Should I stay or should I go. I think that’s a shit song from the 80’s, but the title does highlight a very important question we’ve all had to ask ourselves at least once in our life: is it time to leave? Does this job/ relationship/ city/ project/ friendship serve me anymore? Do I stay and work it out? Or do I go?

Over the last few years i’ve done my fair share of leaving. I’ve left people, jobs, plans and cities. Each time it is gut-wrenching, each time trying to decide wether to stay or go can drive you insane. What’s the right decision? What if I leave, and then change my mind? I get it. So here are some definite markers I have learnt to trust that indicate when is a good time you’ve outgrown something, that it’s time to move on.

1.You feel like your gut is trying to tell you something, but you ignore it.

I was in a relationship for three years. It was around the two and a half year mark that I started to get this niggling feeling that maybe I did not want to be in this relationship anymore. The problem was, I couldn’t justify to myself why. He was ridiculously intelligent, handsome, kind and his parents were so dope I low-key wanted them to adopt me, too. It seemed ungrateful, almost, to want to throw it all away.

But there was this voice, this undercurrent, that near the end got louder. This is not your person, it would say, which I would constantly ignore, distract myself, refuse to look it in the eye, like a dog refusing to look at the giant shit it just took on the carpet as it’s owner stands is there saying “DID YOU DO THIS, SCRUFFY?!”

I didn’t do anything about it. Which brings me to clue 2, a clear indicator that it could possibly be time to leave:

2. You stop striving to be a better person

Although my brain refused to acknowledge my boyfriend and I we’re not the right people for each other, my body knew, and my actions followed accordingly.

I stopped showing up as my best self. Becoming lazier, I was more inclined to fight and less inclined to come up with solutions. I resorted to behaviour I usually hated; bickering, cattiness, passive aggressiveness. I didn’t care if he saw me as childish. I didn’t care how he saw me at all. While I was too scared to leave the familiarity of the relationship physically, I had started to check out emotionally.

Similarly, when I a few years later, when I knew I wanted to move out of Perth but didn’t yet want to admit it to myself, my behaviour said it all. I started drinking more, exercising less, less mindful, and more negative.

So you find yourself not even liking yourself in the relationship, (or job, or friendship, or city, or lifestyle) it could be time to look elsewhere.

3. You don’t feel like you are able to truly express yourself 

I love to overthink. I love to chase trains of thought, I love deep, vulnerable discussions on the wrong side of 3am. As a dreamer, a truth seeker, a lover, I am furiously passionate about the world so, much that I want to drink in everything I can about it. And I do this through stories. I do this through thinking, imagining and through discussions with people with dreams as big as mine.

A few years ago, when I lived in Perth, I felt like I was the only nut job in my social circle who felt this way. When I started to talk about the stuff I wanted to talk about I often felt shut down, like.

Here she goes again.

You think too much, Caity.

You’re too emotional.

Why do you always talk about living somewhere else?

Isn’t here good enough?

I tried to sit at Friday drinks with my overpriced espresso martini and ask my friends about about their working week and university assignments while trying to ignore every cell in my body screaming to ask but what do you think is the purpose of life? When was the last time you cried? What’s your biggest fear? What is one thing you would do right now if you knew you could not fail?

These were people I loved to the end of the earth. Yet I always went home feeling anxious and unsatisfied, like we hadn’t spoke about anything meaningful. I couldn’t consolidate these two ideas in my head and I felt like a bad person.

4. You feel like “too much” for the people around you

“These people are not your tribe.” a friend finally told me, after he noticed my internal conflict (by “noticed” I mean, I called him in the middle of the night saying WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!)

“It doesn’t mean you don’t love them,” he continued. “But if you feel like you don’t belong, or like you can’t fully express yourself, you need to set your sights elsewhere to people who can give you what you need.

Shortly after that I moved to Central America, and in doing so have befriended a whole swathe of spiritual nutjobs who are more than happy to sit and try unpick the mysteries of the universe with me. I have not felt like “too much” in over a year. It has been almost like a pressure valve has deflated. I no longer sit at girls drinks on a Friday night thinking ‘what is wrong with me? Why isn’t this enough for me?’

Not only have I stopped peppering my old friends into conversations they simply don’t want to be in (which, i’ve learnt, is fine- not everyone wants to talk about ‘the interconnectedness of everything in their downtime) it’s almost like, when I talk to my old friends I am more settled. I’m not pushing them to give me something they can’t give me, because I now have that elsewhere. I can just enjoy them, as they are, and them me.

So, stay or go?

If you feel like you’re constantly having to dim yourself, or keep quiet, or try be less, you know, intense, that is not sustainable. For your heart, or for your mental health. You can love your friends silly, but also know you need to find more people who align more closely to the kind of person you want to be and kind of experiences you want to have in this world. That’s okay.

The best thing is as soon as you acknowledge what kind of relationships, jobs and lifestyle that really serves your spirit, life provides them. But first you need to create the space to do that. By having the balls to distance yourself from something else.

“If you feel like you constantly have to dim yourself, or keep quiet, or try be less, you know, intense, that is not sustainable.”

Leaving isn’t simple. It’s actually one of the most terrifying things we as humans have to do.  Leaving something like a job or relationship or city means creating a massive tectonic shift in the foundations upon which we build our identities, and that can cause some ruptures, take some time to adjust.

But trust me, if you are getting that small voice in your heart saying leave! leave! leave! It’s there for a reason. If you feel like you are being called elsewhere, if you feel like your heart yearns for more, listen to it.

Seriously, fucking listen to it.