When you are constantly questioning yourself, feeling as though every decision you make is less based on what you want and more based on what you think is “appropriate” or the path of least resistance. When you begin to doubt the things that once seemed essential to who you are, and feel that you are now only a composite of qualities constructed to please someone else. When you catch yourself saying things you don’t agree with, eating food you don’t like, doing things that make you uncomfortable, and generally being someone you wouldn’t want to hang out with. When you know that you have changed, and not for the better, it’s time to let go.
When the unhappiness goes from being something that happens intermittently, a storm in an otherwise calm journey, to being the baseline of your existence. When you can no longer remember where this long fight began, or what caused it, only that you exist in a permanent state of discomfort and frustration. When you now regard the moments of occasional happiness as strange, unexpected breaks from what you have come to accept as your normal state of being.
When you allow yourself to think about how sad it is that you’ve gotten used to sadness, that you have grown to feel almost undeserving of living in joy and affirmation. When you realize that the tragedy is not in becoming tired and frustrated with your current state, but allowing yourself to make unhappiness your reality. When you start to see yourself as just someone who “isn’t as lucky” as all of those other people who seem content with their jobs, with their relationships, with their city. When you have given up on the idea of being the kind of person who gets to be infatuated, it is time to say goodbye.
When you are committed to the idea of “not giving up” because that is what we have been told, over and over, is the ultimate sign of weakness. When you have allowed this mantra of “powering through” and “holding on” to keep you locked in a career or a social circle or a continent that does not understand you for years on end. When you know that you no longer love someone, at least not enough to envision any kind of real future with them, and you stay with them anyway because it is the “right” thing to do — no matter how much more it may hurt both of you in the long run — it is time to move on.
When much of your days is spent imagining, deeply fantasizing, about a life that doesn’t even remotely resemble your own. When you look at people having fun and enjoying themselves and almost feel like they are communicating in a language which you no longer know how to speak. When the complacency of being the same, even if you don’t enjoy the sameness, is more comfortable than taking a dive and making a change that would potentially make you incredibly happy is too powerful to overcome. When you think, even when you are only just beginning adulthood, that you are just not destined to have the things you want.
When all of your thoughts are consumed with what could be if you were only brave enough to leave. When almost everything that comes out of your mouth is a dumbed-down version of a lie, because you cannot admit the only thing you actually want to say: I hate it here. When you have found yourself crying while alone at night, when no one else can see you, because you have never felt more alone or unable to do something about what your life has become. When you know that you would probably sound ungrateful if you admitted how much you want to leave, and maybe you are ungrateful, but it doesn’t make every day less of a struggle.
When someone says “I love you” and you no longer know how to respond. When the alarm clock goes off and you nearly burst into tears for how much you cannot stand bringing yourself to a job you hate. When your friends all offer to go out and do the same thing they do every week and you have lost all motivation to join them on an evening out you already know like the back of your hand. When you spend 20 minutes looking at the confirmation page to buy your tickets to leave, hovering over the payment button, waiting to find the courage to take the plunge. When this has become the way you live — it’s okay to give up.