All the time I hear people say, or imply, that they wish they could just run away and start a new life. That if they did somehow things would be different, better.
I’ve been there, needless to say.
When I was 18, fresh out of high school, my grandfather passed away. . . I got a taste of what my adulthood was really going to be like. I was trying to figure out how to be there for everyone. I lived in Adrian, I needed to get Aaron into town for the funeral. My tires were bald and I was driving between my dad’s in Hillsdale, and my grandparents (dad’s parents) in Petersburg and home, continuing to work my full time job and overtime at that. And my mom was understandably a wreck as it was her father that passed.
The night before the funeral, as my emotions were high from the added responsibilities and my own mourning for my grandfather, seemingly no one to talk to, I got into my car with the intent to drive as far away as I could. To hell with everyone and everything. I started the car and realized I had half a tank of gas and while my uncle had bought me new tires seeing the state that they were in, I knew my 1989 Mercury Tracer wagon wasn’t going to get me far. And my whole paycheck had gone into bills and funeral attire. No gas or money for gas and an old car to boot, I realized I wasn’t able to go anywhere. I turned off the car and punched the steering wheel in frustration, knowing I was stuck. I cried as I sat in the dark parking lot of my apartment complex, the spring air cool through the open car windows, wishing life were easier. I cried for a while, alone in my car, and then trudged upstairs to my bedroom in the apartment that I shared with a co-worker and plopped on my bed. I used my house phone to call my dad at my grandparents. I explained my frustrations. Not enough of me to go around was the root of it, not enough time in the day, not enough money in the bank. And that’s when he said it to me.
“Wherever you go, there you are.” Well no shit, dad, I wanted to retort. Instead I laughed, thinking he was being funny, stating the obvious. But he wasn’t laughing. He was very serious.
In so many words he explained to me that you can run from the physical parts of your life, but never the mental and emotional. “You’d still be sad about your grandpa. You’d still have an old vehicle. You’d still have to get a job. You’d still have to pay bills. And no matter where you are, how you think and feel are a part of you. That will never change and you can’t escape your thoughts or feelings. No matter where you go, there you are.”
It’s amazing how as adults we can see the wisdom of our parents. He was, of course, 100% correct.
So I picked up my brother the next day and we went to our grandfathers funeral. We walked on either side of our mother, my arm around her and Aaron’s hand at her elbow, not only physically supporting her but also providing much needed emotional support for her. It was hard. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to see my mother crying like a lost child or have to be the adult. I wanted my life to be carefree. It wasn’t. It never has been and never will be, and that realization struck during the period just after my grandfathers passing.
But dad’s words helped me come to terms with these hard facts. They helped me accept my life for what it was, and helped me be resourceful and make the best of hardships instead of running from them. His words came from experience. He had physically tried running from his life, traveling the world in the Army and through odd jobs doing interesting things. . . New York and California and Louisiana. . . and through substance abuse he tried to run from himself, trying to escape the demons that so often plague the overly intelligent. But no matter where you go, there you are.
My childhood was a small nightmare – I could have had it worse, but I certainly could have had it better. My adult life has been a litany of mishaps brought on by my own obsessive and stubborn behavior. Often my determination has proven to be an asset, but often times it’s been my undoing, as well. I could have saved myself a fuck ton of problems and heartache if I would have walked away sooner, or given up on lost causes. Instead I’ve found myself hanging on or forging ahead, trying to live by my father’s words. I took them to mean don’t run away from problems, face them because they will manifest elsewhere in your life. At 18 and 20 and 25 I still didn’t get what he was saying. Even at 30 I don’t think I quite grasped it. It’s becoming clearer day by day though.
It’s you. You can’t run from yourself. You can change your local, your job, your home and vehicle. You can change your appearance or those you hang with and choose to love. But until you face yourself, changing places and faces isn’t going to change anything. Different place, different circle, it will all end up being a repeat of what you’re running from. Look in the mirror. Because all the things that you are running from are inside. People treat you shitty because you allow it or treat others shitty yourself. Your job sucks because maybe you aren’t doing what you love. You’re broke because you aren’t trying to further yourself or you have a spending problem. You drive a shitty car for the same reasons. You suck yourself into a cycle and you think you can run from it. But until you look inside and realize what you’re doing and realize that change resides with in you, none of it is going to go away. In whatever city, with whatever guy/girl you’re with, what ever circle you travel with, it will be same shit, different day. It’s okay to change jobs or walk away from people who don’t serve who you want to be. As long as you’re making an improvement.
The same goes for running from your past. You can opt to not speak of it, pretend you came from something better, something less hurtful and ugly. But your history is what makes you who you are. I am who I am because of the life I have lived. I have known fear and worry, I have known sadness and despair on very personal levels. I have known what it means to be poor. I didn’t grow up in a beautiful house with a rich family, with two parents who loved each other. My life was not normal. And there is nothing I can do to change what my life actually was. I can learn from it. I can make my life better so as to make my children’s lives better. But I can’t change where I came from.
You can’t run from yourself. Where ever you go, there you are.
I don’t think the full weight of the words struck me until after dad passed. As I mourned him, I pulled away from people and had more time to think of advice he had given me. When he passed I was still driving a shitty car, I worked at a job I hated, surrounded myself primarily with people who were the fair weather type. As I sorted through my loss, I was again at a place where there wasn’t enough of me to go around. I was doing a lot of driving, a lot of music listening, and very little socializing, sometimes because I just couldn’t and sometimes because I couldn’t bear hearing someone else say how sorry they were. It was during this period when I made my most fundamental changes. Slowly I realized that I had been running from myself. I was trying to fit in. Spending money I didn’t have, doing things I didn’t want to do with people who didn’t love the things I loved. Which is exactly what he had told me not to do all those years ago. It took his passing for me to find myself, and three years later the search isn’t complete. I still find myself in some of the same patterns. But at least now I can recognize them for what they are and pull myself out of them.
I can’t count how many times I wanted to pack up and leave. How many times I thought that no one would miss me if I did. But always in my head I would hear dad, “Where ever you go, there you are.” Your problems follow you until you realize that you may be the biggest problem. Your mindset. It doesn’t matter if I am here on my back porch sitting by myself in the dark, or in a bar in a busy city, or back where I grew up surrounded by trees and fields. I would still be unhappy if I wasn’t being true to myself.
I’m not where I imagined myself. I do long for those trees and fields quite often. But regardless, I am actually happy with my life for the first time in my life. I work in a profession I love. I only do things that make me happy, and surround myself with people who do the same. And funny thing. . . Now that I am being true to who I am, where I came from, and telling my story without shame, the rest is falling into place.
Where ever you go, there you are.