Someone shared this with me recently:
It's pretty good. After a year of a pandemic and feeling trapped in many ways, it's freeing to think that if something sucks... I can just leave?
But can I? Recently I've been considering abandoning several aspects of my life (a month ago I asked my friend "should I just quit my job, break up with all my partners, shave my head, and move to the middle of nowhere?") and I've been reflecting on what things keep me from actually leaving stressful situations. A lot of the excuses I make feel quite reasonable, but I think it's good to check in with myself to see if I'm just making excuses and really should just hit da bricks.
So when something sucks -- whether it's my housing situation, a conversation, or a zoom call -- what keeps me around?
An apartment can be become more comfortable the longer I live there and set it up to my liking. A job can become easier and more impactful as I build up company-specific experience and trust with the team. A relationship can become closer the longer we've gotten to know each other.
Some people consider this sunk cost fallacy, but Wikipedia says "a sunk cost is a sum paid in the past that is no longer relevant to decisions about the future". I do think there's a lot of benefits to having things constantly around in my life for a while. So I guess the question to ask myself is: would a future with the thing I've invested in be better than a future without it?
Not everything I abandon needs to be replaced. But if I quit a job, I'd eventually need to find a way to make money again. If I move out of my apartment, I'll probably need to search for a new place and manage the logistics of packing, moving, and unpacking. The effort these things require can often feel daunting. I've been asking myself: "Is it worth the effort of making this change, for the chance of being happier? Can I defer some of this work? Can anyone help me with this work?"
When I want to leave a social situation (these days usually a walk with a friend or a call), I often worry about the way my actions with impact others and also their view of me. If If I cut off a social engagement early, will the other person feel hurt? If I leave a group call shortly after joining, will people think I'm being rude? I think I have to make a call on a case-by-case basis, but my guess is that I worry about this more than it's actually relevant, and I want to notice more opportunities to take space for myself even if it might inconvenience others.
This applies to both short-term contexts like conversations and long-term contexts like friendships -- what if I stick around and it gets better and something awesome happens? If I leave, I'll never get to experience that! What if the mediocre writing class I'm taking has a lecture that totally changes how I think about writing? What if a mediocre walk I'm on wanders somewhere so neat that it makes my day?
FOMO can feel sort of silly if I consider the infinite set of cool things that could happen in my life, that I constantly miss out on by making the choices I make each day. But it's easier to imagine futures that are similar to my current situation. Maybe it would help to not just think "what cool thing might happen if I stay" but also wonder "what cool thing might happen if I leave?"
There are lots of reasons why making changes can be hard. Money, time, and energy are scarce resources for some folks, and these things are often required to leave sucky situations. While I don't always feel like I have the mental and emotional energy to navigate walking away from something, I do feel extremely privileged to have the support of money, social capital, and helpful friends.
I don't think it's always easy to leave something when it sucks, or that leaving is always the right decision - in fact, I'm grateful for many situations where I decided not to quit! But I do want to get better at leaving when things suck, and I think I could benefit from doing it more often.
Some ideas for practice:
I think that with practice and time, I can build a better intuition for when something is worth sticking around for, even if it sucks right now, and when I should just hit da bricks!!