1. Healing is not linear
When we think about healing, we often think of a cathartic process of getting better each day. We adopt the “time heals all wounds” theory, and for the most part, this is true—time is beautiful in that way, but when you have been through something particularly painful, especially something that occurred over the span of years, healing is not always a journey which heads in one direction, always on the up. Some days healing is flashbacks—it’s days spent on high alert because something has triggered you and you’re back in the midst of it. Some days healing is eating leftover pizza and binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy on autopilot. And other days, healing is laughing in your new apartment with friends over cocktails—it’s the morning commute listening to your favorite band and realizing how far you’ve come and feeling like a goddamn rockstar for having the courage to go after all the things you used to think about to escape the hell you were living in. Don’t beat yourself up for the bad days. They suck, sure, but just because you can’t get out of bed or you feel trapped in a weird funk all day doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress. It doesn’t mean you aren’t healing or that you aren’t moving forward.
2. Sometimes you have to go back in order to go forward
Sometimes healing means going back home. It means leaving the city you spent so much of your twenties in. It means leaving behind friends and moving back into your tiny teenage bedroom and learning how to live with your family again. Sometimes you have to make decisions that make you feel as if you’re going backwards. Sometimes, the most difficult part of starting again is the first step, that leap of faith, that horrible decision which makes you want to just stay put, to be miserable, to stay in a life that is unhappy because, in some twisted way, it feels better than failure. But it is in these moments that you have to remind yourself that starting again is not always glamorous. Starting again is making sacrifices for the greater good; it is trusting that starting again is a process. It is not a quick fix. It is believing that everything will work out in the end and knowing that sometimes things will feel more difficult before they feel easier.
3. If you have wonderful friends, you have everything
Change is terrifying, and the lead up to making those changes is often a period of doubt, second-guessing, and wanting to stay in the familiar, even if it isn’t a place of happiness. Your friends will be your anchor during this time, keeping you grounded and reminding you of why you need to go wherever it is your heart is pulling you towards. They’ll listen to you go back and forth as many times as it takes to get you there. They’ll be the ones encouraging you every step of the way and reminding you why you absolutely have to make this change, even if you don’t want to hear it. And change can feel lonely. Starting again can feel like stepping into complete darkness with no direction, but your friends will be the light leading you. Let them. Because your friends will always have your best interests at heart; if you have wonderful friends, you have everything.
4. The best rewards are often in the risk
“Nothing worth having is easy.” Isn’t that what people say? It’s a cliché, but that’s because it’s true. The thing that terrifies you—the complete overhaul of your life, the big move, the big break, the breakup, the break down, the blocking of numbers, of people, of saying goodbye when it feels like the hardest thing in the world—is usually the thing which will bring you the most peace, even if at first it feels like shedding a second skin. Believing that things will work out because they have to is so completely terrifying but so incredibly brave. And when you’re there, when you have fallen apart again and you think about what it would mean to stay living this way, of all the things you would lose—your sanity, your well-being, your ability to just leave the house in the morning—verses that uncomfortable feeling of waking up in a new city, surrounding yourself with new people, of detaching your heart from the person you used to believe was your entire life, what brings you more peace? What makes that fire in your belly crackle? What makes you want to dive in headfirst? Because I promise you, the greatest rewards are so often on the other side of your fear.
5. Doubting yourself is part of the process—don’t give into it
Starting again can often come with setbacks. Plans might fall apart, your best attempts might fail, and that voice in your head might tell you to quit right then and go back home. It might tell you you’re not cut out for it, that this was a stupid idea. That you’re not meant for more than the life you left. But don’t give into it. Starting again is never a smooth process. There’s always going to be bumps in the road, but that just means you’re on a path set to challenge you and push you. Don’t let the fear that you’re about to fail make you give up. Ride out the waves of uncertainty and trust that everything that is meant to be works itself out in the end.
6. Your past will try to come back, so keep the door locked
Walking away from something, whether it’s a person or a place or a feeling, doesn’t mean it won’t try to come back. The past doesn’t like to be easily forgotten—toxic people hate the idea of you untangling yourself from their web and finding happiness, feelings linger long after you decide to move on, but when they come knocking, don’t let them back in. No matter how convincing they might be about having changed, that things will be better, that hanging on is the right thing to do, keep the door locked. You closed it for a reason, and while it might be tempting to resort to a life or a person or a feeling that you are familiar with, you know deep down it will only revert back to how it was before. The past is great at telling you what you want to hear, but it rarely follows through. Remind yourself of all the reasons you left and of all the reasons you are here right now, trying to make a better life for yourself.
7. You are capable of absolutely anything that sets your heart on fire
The most important thing I learned was that you are capable of absolutely anything that sets your heart on fire. You are so much more than your fear, than the voice that tells you you won’t make it, than the people who doubt you or look at you like you’re crazy for taking a leap into the unknown. You are capable of anything you set your mind to, and that includes starting again, choosing yourself, and chasing after a life that brings you joy.