(I wrote this post two months ago but I was nervous about posting it. Here it is anyway.)

I’ve spent the last four years, two months and five days pouring myself into something that I didn’t love.

In retrospect, that seems like a lot of time. In the grand scheme of things, maybe not so much. Still, I’ve always dreamed bigger, wanted more. But all my life I’ve been too afraid to change course. Change is scary. Better to stay on the path you know and tolerate than to leap into the unknown.

I had to prove that I was strong, that I could stay the course set beneath my feet, stretching on and on before me. Twisting it in my head so that staying wasn’t about fear, wasn’t about the million anxieties needling in every decision. There was strength in staying.

That’s what I’d tell myself crying in the bathroom when life was too overwhelming even though it wasn’t supposed to be. Life was supposed to be the path, and the path was supposed to be safe.

That’s what I’d tell myself driving home and wondering if I could crash the car just right to put me out of commission for a few months so I’d have time to just breathe. There was no space for breathing on the path.

That’s what I’d tell myself when weekends stretched into endless periods of dread and depression, and it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed. But I did, because this was the path, and the path was security.

That’s what I’d tell myself when the doctors did tests and said there was nothing wrong so the logical conclusion was that the pain was just in my head but I knew for a fact that my chest was about to rip open with how much it hurt every morning. This was the path, though, and the path was comfortably familiar underneath the pain.

Until it wasn’t anymore.

I wish there was some sweeping, cinematic moment that I decided this, something with lightning sparking in the background and the wind blowing through my hair. But there wasn’t. It just happened. One day, the path wasn’t enough for me anymore. I’d given literal blood, sweat, and tears to something I didn’t love for the last four years, two months, and five days, and suddenly, that was unbearable.

I used to think there was strength in staying where I was supposed to.

But now I know the strength is in leaving.