As a woman (and that too from Pakistan), I have always had battles to fight and territories to conquer in my horizon. Nothing came easy. I have been pushing against the tide for as long as I can remember; it started from school, went on to college, then workplace and even at home sometimes. This circumstance-borne need to fight became part of my fabric, skewed my perception of the world and taught me that if I fight hard enough, I can make it happen. It also made me believe that everything worth anything demands a fight, or at least some sort of hardship.

Over the years, I mostly fought for personal freedom and my right to be. But, in retrospect, I now know that I also fought for lost causes, affection that would never surface, and professional politics to protect opportunistic underdogs. The latter fights were not only a waste of my time and effort but also caused undue heartache and disappointments.

Of all the useless personal wars, I most regret the ones I fought for love. I had assumed that love is difficult and mistreatment is also a way to express affection. But over time, equipped with lessons learnt the hard way, I understand now that most of what Sex and the City taught me is a bag of garbage. Love does not have to be difficult and complicated to be real (lesson #1). Also, walking away for your sanity and respect is the least that you can do for yourself.

Over the years, my need to fight has dissipated and acceptance of circumstance has proportionally increased. I used to get anxious at the mere thought of walking away from a toxic situation because 1) I am not a quitter 2) maybe. if I try hard enough, I can change circumstances/person and 3) time will fix it all. In my hearts of heart, I knew when a situation was hopeless, but I marched on like a trooper. Now, I don’t fight as much. I try to accept things at face value and if I can’t, I walk away.

Nothing is worth your peace of mind or respect (lesson # 2). If it were, it wouldn’t challenge it in the first place. I understand that life has its ups and downs, and we all have to brave storms. But if there is a pattern to someone’s behaviour, which reeks of selfishness and toxicity, it is likely a call for your exit.

I realised my decreasing desire to fight a few weeks ago, and the self-critique in me enquired if I were getting weak and complacent. I thought over it for a week, and concluded that it isn’t the case. Just because I do not fight for every cause and person in my life, I can’t label myself either weak or complacent (lesson # 3). What I have become is aware of my self-worth, better at judging situations and people, and able to think though future possibilities.

Relationships require work (lesson # 4). A big yes to that. But beyond that, the whole drama and unnecessary complications are solely to accommodate our love for the bad guy/girl. Listen to me – love is simple. It requires trust and honesty. So does friendship and bond with your parents. If someone is difficult, doesn’t respect you, breaks your trust and is toxic, walk away. Love does not mean that you need to put up with it, and pray for a change. You can’t change a person (lesson # 5). This is the ultimate truth.

The paradox is to know how far to push for resurrection, and when to give up. I know it is hard, and the fear of what lies beyond the end is paralysing. Often, it is easier to wait for abandonment than pack your bags and leave. I hear you sister/mister. But it is likely that you will eventually be very mad at yourself for being a predator’s doormat. Some people are worth the fight, but if you are always in the battlefield to salvage the remains of your relationship, that’s your cue to get moving (lesson # 6). The good news is that nothing is constant. Not even the pain of losing a beloved.

How far you push is strictly personal but here’s how I decide: when staying costs my self-respect, I know that it is over. It took me 15 years of fuckups to realise, understand and implement it in my life. So give yourself time and be equally generous with forgiving yourself as you are for others. And trust the little voice in your head – it knows.