To Moving On
(and Living Well Without Guilt)
I’d like to preface this post with a little note. When creating One Millennial’s Guide I wanted a platform for millennials to share stories, both good and bad, about growing up and navigating their twenties. There will be posts on lighter subjects, full of sass, wit or humor and there will be those that dig a little deeper and may bring emotions to the surface. The one rule for this site is to remember that each post and each lesson is open to interpretation and may be applied in different ways for different people.
While I’ve only called this place home for twenty-six years, I have learned many lessons. I’ve chosen the wrong path, fallen down, been fooled and had my heart broken. For each spill, I’ve learned the lesson to make it better. Neosporin and a band-aid for the scrapes, carbs for stitching hearts back together and time for just about everything else. The greatest lesson I’ve learned, however, is that nothing is promised. We’re not assured love, success, life-long friendships or time. It’s up to us to live every moment as if it were our last, because eventually, it will be.
At one time or another, we’ve all dealt with the loss of something or someone important. Whether it was leaving a job we’ve held, growing apart from childhood friends, or the crumbling of a relationship, we’ve walked away from something familiar and left our comfort zones in search of something more.
I met a group of friends during my time in high school — they were loud, fun and fearless. Their energy was electric and it took just mere moments to become hooked. I was the type of person then that fell in love both hard and fast. My eyes were opened to a world of endless miles of road, belly-aching laughter and a feeling of invincibility. I was a young teen with a warm breeze, golden sunset, and friends that I could metaphorically get drunk off of.
Fast forward to a few years and few tears later — like a book, each friendship’s chapter came to a close. There were fights, words that couldn’t be forgotten, feelings that never went away and wounds that not even time could heal, all of which led to the eventual demise. Each one felt like another sharp edge of a knife in my heart, bringing me to my knees. Regardless of the reason, each ending was necessary and I knew at the time that eventually, I would be okay.
These are the most important things I can share about moving on, pulled from my experiences:
Sometimes in these endings, we’re the author and other times we’re the puppet. While either side takes courage, what they don’t tell you about is the guilt that comes along with being the author. I’ve been the one to call the end of friendships and relationships alike and felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for the pain that’s left in the wake. It wasn’t until a year ago that I learned another one of life’s valuable lessons. We are not responsible for the happiness of others.
That could sound harsh if taken out of context, so let me elaborate. You should live your life in a place of positivity and love. Bring joy to others, make people laugh and help those in need. Try to make at least one person smile every day — but don’t do so at the expense of your own happiness.
In each of these crossroads, I was faced with the decision to continue on my path in this relationship — platonic or romantic — or be true to my own feelings and move on. The weight of a decision is immense and took every fiber of my being to make. My heart, soul, body and mind were depleted by the time the dust had settled. Often times, you both immediately know that things will never be the same. For all involved the conversation is a blur of emotion.
I wish I’d known prior to experiencing it that the five stages of grief don’t always come in order. Beyond that, you may bounce back to a stage you thought you were finished with — and that’s okay.
As the end of my friendship with the one remaining person of the group drew near to a close, I felt anxiety knowing what was on the horizon. I contemplated putting it off for another week, month or more — but saw how unfair that was to both me and my friend. After all, I once felt so much love for this person and even to this day wish them nothing but happiness. Even though this was my decision, I was still plagued with denial, anger, bargaining and depression. It took nearly a year to find acceptance that I’ve gotten to the “it is what it is” phase — and even then I hop back to the previous four from time-to-time.
I’ve made it a point to end all communication with my friends of yesteryear. Not because I dislike them or because I don’t care how they're faring in life — but because I needed a clean break for my own mental health and happiness. Some may be able to accept the fact that they’ve grown apart and maintain a friendship that’s only as deep as a digital timeline (and in certain situations, that could be the best possible outcome.) The trouble comes when others can’t or don’t want to accept your reasoning.
In these situations, I urge you to speak your piece, leading a civil and concise conversation, informing them of your plan and end contact. This is especially important to consider at the end of romantic partnerships when the feeling to end the relationship is not mutual. Being loose on this rule isn’t fair to the other person, as it can give them hope that you’re looking to reconnect or worse, derail them from their healing.
Lastly, look to the future. It’s difficult to move on from something that feels like it took a piece of you with it, but it’s often for the best. Let go of any anger or ill-feelings and take that deep breath. Without fail, it will feel like you’ve finally come up for air after fighting the current for far too long. One the anxiety has washed away and your adrenaline levels balance, take inventory of your emotions, look to the horizon and take that first step.
To recap, to move on without guilt, know:
- That you are only responsible for your own happiness. At the end of the day, your level of happiness comes from your own hopes, passions and drive. The kindness of others may help, but that’s only supplemental — trust me.
- The decision to end a relationship is not dissimilar to throwing a pebble in the pond. Once the stone has left your fingertips and the words come out, there will be ripples after the splash. Take careful consideration before making a decision as big as this, as it may not be reversible.
- Grief is a complicated thing. You may experience all five stages, you may only face three — you could get through it in a week or it may take years. Accept and embrace each stage as it comes, this is a vital part of healing, and for the authors we spoke of earlier, imperative to move on without guilt.
- If it comes to ending contact, discuss your plan with the other person — don’t cut them off out of the blue without reason. Additionally, once you’ve severed ties, don’t dabble in catching up or check-ins in the following weeks or months, it only makes things worse.
- The last step in moving on is to look to the future. Often times, it’s been a long time coming to feel this free and you deserve to live a life of laughter and light (cliche as it may sound.) It’s time to brush it off, ride off into the sunset and pen the next chapter in your book.
In closing, I want to bring up one of the many lessons that I learned while watching Grey’s Anatomy. It was back in season two that Meredith’s mother, Ellis, in a moment of clarity in the midst of her Alzheimer’s, says to her now “grown up” daughter, “It's a shame. It's awful being a grown up, but the carousel never stops turning. You can't get off.” I’ve held that saying since hearing it and have gotten goosebumps every time I’ve heard it spoken since.
There will be many changes in your lifetime. These may be difficult, they may take every ounce of energy you have and they may bring heartache and tears. As you go forth in life, remember that you’re not promised anything and the carousel never stops turning. You can’t pause life to avoid or work through issues — and no issue is worth wasting another minute of your happiness. Don’t let the fear of the rain ruin the rainbow that follows.