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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wells chapter.

Everyone encounters that instant at least once in their life.

That instant when you find yourself at an impasse. When you recognize yourself to be drowning amidst what feels at the time like a horrible, life-wrenching, and potentially destructive moment (or series thereof). This sense of loss can come in many forms: a break-up, the death of a loved one, an outpouring of hate from those around you, a colossal mistake, getting fired from a job. You feel like you are falling apart. Like you are irreparably broken. And, ensconced in this moment and this moment only, you neglect to believe there’s any chance of moving forward.

Nearly two years ago, I encountered this instant. I was in a toxic relationship, I felt misunderstood and completely alone, and my mental health continued to worsen. I cried every day and lacked the energy to do simple tasks. Life felt hopeless. I blamed those who were treating me badly for the situation I was trapped in instead of recognizing myself as a key instigator of the trapping. I continued to move backwards, seeking a closure that was irretrievable instead of considering the true cause of my troubles or entertaining the possibility of escape. 

Our tendency is to fear change. When the circumstances of our life slip from our control and change becomes undeniable and imminent, we grapple to salvage an old way of life we desperately want to hold onto. We refuse to accept loss because we fear repercussions and cower in the face of extreme self-renovation. And, because they are gone, we glorify what were truly just temporary parts of our life.

When I finally finished assessing the damage and started looking forward, the word “regret” left my vocabulary. I’ve since come across several people who have aired to me the things they wish never happened in their life. People they wished they never dated, mistakes they wished they never made, the looming moment they’d choose to omit from their past if they had the ability to travel in time. I’d tell them all the same thing. Every trial and tribulation I’ve experienced has moulded me into the person I am, taught me what I know, and given me what I have today. I wouldn’t change anything.

Letting go is painful, but necessary. Things are meant to change. People and circumstances are meant to be impermanent. Seeing the things you’re having trouble loosening your grip on as vital stepping stones rather than pieces of your identity’s foundation is vital in moving forward.

One of the central steps in letting go is to accept where you’re at. If you feel as though you can’t, look inside yourself for the reason why. 

First, evaluate the external causes of your distress. Toxic friends, family members, or partner? Living in an environment that doesn’t suit your mental or physical needs? Distance yourself from those who disparage your worth, aren’t present when it counts, and don’t challenge you to be the best you can be. Leave the places where your happiness suffers. Shedding dead skin doesn’t leave you bare or with nothing; it leaves you with less weight and room for improvement.

Next, analyze the internal causes of your distress. Look at yourself wholly, and be kind but constructive. What do you like? What do you wish was different? Do you want to be more honest? More ambitious? More empathetic or considerate of others? Once you settle on personal goals, set the steps to reach them. Accruing and maintaining a growth-mindset can be difficult if you don’t take the time to deeply reflect on yourself and be consistent with your efforts to get better. There is always work to do. If you have trouble feeling motivated to reinvent yourself, envision the person you want to be and the values you strive to live up to. You may experience a pang of guilt as you recall the times you have not lived up to these new standards you’ve set for yourself, but recognize that nobody is perfect. Use your past self as fuel. You have the daily choice to be better than you were yesterday or to be stagnant. 

Growth doesn’t happen overnight. Embrace failure and be conscious of your limits. Regard the people, places, and circumstances of the past as worthwhile lessons you have learned in order to become more resilient, honest, loving, and hard-working. Love yourself for who you are by refusing to settle for a version of you that is unwilling to grow.

Lastly, allow yourself to grieve. When I finally processed and stepped away from the situation I was in, it was nearly a year after I experienced the loss. At first, it was hard not to hate myself for how long it took for me to move on. But some changes take time. Never compare your journey to someone else’s. If it weren’t for all of my failures, missteps, experiences, and mental health breaks during that period of time, I never would have known what to look for in better friends. I never would have known what parts of myself I could have improved on, what I wanted or didn’t want, and I never would have been able to empathize with the struggles of others to the degree than I can now.

I am now surrounded by wonderful people. I am a better partner and friend. Above all, I learned that nothing lasts forever—and if anything, I am grateful for the terrible times I once feared I’d never escape. Never fall into a pattern of repeating the same mistakes because there’s someone worse to blame for it, or because it’s easier than stepping outside of the situation and looking inside yourself. You are the only thing completely under your control. Take the reins.

Savannah is currently a senior at Wells College. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing.
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