You have to leave on your own terms

Two years ago, one of my best friends moved to Sydney after eight years in London. “Are you sad to leave?” I asked him.

“I am,” he replied. “London has been great. It’s the city where I’ve met my now wife, made a lot of friends, had a great career and just grown as a person. For all that, I’ll always be grateful to this city. But I’m ready to move on. Because you know what? You have to leave on your own terms. Before things get too complicated and before you feel like you’re pushed out, by house prices or career limitations or whatever. I’m leaving with a feeling of gratitude, not resentment. And it’s a great feeling.”

You have you leave on your own terms.

This phrase has stuck with me ever since. All too often, when I was younger and when I found myself in stressful situations, I would give myself dozens of reasons why I couldn’t walk away – from “they will suffer without me” to “what will the neighbours think?”.

I remember my previous job where the management changed and the comfortable and friendly environment disappeared. No personal attacks happened, but there was this undeniable gut feeling that my boss didn’t like me very much, no matter how good I was at what I did. He fed me with vague promises, like “if you do well in the next three months and if there is an open vacancy in the team, I might promote you.” It sounded dodgy AF, but I felt bad about the very idea of leaving my overworked team because my workload would fall on their shoulders and because “how will they do without me?”.

And then my boss fired another girl whom he disliked even more than me, and I saw my future very clearly: if I stayed, I would be next. A couple of weeks later I handed my resignation letter. The team moved on, and the neighbours didn’t care. Me? Leaving on my own terms saved my career and boosted my confidence.

You have to leave on your own terms – the jobs where dark clouds start to form over your head, the relationships that become unloving and abusive, the places that no longer give you opportunities, the people that make you feel bad. Walking away before it’s too late is not a sign of weakness because there’s nothing weak about saving yourself from becoming a victim of external circumstances.

“I was dumped”, “I was fired”, “I had to move to suburbs” sound a lot sourer than “I left that relationship”, “I found another job”, “I moved to another city with better opportunities”. Being in control of your life is one of the most rewarding feelings.

Don’t ever let other people orchestrate your life. Make your own decisions, take responsibility, be smart and pro-active. And, if it’s time to walk on, leave on your own terms.

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