For the person who’s struggling to start over
A reflection on the perils and freedom of having to start again
The first time I had to start over, I clung on so hard that I made the situation a thousand times worse. The first time I had to start over, I couldn’t. Each time I thought about what I had to do, what I was leaving behind, the unknowns I was going to have to face, something squeezed deep inside my chest and it felt like I was physically incapable. Every step forward was excruciating, like I was gouging out my own heart each time I so much as thought about it.
The first time I had to start over, it took me eighteen months and three false starts. One step forward, a landslide back.
I’ve never been very good at ripping off band-aids. I like to know what’s coming. I crave comfort and security.
I suppose, basically, I’m human.
The thought of starting over is therefore terrifying to me, and my track record is to try every possible other option whereby I can make the present situation work. So the first time I had to start over I pushed away starting over until the pain from not starting over grew exponentially worse than the pain I anticipated from starting over.
I pushed away starting over until I could see and, most importantly, feel absolutely no other option.
Apparently, I’m willing to suffer a lot in certainty just to avoid the unknown. We’re so much more terrified of losing than we are motivated by gaining that we choose to suffer (see: loss aversion bias, which is a popular term used in behavioral economics and which I feel very well describes part of why we choose to stay in situations that are far less than ideal). We don’t bet on ourselves. It isn’t rational. But it must be human.
The crazy thing is…once I made the decision to start over, it was easy. Once I fully committed, gave myself permission, and accepted the choice instead of fighting it, it was like a switch had flipped inside of me. Like everything I had been feeling had mounted to a crescendo and I had finally hit the summit.
Climbing was so unbelievably, heartrendingly hard. Falling was easy.
Upon reflection, I think even more than comfort, I also felt shame when I thought about starting over. It felt like admitting failure. A reflection of my shortfalls. An admission that I wasn’t good enough, and a sinister voice telling me I never would be. It felt like desperation, and scarcity. It felt weak.
Actually starting over — choosing it and taking action,— on the other hand, felt strong. It felt like coming into my strength for maybe the first real time in my life. It felt like confidence. A reflection and proud admission of how I perceived my own worth. It felt like self-respect, and abundance.
Starting over felt so much better than staying stuck.
The second time I had to start over, it’s taken me ten months. Ten months of second guessing myself. Ten months of consistent breakdowns. Ten months of feeling wrong, but trying to make myself fit anyway. Ten months of complete and utter fear.
I know someone needs to hear this, because I need to hear this now and undoubtedly will need to hear it again.
Starting over is not failure.
Starting over is not weakness.
Starting over is not lack of commitment, or wasteful, or stupidity, or any number of other self-defeating thoughts your brain is telling you because starting over is really freaking scary.
But it certainly isn’t going to break you.
We have to push past the fear to know what the right choice is. And often, it’s a lot simpler than we make it out to be. Whether it’s a broken relationship, a mismatched job, a change of heart, a dead dream, a cascade of terrible luck… whatever isn’t working that’s demanding a new beginning, to choose to start over despite the fear is to choose to have faith and invest in yourself.
If you know you have to start over and you’re struggling, know that starting over will be easier than staying where you are.
If you know you have to start over, know that you are more than capable of doing it.
And then jump.