In March of 2013, I drove across the country with my sister, who was relocating from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.
It was on that trip—staring out the window, into snapshots of life in other places—that I realized I hated almost everything about the life I was living.
I felt stuck, hopeless, and frustrated—both professionally and personally.
I envied my sister, who was leaving everything behind and (literally) driving off into the sunset to pursue her dreams. I realized I had a choice:I could dig my heels in and tackle my problems head on, or I could run away.
I know the conventional wisdom is to “never give up. To be positive and to have faith, stay the course and work to make everything better.
But I ran—and it was the best decision I have ever made.
Leaving Philadelphia was like tearing out an old notebook page, tossing it into the trash and turning to a fresh page with unlimited possibility.
I moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. I didn’t know the city or a soul in it. This wasn’t just a new page—this was an entirely new book.
Two years later, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about running away:
1. Absence makes the heart grow stronger.
Putting physical distance between you and your triggers is a powerful emotional cushion. After five years in Philadelphia (plus a childhood spent there), there were enough ghosts from my past to haunt me nearly everywhere I went.
Moving somewhere I had no memories of—and no life experiences in—felt amazing. It freed me to focus on my present, rather than being reminded of my past.
The relief that provided immediately made me feel lighter. It gave me the space I needed to process emotions I had been avoiding on my own terms.
2. Running away can be empowering.
Having the courage to uproot my life and start over with a clean slate was exhilarating. Building a totally new life gives you the ability to choose each thing (and each person) you want to bring into it, with intention.
When you’re free of the expectations of friends, family and co-workers, it’s much easier to reinvent yourself. Running away positions you as the creator of your own life, and compels you to step into that power.
3. Running away is not the same as escaping.
You know that saying, “Wherever you go, there you are?” When we run away from our problems, they do follow us. There is just no escaping emotional pain.
But the first few months of figuring out a new town, getting settled in a new home and finding new friends can serve as a wonderful distraction. It gives us something to think about other than the past. It can inspire hope rather than anxiety for the future.
4. Your problems will follow, but your friends may not.
Like any life transition, you may lose some friends when you pack up your stuff and get out of dodge. And that’s ok. Your true friends will still be there for you, and new ones will find you.
While it can hurt to lose a friend or to feel distance growing between you, do your best to accept the situation without judgment. It’s just life, and it’s rarely personal. And eventually you may find your way back to each other.
So much of life is about struggling to know whether we should hold on or let go. But there comes a point when holding on just makes us feel heavy.
Releasing your grip and “making a run for it” may not be the advice an expert would give you—but sometimes it can be just the thing we need to push us to create the life we’ve always wanted.
Author: Holly Russel
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina