be better, I hear the Indigo Girls in my head singing (I literally hear them because it’s much more soothing than hearing my own voice):

    “And the next time I fall I’m gonna’ have to recall it isn’t love it’s only something new.”

    Maybe we don’t walk away because we know deep down that the next place we’re headed will quickly become old as well?
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..#AdoptUsKids Twitter Event with Nia Vardalos =-.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Amy – that’s such a wonderful interpretation. I was thinking specifically of instances where it’s not the case that it doesn’t feel old – it’s the case where it truly isn’t serving you.

      But, and this is what I love about the blogosphere, I love that you came up with this angle which is totally and completely true.

      Thanks for being here…

  • Ali says:

    Wow! What a great topic! And everyone’s comments have been so heartfelt. It’s true when Amy says a lot of the time we are just fearing what we have is not as ‘sparkly’ as it used to be and we could have that again, but she is right- the grass can die over there too.

    Aaron, I hope you find the strength in what sounds like a heartbreaking situation to do what is right for you, negative energies only serve to bring you down with them, it sounds like this already is.

    great post Julie
    .-= Ali´s last blog ..My FIRST ever blog award! =-.

  • Uzma says:

    Hi. I think maybe it has to be with one’s comfort zone. The ‘now’ is always safer than the future. So maybe it is subconscious comfort that keeps us stuck. Maybe its easier when dreams are dreams..Very thought provoking post. Thank u
    .-= Uzma´s last blog ..Destiny and the journey =-.

  • wonderful question. interesting that “because I don’t want to” becomes difficult at certain ages, with reasons of responsibilities, etc. but after a while that solid sense of the 5 year old, “I don’t like this and I’m not going to do it” has the potential to revive in us. Great post–thanks
    .-= Julianne Fuchs-Musgrave´s last undefined ..Response cached until Fri 18 @ 20:14 GMT (Refreshes in 23.80 Hours) =-.

  • Todd Jordan says:

    This post hits home. I’m doing what I wanted to do for quite a while. Now it’s been there done that and it is no longer where I want to be. It’s only meeting the income need and no others. Sigh.
    .-= Todd Jordan´s last blog ..Realty Barcamp St. Louis First =-.

  • Nikki says:


    When I read this last Thursday, it hurt. It hurt because you were so right. And I knew it and had known it, yet couldn’t face that truth. I didn’t want to.

    You are right that we don’t walk away because it’s terrifying to step out into the unknown and away from what we know. It’s not easy.

    I returned to this post today, because I did it. I walked away. I ended my relationship. And it hurts and it’s hard, but it’s probably also one of the best things I’ve ever done. I want to cry, but can’t. I feel numb and fragile and now have to go through some difficult days and weeks… But I did the right thing, I know I did.

    Thanks for writing this knowing that many don’t want to face that truth and yet, one day, may be forced to.

    Thanks in part to you, I’m walking away. And I just know I’m walking on to brighter days.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Wow, Nikki. I can’t tell you how much it means that you took the time to come tell me this. I’m sending you an email now…You are so brave in so many ways.

  • This is a really tough one. I know it’s good to walk away when things aren’t working out, but walking away when things get slightly tough can become an unhealthy addiction. It’s hard to differentiate between a challenge that will help you improve your life and a pointless struggle that’s going to keep you in a stagnant place, at least in my experience, anyway. I have a track record of running away when things get hard.

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