Isabel Smith

Wedding Planner

Location: London, United Kingdom

"Leaning in takes guts, but sometimes leaning back feels even riskier."

I remember arriving to my college accommodation for the first time: I unpacked my things, and then sat on the bed and burst into tears for no apparent reason at all.

This went on for a year. The lectures, exams, and nights out with friends were all peppered with indescribable sorrow. I had the sinking feeling that I must be doing it wrong since everyone else seemed to be having a ball.

It was my mum who finally gave me the courage to leave. I was home for the weekend and we were talking about how much pressure I was putting on myself. Finally she simply said, "How about you just don’t go back on Monday?"

At the time, I didn't think of this as leaning in. It felt a lot more like giving in -- like falling back into a deep deep hole without a ladder.

It was a long, hard climb out of that hole. It took a long time and a huge amount of support from friends, family and professionals for me to recognize that my depression was far more serious than anyone had ever thought. But I know now that my decision to leave school wasn't about giving up. It was about leaning back from the education that I thought I wanted but wasn't right for me. And it was about leaning in, by pushing past the stigma of depression and getting the help I needed.

Leaning in takes guts, but sometimes leaning back feels even riskier. As someone who loves to rush ahead, I can’t say enough about how valuable leaning back was for me.

After I left university, I was ready to lean in. I disregarded all the naysayers and the terrible economy to set up my own company. Almost 5 successful years have passed. Now I find myself with another choice: to expand or to stay small for another year and grow more slowly. Knowing me, I may lean back at first, but then I will lean -- or leap -- right in.