What if I don't want to move on?
Throughout life, we constantly hit points where we have such great opportunities.
- We graduate high school and decide where we want to go to college.
-We decide if we want a community college close to home or a University a couple states over.
-We find ourselves 2 years in and decide that we’ve chosen the wrong major, only to realize that our ideal major is completely available.
-We graduate and decide whether we would like to start the job search or begin to search for further education.
I can keep going but the point has been made. Is this exciting or does it cause some level of anxiety?
For some, this is the dream. This is the path to the “American Dream”. However, what happens when things happen too fast? What happens when we’d prefer to stay where we are, while knowing that this decision is not beneficial or maybe in our best interest? This comfort that we find in our current situation is normal. This reminds me of all of the times I’ve looked back on my past situations and realized that I would give anything to go back and just sit in that space for a little longer. Am I wrong for having this desire? We’re allowed to revisit times in our lives that were enjoyable.
Many individuals find themselves in situations where they feel they are being pushed from different directions. They, or we, feel that decisions must be made promptly and that we are running out of time. This pressure may be applied from parents who believe that any education is better than no education at all, which can have many people spending a lot of money on a degree that doesn’t elicit some sort of joy from the individual holding the degree. This same thought can be applied to other major transitions in life. I hear so many stories of people in relationships that are convenient. While convenient is easy, is there a part of us that could possibly become bored or feeling that we rushed into it because ? Is this a relationship, or career field, that will become stagnant due the low drive to continue to work on it? This is a challenge that presents itself to many people just like you and me. We begin to chase these goals only to realize that we may have made a wrong decision. Upon this realization, regret can sink in.
Stories, or realizations, similar to the one above can cause many people to hesitate and wonder if they have achieved their best life in their current situation. This feeling of pressure from others to achieve more or commit to a relationship fully can sour an outlook on the situation and cause more of a disinterest in this big change. What if we are able to step back and ponder our options? Are we allowed time to figure things out? I believe that some very rash decisions can be made if they are made before we are ready. We should be able to take time to focus on ourselves without constant questions like “what do you plan on doing with your life?” or “don’t you think it’s about time you stop messing around?”.
Wait. Let’s pause.
Let’s just take a minute to stop and figure out what our priorities are. This doesn’t need to be a job. It can be an enjoyable experience. Figure out what you enjoy and how your ideal future looks and determine what is truly attainable. Figure out what makes you feel challenged but increases your self-esteem. Brainstorm with friends, not only for the second point of view, but also for the realization that you are not alone in this stuck feeling. Our priorities will give us a glimpse into what we can work towards with a higher success rate. The last thing I will finish in a list of things to do is the thing I don’t want to do. This can mean education, professional development, or relationship advancement.
This Isn’t Just Work and School
I’ve spent a lot of time speaking about education and the struggles to find and work toward goals that help us to find a more comfortable and productive place to be. What about those times that many of us experience following a break up? We become fixated on the parts of the relationship that were so great and completely ignore the parts that really caused us distress. This can also be reversed. We can fixate on the parts of the relationship that were unhealthy while we are in a relationship and refuse to take action to change it. This presents a similar feeling stagnation. We are stuck. We focus on one thing and gnaw on it until there is nothing but negative emotions tied to the relationship. Why must we do this?
If you are like most of us, then a failed relationship is an almost unavoidable part of life. What will it take to move past it? I think that using past experiences as tools to work on the present and future is the best route to take. We don’t have to sit with those emotions for long. It’s normal to be upset that things didn’t work out the way that we had hoped. However, it’s not helpful to let this consume us. We can learn what we are searching for in others and learn how to better navigate situations that we have struggled with in the past.
This unwillingness to move on from relationships, or even within relationships, is also a very normal situation. We don’t have to move on quickly. We can take time. We are allowed to process through the struggles we have on our own time. It’s important to remember that success is not impossible, no matter what your past experiences have taught you. Sit with the stuck and reflect. Reflect on good times to learn why you enjoyed certain experiences. Reflect on bad times to understand which parts moved you in a negative way. Reframe these experiences in order to help yourself advance. This is a very helpful process that happens in therapy. It can helpful to an individual that has the patience and confidence in themselves to not let it consume them completely. We may handle certain situations poorly, but that does not need to be set in stone. We are adaptable creatures that possess the ability to experience pain and pleasure, along with the ability to search for reasons why. We can take time to feel. We can take time to experience the feelings in the moment and express ourselves in a healthy manner. Following this, we can search for reasoning. We can decide what needs to change and decide if the failure of the relationship is truly the most bothersome part of this story. Many times, the most bothersome part of the ending of a relationship is the perceived loss of time that we have experienced. However, is it really lost time? Was the time we spent in this relationship completely useless? In most cases, the relationship and time it consumed was not useless. It was a way to learn of more filters that we can apply to our next search.
Filtering It All
This filtering of qualities idea that I ended the last paragraph with made me realize that this is a very good way to view “moving on”. We learn in our failure and learn in our state of discontent. We pull many things away from these experiences that can help us to view the experiences in a more positive light. From experience, I’ve learned that people enjoy feeling heard. I remember relationships when I was a teenager that I took for granted. I remember hearing what I wanted to hear and acting on what others told me. Sometimes we don’t want to inspire action. We just want to be heard. Also, I’ve learned that immersing yourself in something you find interesting can be so much work. However, this work leads to goals that you can truly celebrate.
Finding yourself stuck in school, work, relationships, and countless other situations doesn’t mean that you have been defeated. What if it is just a way to enlighten us of the importance of that place we’re stuck in? We find ourselves searching and searching in our “stuck” place. We lose the motivation to leave this space until we realize that there may be little to gain from where we are. We can then come to the realization that we need to lift our head up and try to get a better view of the road ahead of us. This road may come with challenges, but at least we’ve spent some time doing some self-exploratory work that may provide us with helpful tools moving forward. It doesn’t need to be this scary experience filled with danger. What’s the worst that could happen? You could get stuck? Thankfully for you, that is not a strange place to be and there may be some knowledge to gain in that space. Spend a little time there and understand that there is happiness for everyone somewhere.
It takes work to find happiness and that work came be done in many places. Take the time to come to an understanding of where you would like to see yourself. Open yourself to new experiences and search for ways to better comprehend the meaning of this sense of “stuck”. Gather your priorities and that experience you view as enjoyable and prepare for your next first step forward. Gain as much as you can from the “stuck” because, thankfully, it’s not forever.
TIM FITZPATRICK, PLPC
Tim is a provisional counselor with The Counseling Hub, a counseling practice in Columbia, Mo that focuses on meaningful connection between self, partners, and others. Tim enjoys working with both adolescents and adults on issues regarding making major life changes or transitions, enhancing and building meaningful relationships, wanting to build confidence, wanting to grow self-esteem, anxiety, depression, experiencing an inability to enjoy life, and feeling as though they are being taken advantage of. Tim is an active member of the American Counseling Association, the national counseling association for the United States.
Tim earned his Master's of Science in Clinical Counseling from Central Methodist University. He is currently a Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Missouri and has presented and written on topics including the influence of parental support on depressive symptoms, ethical practice, and the development of adults based on marital status.