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We all have guardrails we depend on in life. Guardrails are meant to keep us on track, they're there to show us the edge of where we weren't meant to go and help bounce us back along our journey when we begin to veer off course. But when we ride the rail, we're left with scratches, scrapes and incredible damage that was never meant to happen if used in the way it was intended. When we abuse something that was meant to help to the point it begins to hurt, it's time for a wake up call. It's time to get back on track.
When What was Meant to Help Begins to Hurt
People, the 'some day' dreams, a place, a hope we can't let go of. These are guardrails meant to inspire and encourage us but if we're not careful, they can become the dangerous and unhealthy driving forces in all that we do. They're the small elements in life our hearts have become comfortable with protecting, yet we never fully acknowledge with our minds our addiction to them until the bond has already become too strong.
These are the people that ignite our emotions for even just a moment and make us feel alive, even when we know they're toxic for us. They're the hope of a promotion by the end of the year without having put in the work yet. They're the late night 'I miss you' text from an ex who is no longer yours and will never be yours. They're the dream of living in the city you've always loved without having a plan of ever moving and starting a life there. They're comments of the glory days with old friends when you know you'll never get those days back. They spark a false hope, they are slices of emotion that drive us toward feeling and wanting something but hold no intentions of ever coming to life.
To some, it may be blatantly obvious that these various small elements are 'negative' while to others, they may disguise themselves easily as innocent beams of hope that couldn't possibly do any harm. But if we turn on the lights and see them for what they truly are, we are faced with the truth: These figures in our lives are unhealthy comforts—they're guardrails we've been riding way too closely in order to feel okay and we need to steer away from them before we destroy ourselves, our dreams and the ones we are bound to take down with us if we don't.
Who are you without your guardrail?
Who are you when your false hopes are exposed? How will your heart feel when reality hits? Who are you when your rails are torn down, destroyed and removed from your life? When that ex ends communication? When that bonus doesn't come? When that friend walks out on you? How confident are you really when the things you've depended on in vain finally leave you to journey alone?
Who and/or what have you been depending on for stability for way too long that no longer is helping but is, in fact, hurting you?
We are forced to face reality when we crash. We are confronted with the shocking exposure that we are weaker than we ever thought because we were abusing what was meant to be a guide, not a carrier. When we put our hope and our hearts into elements that are temporary, fantasy and unstable, we equate our dreams and plans to the value of that which is insecure and fleeting. When our rails are torn down, we find ourselves left in the rubble, too.
Very recently, I lost a deeply rooted relationship I had counted on since forever, it seemed. We went through every obstacle together and this friend quickly became the strings that held my heart in place and I barely even knew it. I had my life, my plans, my dreams, my family, my boyfriends but still, I somehow always felt that I had him. With each phone call, each car ride through the night, each conversation dreaming about the future, each laugh about our childhood throughout the years, I spun the threads tighter and tighter in the name of friendship and didn't even know I was giving him the position of 'guardrail' in my heart. He became that comfort zone I could come back to when I was feeling insecure and didn't want to face reality. We fought hard, we loved harder, when we were on we were on, when we were off we were still on, and I truly never thought anything would change.
He was my stability. He was the one I mapped my journey around regardless of who else was in my life, and to a fault. He was the unhealthy crutch labeled as a friendship that I began putting an unhealthy amount of weight on- and I didn't want to put the work in to steer away from it. My heart was already too comfortable. I was comfortable with a false reality. He became the guardrail I rode along for way too long. He alone could give me none of the dreams I subconsciously believed he could yet I hugged closer to him than I did my own path, believing that 'one day' everything would just be okay.
But eventually, things changed. Things that aren't healthy are always bound to change.
Off the Rails
Without my rails, without the stability I subconsciously found in him, I had no idea how to drive straight. I had no idea how to drive at all. How could someone who hid so quietly in the back of my heart have such a large impact when ripped away from me? I had spent such little time thinking about the reality of what his friendship meant to me and spent so much time feeling the attention, love, admiration and the reminiscing moments that I allowed myself to drift too far. I had been veering for years, crashing into the guardrail for months, and eventually the damage became apparent and the rails had to be ripped out. It was only healthy, but painful, to have them, to have him, removed.
Getting Back on Track
A guardrail is a reminder that we're drifting and need to get back on track.
My hope is that you read this and think to look at the small elements that make up your life deeply, even if just for a moment or two. It's scary, it is. But it's worth it. Identify the guardrails in your life and tear them out if they're becoming a lifeline, a crutch, a danger or becoming unhealthy rails in your life. If your heart is drifting and you've become dependent on something that's unhealthy to 'keep you on track', stop the car and face it head on. Look it dead in the eyes. Deal with it. Put in the hard work. You can do it. Rip out the rails before you crash and save yourself from the damage you are inevitably going to have to feel and face later down the road if you don't.
Rebuild: For Yourself, for the Things and the Ones You Love
Rip out and replace. Remember that all old things can be made new if you put in the hard work to do so. Many times the thing and the person itself isn't the issue- it's the position you've given it. If it's unhealthy, get rid of it before it leaves permanent damage in your life. If it's a crutch, strengthen that part of you until you need it/him/her no longer or can respect it/him/her in a new way and create a healthy distance to do so. Create a honorable relationship with your guardrail and be mindful of the way your heart will crave to drift as you move forward in your journeys ahead.
May your failures never define you, may you see each bump as an opportunity to wake up and get back on track. May your journey to finding love, hope, happiness and contentment never end and may we become stronger with every bump and curve our road takes us along. Bring others into your journey, put in the hard work, and never keep fighting to be the best and healthiest you you can be.
You are capable of so much.
All my love,