As my birthday approaches at the end of this week, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned over the years. Of my various experiences and lessons, one stands out above all others. It transformed my approach to life. It all started in a casual conversation with my good friend and mentor, Chuck.

At age 22, I worked in a job that felt miserable to me. I graduated college with a degree in Communications. I landed a position in a marketing department for an educational testing company. With each passing day, I felt great despair. I cried daily as I inched my way home during my hour-plus commute in heavy traffic. My boss, a condescending tyrant, kept me aware of my entry-level status. I felt like a pathetic drone who eagerly looked forward to “casual Friday”. Really? Casual Friday was the highlight of my work week? I agonized at the thought that THIS was the rest of my life.

With intensity and hopelessness, I said to my friend, “I feel so stuck”.  Chuck, in his very nonchalant, no big deal delivery, said, “So leave”.  “What do you mean leave?”.  My mind began to rebel against him.  I thought, I can’t leave, this is my job, my degree, I just graduated, I can’t just leave.  Chuck asked, “Why not?”. “Because I can’t!”, I exclaimed.  Chuck continued, “You don’t ever have to stay in a situation that isn’t right for you.  Stuck is simply a state of mind.”  This conversation forever changed me.

“So leave”. It was not only Chuck’s words that struck me. It was his ease and comfort with the idea. His nonchalant response symbolized his lack of judgement about leaving. To him, leaving, was just, leaving. He didn’t attach a negative story to it.

After some soul searching, I decided to leave.  I charted a very different course that left my heart and soul brimming with passion, strength, awe and excitement. With just enough money to get by, I traveled the country. I settled when needed to earn more money for continued travels. I met kindred spirits along the way. I expanded my sense of self. I learned about my character. I connected with my strength. I gained wisdom that I may not have found had I not risked leaving the familiar.

Years later, I profoundly connect to that young woman who made, what felt like a drastic decision, to claim her life. I know that I have the power to change any difficult circumstances I find myself in. So do you. Once you believe that you have the power to create change in your life, the application is simple. Believe that you can. Know your goal and begin to chart the course to get there.

Leaving a situation to create a better life does not have to be your first option. Know that IT IS an option. This applies to your relationship, marriage, a friendship, a family connection, career, location, or something else. While leaving may be frowned upon by some, there are times when this choice is the healthiest decision. To leave does not mean to give up. Leaving an unhealthy situation often takes courage. When you’ve given your everything and still find no resolve, leaving might prove to be the most mature decision you can make.