I ran away. It was right of me to run away at the time. It wasn’t going to hurt anyone.
There was nothing wrong with my life, but I still ran. I ran because I was changing and my predictably-constructed world was not. I had everything I worked for, through 7 years of self-employment. Success, really! Yet, I made a dash for the border because I had felt somehow still unfulfilled. Knowing you don’t become fulfilled by sitting around hoping, I knew there was something that had to be pursued.
That which you are seeking is causing you to seek. Right? There must be some reason the need to move away was not leaving me. I was seeking a feeling I had only had when in Europe. That feeling was pulling me toward that thing I’d always wanted…the opening in the door through which I saw a crack of sunshine. The place I could call mine, and not any others’. My destiny, and mine alone.
But alone is the problem, isn’t it? Once you seek out alone, you either have a huge responsibility to bear, doing it all by yourself, or you start to accumulate new people to be beholden to. If beholden is in your basic foundation, you will always find ways to be beholden to someone. And you will discover in your adventure, that there are multitudes of people you didn’t know you were beholden to. Some of mine were very surprising to me.
Turns out, not only was I beholden to all the rules my passport represents, I was beholden to my own country’s contract: “pursue happiness or forever be an ungrateful wretch.” I was spiritually beholden to my mother, who provided me with the last of my great gifts of cash and the car I sold for money. I was beholden to every host with whom I was housed. I was beholden to the people who knew what I was out to do, and who were watching me for news and stories. I was beholden to the people who translated into English my ham-fisted attempts at speaking Dutch or German or French. I was beholden to the Rolf Institute for my professional membership (read: legitimacy).
At the very bottom of the barrel, I was beholden to my own credit rating, which I have been worrying about destroying since I was nineteen and offered a Citibank card at DePaul University. I have been beholden to that credit rating for – count ‘em—32 years. It was my baby, my pride and joy, and (in my heart of hearts) “all I had going for me”. That, a good cheering section, and my own instinct to follow.
So just as I started thinking I was free, and I had almost certain success coming to me, I set off to start the life I allowed myself to envision. And I ran away. This was naïve at the least, and foolhardy, certainly. To think I could have taken who I was on the road, and act as if I were someone else!
Because I was not free. At the root, to see it plainly, I am beholden to everyone first, and then to myself, if at all. “The road” requires the exact opposite behavior.
Being responsible to myself has never been top priority, actually. Even though I had the reputation of being “selfish” in my family, I really have always just acted out of a personal need to avoid further punishment. That’s it. Just—stop picking on me. That’s all I wanted. Some kids just attract more punishment and strife than others, and that kid was me.
As the third child, I was assumed to be “the baby”—which in most cases means you’re spoiled, coddled, all the methods have been proven and you skate through with pretty permissive parents. So, not surprisingly, my oldest sister was first to label me, “selfish”. She had responsibility, after all, and had to break in the parents.
But the youngest child also gets the hand-me-downs, a very few photos in the album (no matter how she tap-dances for attention) and a dumptruck-load of “so what-? we already knew that!” from her parents and siblings. My mom was ill and could not seem to handle me in particular, so I was shut down and shut up, over and over until I got the message.
Having something for myself, something important, became a driving force, and thus, being “selfish” took form.
Selfish is bad, and it means you’re asking for too much, or at the cost of someone else. Selfish meant that I did not deserve whatever it was I wanted. But the Self is not formed until you are fully grown, and so being labeled selfish in childhood was an act of violence against me (and plenty of you out there). Because—trying to be good and deserve love, I had to then deny I had a self to serve. This can be very effective early on, and one can subvert oneself.
Being a very smart girl, I learned my lesson well, and sought for the next 20 years to try and think of others first, so they could not accuse me of wanting anything for myself. This led to years of outbursts, when the true self was in peril. This led to self-destructive behavior. This led also to subsistence living financially, not deserving to make more than required. Not living up to my potential is a clear extension of this meagerness, though all my friends and family agreed I had enormous amounts of potential and talent!
Being a perfectionist, I tried to behave perfectly unselfishly. I didn’t ask for what I needed, I didn’t go after what I wanted if it meant acquiring it from someone else. I certainly didn’t talk about myself as if I were “all that.” I vowed to act on self-sufficiency alone, not need, not want. I rigidly earned everything that came to me, so I could “show the World my receipts.” Nice girls with good credit ratings win this game, right?
What game this meant, who could know? But I was setting myself up to win something. Denial heaped on denial, judgment, excisement of my selfish being, to the peril of my Self.
So running off was my way of saying, “only for me this time.” As if I knew what I needed.
Wanting and needing are two very different things. What I wanted was to be free of the prescribed American life. But what I really needed had nothing to do with travel. I needed to unlearn the lesson of being beholden to everyone first. I needed to stop picking on myself, and I needed to stop denying myself to avoid punishment. Avoiding punishment is not a mature tactic, and never created a real successful life. I wish I had known that before I ran away. But then, what is travel for?