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Mandy Moore Opens Up About Moving on After a Painful Divorce: 'I Feel So Much Lighter'

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Mandy Moore admits she never could have envisioned her life the way it turned out: the former pop star turned actress then became a young wife at 25 when she wed rocker Ryan Adams in 2009. And she certainly never expected to be divorced six years later.

“My story deviated in a different direction than I expected,” Moore tells PEOPLE exclusively of her 2015 split. “But ultimately, life is about being happy and fulfilled and sometimes that means making hard choices.”

Through it all, the star, whose much buzzed about new show, This Is Us, premieres Tuesday on NBC, says she tried not to wallow in the pain. “There are moments of being curled up in a ball on the floor,” Moore admits. “It’s really hard. But I’ve moved on and progressed in the stages of grief and being angry and feeling the loss and all that. I do believe things happen for a reason. And I think I had that mantra moving through the trying times.”

Mandy Moore for PEOPLE
Jim Wright

There were plenty of joyful moments in her marriage too, Moore says. “There was a period in my life when it was so beautiful. And I had this really fascinating person [through whom] I got to see a completely different perspective on the world.”

WATCH: Why Mandy Moore’s Latest Role Has Her Feeling ‘Definitely Ready’ for a Baby

For exclusive photos and much more from Mandy Moore, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday.

But ultimately, “I wasn’t a participant in my own life for awhile,” says Moore. “I poured so much of myself into my personal life and when that wasn’t as fruitful as I hoped it would be and I extricated myself from that situation, I was able to realize I wasn’t honoring myself and my dreams and what I wanted in life.”

Renée Zellweger on the cover of PEOPLE

Now, with a hot new show and a blissful new relationship (Moore has been dating musician Taylor Goldsmith since last year) the star says she wouldn’t change a thing about her past. “You couldn’t pay me to go back five or ten years ago,” she says. “Having gone through trials and tribulations has brought me to this place today. I feel so much lighter. And I’m growing into the best version of myself.”

This Is Us premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.