One of the most common questions I get from friends who are in relationships is whether their relationship is “right.” Though I’m never able to give a definitive answer, I finally realized the best thing to do is just tell them my own experience answering this question and stay out of their decision making process as much as possible.
Last year, I wrote an article about leaving my job at Google and I compared walking away from that job to walking away from my college boyfriend – in both cases, something seemed off to me deep down.
“When people ask me what it was like to leave, I liken my experience of leaving Google to breaking up with my college boyfriend. He was brilliant, good looking, respected, and everyone loved him — I even loved him – but he wasn’t the one. It used to catch up with me on long bus rides my senior year, staring out the window, and I’d get a knot in the pit of my stomach. Realizing that I had to let him go was a slow and difficult process, but it was the right thing to do and I eventually mustered up the courage to break both of our hearts. I wasn’t sure I would ever meet someone like him again, but leaving that relationship opened me up for so much more later on, and I continue to think of that decision as one of the most pivotal in my life. It took me several years to reach the same conclusion about corporate life at Google – it was almost unimaginable to give up a salary, a manager who treated me like family and co-workers I genuinely considered friends. I had worked so hard for it. I couldn’t let it go, even though I was in many ways unhappy.”
At the end of the day, only you know what is right, and that was true for me then.
It was also true for blogger Jordan Reid. In her post “When Nothing But Everything Is Wrong” Jordan talks about walking away from what was, in many ways, a great relationship even when the uncertainty and loneliness ahead seemed unmanageable.
“Truth? I kind of lost it. I pictured myself back in the relationship, back in my job, maybe not great but certainly not alone and probably not so sad it hurt to open my eyes in the morning, and just about wanted to collapse through the floor at the mess I had made of my future. I convinced myself that our relationship had been perfectly fine (after all, it was difficult for me to put a finger on what had been “wrong” in the first place), and that I had just been a whiny, dissatisfied, impossible-to-please kid who thought there were better things out there when really, there weren’t.
There are better things out there.”
It’s not always easy or 100% clear at the time, but when you listen to and follow your heart (or gut or intuition or little voice, whatever you want to call it), I truly believe the universe rewards you. For Jordan, leaving that relationship allowed her to find her husband and she has started a beautiful family and career as a writer. For me, leaving my college boyfriend allowed me to finally get to know myself and experience several serious relationships and breakups that shaped my life. Being single, I didn’t have to think twice about taking big risks in my life (moving to San Francisco, moving to Tokyo, moving to Los Angeles, starting a company).
I wouldn’t be where I am now without that total freedom, and it came from letting go, as difficult as it was at the time. Hopefully it helps to hear stories from people who’ve been at the very difficult crossroads of letting go and holding on. Stay strong!