Some people have the strange and alarming idea that anything that comes to an end is a failure. Whether that’s a job, a hobby, or a marriage, if it wasn’t eternal, it wasn’t a success. We say things like:
My marriage failed.
I failed at running a small business.
My time in competitive sports was a failure.
Why do we think this? Why do we use language like this?
It doesn’t make sense to me. I am the kind of person who is constantly evolving. My needs and interests change often. When they stay the same for too long, I start getting worried. Maybe I’m depressed, or perhaps I’ve become complacent. Neither of those things are true, I should add. But, I wonder them nonetheless. I get concerned when I don’t feel that itch, that calling, to explore something new. My ache for newness has led me in all kinds of unexpected directions.
I earned a Ph.D. and didn’t go into academia.
I got a six-figure job and left it after only a few years.
I started a business and closed it down.
I grew a substantial following on YouTube and stopped posting there.
I’ve had quite a few people share their less than charitableopinions of my choices. They’ve called me such things as indecisive, wishy-washy, and incorrigible. I’ve had people be straight up cruel, telling me I must have failed at everything and that’s why I walked away. I am someone doomed to fail at everything I put my hand to, so why even try?
I would love for us to normalize the healthy mindset of walking away from things that no longer serve us.
What is the point in staying committed to something that doesn’t serve us or bring us joy anymore, just because it did those things at one time? Why do I deserve to white-knuckle my way through life, being permanently wed to things an older, outdated version of myself used to love?
No, I will not do that. I choose to see each choice I make as a wish for the future. I always hope that I will forever love the people, places, and things I choose. But it’s just not realistic to expect it. I have learned to enjoy things while they are new and exciting. I lean into them fully, exuberantly. I give my all to them because they fulfill me. They bring me joy.
Sometimes, that joy carries on for a lifetime. Other times, the joy lasts only a season.
When the joy fades and the thing no longer excites, I thank it. I thank it for the happiness it brought, for the brightness it gave my life. Often, I grieve. I am human—I get attached to things easily. Perhaps too easily. Things can be hard to let go of, even when you know it’s right. One of the biggest cries of my life was the day I handed over the keys to my 4,000 square foot warehouse, knowing the business I spent years loving and cultivating was no more. And yet, my heart was full. I could grieve the past while also anticipating with excitement the things that were on the horizon.
Nothing I’ve ever walked away from was a failure. In its own way, it was a success. Every single thing.
I refuse to see the things I said goodbye to as a failure. Instead, I see them as stepping stones—the things that formed the path to where I was ultimately meant to be. And to me, that sounds a lot like success.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.