How—and Why—to End Something Good
15 Mar 2023
This post was originally published when I left Puttylike in January 2023. Here’s how I knew it was time to move on.
I’m addicted to change. And, thanks to my craving for novelty and the odd fateful circumstance, I’ve moved cities, careers and even continents more often than most.
So I was astonished recently to realize that through decades of upheaval the thing I’ve done most consistently in my entire life is “write for puttylike.com” Seriously! My degree lasted four years. My longest “proper” job stuck around for six. But it’s now over seven years since I wrote my first article for Puttylike, and I’ve written over 130 more since. It’s been a dream situation: work that’s fun, pays well, and entails spending time with wonderful colleagues and a unique, fascinating community.
Which makes it all the more surprising—even to me—that I’ve decided to leave.
Deciding without deciding
Have you ever made a choice which you can’t adequately explain? A decision where the cons seem to outweigh the pros…but you know deep down that you’ve already decided to do it anyway?!
These phantom decisions seem to crop up often for me. Other people always seem to have good reasons for their big moves, whether it’s I’m proud to announce I’ve been headhunted into my dream job or Thankfully, this hellish period in my life is over.
But when I leave something behind, there’s often no particular plan pulling me forward, nor a compelling reason pushing me away. I just have a mysterious feeling that it’s time to move on.
Although mysterious, this feeling is far from unfamiliar. In my experience, this is the most likely way that a good situation ends.
If there’s no big reason to change something, we probably won’t change it
Let me explain.
When something sucks, it’s easy to know when to end it: as soon as possible. I tend to live by this rule, and I leave situations as soon as I realize I’m unhappy. Then, whether through luck or skill—I find a better situation soon enough. The net result is that my life is made up of a repeating pattern: short periods of unrest where I try new things, followed by longer periods of stability where I stick with the best new things I discovered.
But unless something comes along to disrupt those periods of stability, they could last forever. (Regular readers might appreciate how hard I’m having to resist the urge to divert into tenuous physics-based analogies right now!)
This stability is no bad thing. Clearly, good things don’t have to end. We’re not obliged to disrupt our lives if we don’t want to, and if “happiness” is the goal, then I can think of few better formulas than “find something you enjoy and keep doing it.”
Regardless, there is something that drives me, sometimes, to bring good things to an end. What’s that about?!
The wisdom of ending something good
I can’t pinpoint the root for this feeling that I should move on from Puttylike. I first noticed it after I pitched an article only to be reminded that I’d already written it…in 2015. This wasn’t a significant moment. It didn’t trigger a desire for change. But it did bring my attention to an itch that was already present.
It’s fascinating looking back now at my very first article for Puttylike, in which I talk about that exact same itch. At the time it led me to quit a “good enough” job, a moment which kick-started a whole new multipotentialite chapter of my life.
But putting it down to a mere “itch” isn’t explaining anything. It’s just a different name for the same feeling. So why do we leave things that are good? If I were to scratch a bit deeper (pun only semi-intended), two facts come to mind:
- We have a finite amount of time.
- There’s a practically infinite amount of good things we could experience.
Taken together, these form the fuel for the itch. Part of me can’t resist wondering: “I do like these good things I have right here… but I’m curious about the good things over there.”
For me, that’s the essence of being a multipotentialite. We’re trying to fit in as much as we can, which means we have to shake things up from time to time.
Handling my feelings
I have to be honest with you. The experienced multipotentialite in me is worried that leaving might be a horrible idea. I’m giving up something excellent for an unknown replacement—potentially no replacement.
Logically, that’s difficult to justify. But I’m choosing to see it as a challenge to my future self: Hey! What are you going to do with that extra time and energy?
I hope I do something good with it.
Handling others’ emotions when a chapter ends
The hardest part of endings isn’t usually my own worries. It’s the fear of how others may react.
I agonized for a long time over the couple of sentences which would notify the team that I was planning to step down from Puttylike. Moments like this bring out all kinds of underlying tensions. I panicked a little. These are my friends! What if our friendship was dependent on our being colleagues? Might they even view this as a betrayal?
As it happened, I needn’t have worried.
But I want to voice these fears, because announcements like these often leave them out. People make big changes look easy, and then we wrongly believe that they’re supposed to be easy when we go through them.
Over the past seven years, I’ve found that voicing fears and worries like this doesn’t solely diminish them for me, it shrinks them for others too. I’ve shared aspects of my life publicly for so long—not because I believe I’ve got it all together and that I have all the answers, but precisely because I know I haven’t. It’s oddly reassuring to have the freedom to be honest about that with you.
The biggest lesson I learned at Puttylike
That’s been the great privilege of writing for Puttylike. I’ve been able to turn “figuring things out” and “voicing my worries” into a job, and one which has even been useful to other people.
Along with being vulnerable about our difficulties, the idea which I’ve returned to repeatedly is this: there’s always another way to look at it.
No matter how stuck we feel, there’s a fresh lens somewhere which can free us. That’s the joy of Puttylike; it’s full of people who are keen to share their own lenses, an endless sharing which helps themselves and others to repeatedly get unstuck.
I’ll miss you
The best part of these seven years at Puttylike has been meeting the community. From fleeting interactions with visitors, to chatting with regular commenters, right through to befriending people in the comment section and coming to know each other as real friends, it’s been an unbelievable delight to constantly meet such fascinating, generous people. Thank you for sharing this part of the journey with me.
It’s not exactly goodbye
Perhaps understandably, I’ve found this article harder to write than normal.
My constant battle against perfectionism has been triggered by the realization that final impressions are much scarier than firsts. You can’t fix a bad last impression.
Luckily, I’ve just about resisted the urge to use this one remaining opportunity to publicly settle grudges and have the last word on as many arguments as possible. Instead, I hope these reflections may help you next time you feel an itch to move on from something good.
If you’re interested in whatever happens next for me, you can sign up for (very irregular) updates at enhughesiasm.com.
And I will still be around! There’s a wonderful team of writers remaining, and I will surely see you in the comments.
Goodbye, for now…and thank you for listening.
This article was originally written for Puttylike
Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety, and The Shop Before Life, a tale about a magical shop which sells human personality traits.
Along with writing more books, he spends his time on standup comedy, speaking about mental health, computer programming, public speaking and everything from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question "so, what do you do?" and is worried that the honest answer is probably "procrastinate."
He would like it if you said hello.