The Guilt of Walking Away.

I have absolutely no regrets about moving forward in my life (see the last couple of posts or so), but I still have this guilt, as if I should feel bad about leaving a job I’ve been at for over a decade. As if it were always going to be the job I had with no intention of trying new things or following my heart or something. How silly is that? Yet, it’s still like this divorce of sorts, but more a liberation than a divorce…it’s divorcing a life I have known and admittedly not always found to be ideal or positive or life-affirming. That isn’t to say I regret the entire experience, rather it has helped me over time realize just what I need and want from my life.

Everyone goes through these things, I guess I just let my feelings get too much in the way, read too much into what people will do or say or watch me walk away with ill will and a “good riddance,” from their lips. I have done nothing to warrant such things, and nobody actually has (at this point), but still, it’s like you’re letting people down just for wanting something different than them in life, and you feel like you have to apologize for leaving or qualify your decision with a long explanation. Some people will always try to spin it to make you look bad or tell people you’re crazy or your feelings are invalid, or maybe they simply don’t believe/want to believe in you, etc.; sadly, I know of a few and to say their behavior disappoints me isn’t enough. (And not worth my energy, frankly.)

For me, it’s a series of things that have brought me to this point, but mostly I move forward with goals, plans for better things, and a full slate of work waiting for me. These are things that will in turn allow me to live my best life, truly putting my heart and soul out there in the way I am meant to, and yet, this little tinge of guilt tries to bust in to ruin things. I have no reason to feel guilt, shame or regret – I am actually doing something (many things) that will give me the joy that has more-or-less been sucked out of me in a situation that isn’t best for me. I lost myself in the process, all the going through the motions and trying to block out the unpleasantries and soforth, feeling obligated to hang tough when I realize things will never change when others won’t, but nothing is stopping me from making changes for myself except me. Oh, there I go being selfish again…

It’s like an abusive relationship in a way, but in order to move forward, you have to examine your life, work through it all as best as you can, then separate yourself so you can focus on the new path ahead. You know, like the end of a marriage. You want to leave on the best of terms (most of the time, obviously not always the case), yet, you are often casting off pieces of the past you never hope to revisit, but maybe there are a few bits you do want to keep with you. And then there’s that guilt, that feeling like you didn’t (or couldn’t) do enough or try to make the most of things when your heart just isn’t there. The course has been run and there is nothing else but another trip around the same track (to put it metaphorically). And then you remember you did what you could, and sometimes things just didn’t change or didn’t last long enough to feel motivated anymore, and you have to accept it’s time to move on. And that’s hard.

I am not actually having a hard time with leaving my job; I look forward to continuing with the path I have been slowly making for myself over many years now, and though it took time to mentally prepare myself for that “I’m ready” moment, I know the only way to make it happen is to start running, from the old to the new. The guilt will probably subside as I fill those areas with new-found happiness and a true sense of purpose and knowing I’m contributing something to the world as more than just a “paper-pusher,” or the person who sits back quietly, making it easy to turn into a doormat or scapegoat for other people’s shortcomings. That doesn’t have to be me, and I hope others out there who truly deal with these feelings for any reason at all (and likely in more profound ways than I’ll ever know) realize that, too. We are all valuable in this life, and those who try to take that away or make it difficult will always be around trying to project their unhappiness onto us. We have to say “NO WAY, I DESERVE BETTER,” and then actually make it happen.

Has anyone else felt conflicted about walking away from something (or someone) in their life? How have you worked through it and pushed ahead toward better days?

And with all this rambling, I am ready to close out 2012 (hey, we made it) along with some feelings I am ready to cast off, hoping for far better days ahead in 2013. May the same be with you! 🙂

  4 comments for “The Guilt of Walking Away.

  1. December 27, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    It’s snowing on this page.

    This was never a job you intended to have forever. Go back and look at yourself 11 years ago, and you’ll see that. Though … you had to go through a lot of what you did at this job to get to where you are now. Much as you would have liked to escape many years ago (even as some close to you wanted that), you had to be ready, which involved growth on your part.

    I walked away from a job that was supposed to be my career. It was something I had to do, though it made me feel a giant failure and a disappointment. I didn’t have anything to look forward to; I was totally lost. It’s partly because of that whole mess, and the feelings of being lost that followed, that led me to you in the first place; had things worked out and I were still happily teaching in Aurora, I would not be anywhere close to the person I am now. It didn’t, because I was in the wrong place, and it was the wrong time in my life.

    You don’t have any of that to drag you down. You know where you’re going, and while I understand feeling like you should feel bad for leaving the job that got you here, it’s not how it needs to be. You’re not leaving the dance with someone other than the date you came with; you’re getting off the ship at the end of your trip, because it got you where you need to go.

    • December 28, 2012 at 10:09 am

      Indeed, it is snowing, and will continue until January 4th…just a fun little quirk WordPress had in the settings for this time of year. 😀

      And thank you, Jason, you put it into perspective in probably the best way I’ve seen it put: a ship reaching the end of its trip, and the only thing left to do is get off and head to where it was taking me. That really sums it up. I guess that’s where the whole “it’s the journey, not the destination,” bit comes in. 🙂

      It’s funny, or maybe not funny but kind of amazing, how life works…how it places us where we need to be and brings around people we are meant to know when we all need it. Everything I have been doing over this past decade reminds me of that, all the actions and thoughts and moments, good or bad, have made where I am today possible, and you, and Von, and anyone else who may be reading but not commenting. We all have something to give, to share, just by being ourselves, and we can’t do it alone.

      As for the difficult bits, as one of my childhood best friend’s fathers reminded me of this quote: “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

      Something I really found helpful, or at least comforting, was this blog I came across while looking for some wisdom on walking away from a family business; the guy who runs it had a less-than-ideal ending to his situation (complete family alienation and a father/boss who didn’t respect his feelings or value; that is something I am fortunate to not have with my father/boss), but he has a lot of interesting things to say that resonated with me:

      Perhaps someday this experience will allow me to uniquely write about and help others going through it, since I am certainly not alone in my feelings. It has been awkward having to sort of distance myself as more of a self-preservation sort of thing. It is hard to relate to people you’re supposed to care about, but couldn’t be more different than, and at the same time work with them and see their rather less-than-pleasant sides…it hurts to realize people aren’t always who you thought they were or have been overcome by the “business, not personal” bits that really are personal when it comes down to it. That is probably the hardest part about it: how do I move on to having a civil relationship with people who have proven to be so passive-aggressively, and actively, hurtful to so many people (and each other), and don’t even necessarily see it.

      By my being somewhat submissive, quiet, cowering in my corner just trying to do my thing and go home, trying to avoid conflict, I have become a doormat, a scapegoat, a scared, battered wife walking on eggshells, if you will. I gave them that power over me and have never found a way to be able to address it or see it get better (because I’m not the first, and probably not the last, who has dealt with this), because I felt like it shouldn’t be that way and don’t want to cause a petty “family war,” especially since my dad/boss must continue to put up with the BS until he leaves. And now I am ready to move on for my own valid reasons, but it’s like they still won’t acknowledge the value I’ve provided over the years. That has created a feeling of worthlessness and emotional scars I must somehow try to heal, and I don’t know when or how I can. I want to see the better in them, hope for the best as they carry on, and I want to care again, yet, you learn a lot about family by working with them and one can’t just pretend deeper issues don’t exist between one another, gradually causing rifts, like it or not. They will always be the first ones to call it out in others, but if you dare to try and speak up, it becomes ugly and you don’t deserve the time of day for saying so. I hate that, and I hope they think about this going forward because it will affect any and everyone else, and does even now. This is the stuff I wish I could tell them, but have never been able to (or tried and failed). I don’t know that they’ll ever see this, but I would hope if they do, that they understand EVERY person is important to where you are going and where you have been, and if you don’t take the time to VALUE those people, don’t be surprised when they walk away to greener pastures. They just want to be valued, appreciated, and treated with respect and dignity, even those to whom you are not related. You do that, you will get the results you want, and then some. You don’t, it’s on you to make it better or watch things continue as they are.

      Well, I guess I needed to get that off my chest…part of the healing process.

      Here’s to us being where we are. Seriously, Mr. Benda, there was a grand plan to us becoming friends, even though we had no idea at the time. It means a lot to me.

  2. December 27, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    I have had a couple of experience in my life! The most recent was changing my major to theater. I just look forward and never look back! I know that it will work out in the end eventually and if it doesn’t I used the lessons I have learned from the experience and apply it to making me better. I am sure that with your situation you have an new world to explore and I see nothing but success in the future. 🙂

    • December 28, 2012 at 10:27 am

      This year in particular has been great for us! Even though Facebook did a bad job at not letting me know I had a message you’d sent me about Mathnet, I’m glad other things made it possible for us to become friends, Von!

      That’s what is so amazing, the lasting power of a “silly PBS show” has made possible a lot of where I am, people I know, and ambitions I’m following. And I don’t need to remind people, but why not: I was never good at math, rather awful in fact! If a girl with math dyslexia can still find something like Square One TV one of the greatest tools during her formative years, it more than did its job! I’d like to think Dave (Connell) and Jim (Thurman) have had a hand in where we are today, that their little masterpiece (among other masterpieces) left such a mark on the lives of young people that it carries on their legacies today. I hope to do great things in the years to come, perhaps finding my own level of success inspired by their genius. And thank the Lord for modern technology making it so much simpler than it used to be!

      Good luck with your venture as well; we will no doubt cross professional paths as we pursue our creative goals! 🙂

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