Ellen Pompeo may be the star ofGrey's Anatomy, but if things were slightly different she would have stepped away. Her decision to remain for the last 12 years has been solely due to her age.

Just how old is Ellen Pompeo?

The actress is 46 now, so would have been around 34 when she started in the hit medical drama. A few years older than her character, she portrayed a troubled, sometimes pessimistic but driven intern, who quickly became a firm favorite. Her relationship with Patrick Dempsey's Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd quickly had fans tuning in to see if they would end up together.

Every couple of years, the two actors signed on for another two years ofGrey's Anatomy. Each year, fans rejoiced but got nervous the next time their contracts were due. Would they decide to leave the next time? With fan favorite Cristina Yang, played by Sandra Oh, leaving after 10 years, there was always the option for the two to go. Then Dempsey's character was killed off inGrey's Anatomy season 11. What did that mean for Pompeo?

Why leaveGrey's Anatomy when it pays?

There was one question on Pompeo's mind when she had the option of not signing on for another couple of years: why leave a job that pays her well?

Had she been younger, she may have considered moving on and trying something new. Does she mean that because of her age she worried about not walking into another role? Maybe she was just at that stage in her life where she would rather have something stable to support her family and allow her to pursue her dreams afterwards. She doesn't regret staying either, as the show has gotten better with time.

Pompeo has made it no secret that she will probably not continue acting onceGrey's Anatomy is finished. She will see out the role and then try something else. It is likely that she will move behind the scenes and direct, produce, or concentrate on her own agency.

For now,Grey's Anatomy fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Pompeo is sticking around for the time being. Chances are that she will remain on the show until the very end, whenever the network or Shonda Rhimes decide it is time to bringGrey's Anatomy to an end.

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