My girlfriend told me today about a friend of hers that just broke up with her boyfriend of seven years. They had started dating right out of high school and this poor girl was devastated by the concept of starting her life over as an adult. After the break up she had literally gone on her first date ever at the age of 26. This morning the wonderful girl that makes my lattes at our local coffee shop was telling me that the feelings she had after her divorce made her feel like she had been thrusted into the worst parts of adolescence all over again. One of my very best friends started her life and her career over after her wedding was cancelled, moved to the big city and lived on her friend’s couch until she could be on her feet again. Talk about a Start Over, in a year’s time absolutely nothing about her life resembled where she thought she was going with it but she learned to roll with the punches. From experience I can say that the Start Over can feel ominous, the big picture can feel daunting. Here is a field guide to getting through it.
1) Forget the Shoulda, Woulda, Couldas and especially the What-ifs:
So you were cruising through life and all of a sudden you had to make a 90 degree turn? Unfortunately for all of us, the most comfortable we will ever be is in the familiar. To step outside of that zone in any way, big or small, requires guts of steel. Whether the change was your choice or not is seemingly irrelevant, change is change and it is all tough to some degree. Have some faith in your decisions, trust your gut, and believe in the possibility that big things are happening around you and outside of your field of vision. One of my favorite bloggers said that sometimes our lives change so that big things can happen to other people and we are just collateral damage ( http://shaunanagins.com/2013/05/08/five-sentences-that-changed-my-life/ ). With that said, let go of trying to the idea that things could have been worked out the way that you wanted them to if you had done things differently. Life really is playing out the way it should for us all, don’t over think it.
2) Give it space
If you really want perspective, don’t be afraid to walk away from something. One of the happiest, most gosh darned adorable couple I know broke up a couple of months before their wedding. They took a year or so apart, grew and healed old wounds, and came back together again as happier, healthier people. I am not suggesting that you wait for some miracle reunion with a past loved one but in any event, don’t be afraid to walk away from anything and work on yourself. After my big break up I put a lot of distance between myself, my career and most of the people I knew in town. I wasn’t able to focus on making me better if my attention was divided. A solid year later, I am able to appreciate my job and my peers so much more because I gave it all space to heal. I was able to come back to it and love it with fresh eyes and an understanding of what it all really meant to me.
3) Be patient
Be patient with yourself, be patient with others, be patient with the process. We don’t get over the worst of it, we get through it. Sometimes the worst of it takes longer than we want it to. Sometimes it is harder to imagine that there is something out there that could be better than what we had planned. Sometimes we get tired of waiting. I recently told a friend that I was having a shitty go of things and I was tired of being in a holding pattern. She assured me that my impatience was because I had myself on some arbitrary timeline that I had created myself. It makes sense, life does it’s own thing in it’s own time. Damn it.
4) Dream big
My friend Cooper is a pretty big deal. I check in with him from time to time for his expert opinion on my life. Last year he astutely pointed out that I have zero inertia in my life. When I was focused on a season of loss, he was able to point out the endless possibilities available to me. So your relationship ended? Dream of a love you could never have imagined before and seek it. So you lost your job? Make your millions fulfilling your dreams. Cut ties give you more room to fly. Embrace your new freedom and do big things.
5) Keep your humor
I can’t tell you how many times I have half-joked about my life being in shambles. It really does feel good to laugh in the chaos. Life is funny and joyful, even when the shit hits the fan. Keep your head up, buttercup. If it hurts, you are growing. If you can laugh while you grow, you win. Having funny friends helps.
Starting over is the most freedom you will ever have. Have faith, be patient, dream big and laugh your butt off. Don’t be afraid of the unknown, the best really is yet to come.