Have you ever thought of running away and never coming back?
And the realisation that I can't this time really sucks.
You see, it was only in the past year or so that I realised that my love for travel stems from my desire to run away from things that have hurt me.
My mother loved to travel too, and as a child, she would often take me wherever she went, or would put me on a plane to be met by a family member on the other side. And I saw that as the root of my wanderlust. But, of course, it wasn't. Not really.
I remember being a teenager and longing to get a plane to somewhere, anywhere, that I hadn't been before, or to spend time with family members on the other side of the globe. This wasn't totally because I missed them; I missed the peace I felt when I was with them. The peace of knowing that I would wake up in the morning and have breakfast without a looming question mark over my head. An eerie silence in my home as my mother and her husband charged around each other, neither one saying a word, and if they did, it was to me, and oftentimes a vocal retaliation of what the other parent had done.
I missed not having to hear shouts, crashes, bangs, broken furniture, and slammed doors.
I missed waking up to jokes. Endless bowls of cereal in front of an endless stream of Johnny Bravo, Dexter's Lab, The Powerpuff Girls.
As a young adult accustomed to solo travel, I looked forward to the days I could finally book myself a ticket to a city or country I had never visited after saving all the money I had earnt at my seasonal jobs. My heart would skip a beat every time a confirmation came through.
Your hostel is booked.
A chance to meet new people. A chance to show people who I was and not be judged for who I wasn't.
This excitement followed me, year in, year out, and I'd beam with pride whenever I spoke about the places I'd been and the people I'd met. And it was really only this year, the year 2020, that I realised just how much I depended on that privilege of freedom.
A global lockdown was really just that. A forced grounding of those of us who weren't lucky enough, wealthy enough, or famous enough to do otherwise. I'm not bitter, not at all (except that I totally am incredibly bitter) but when leaving your home could put yourself, your family, your community at risk, you learn to just stay put. A concept I never knew possible.
I began to break down. Lose my wits. My mind. I had spent months at home alone with my son while my partner worked 12-hour days, and all I could do was battle with the demons in my head telling me I was not cut out for this life.
Ordinarily, whenever I found myself struggling with my brain, I'd book a flight. I'd run from my problems. The beauty of my anxiety was that it only affected me when I was at home. When I was forced to relive the same routine each day to no end. Travelling, for me, was a way to switch things up. To be a different person, live a different life, free myself from the agony of my reality. If only for a short period of time.
So, what do you do when you can't just run away? You break down. Have I said this before? I don't know anymore. My mind swims circles around itself sometimes and the whirlpool of "what-ifs" slowly fills up my lungs, making it harder and harder to breathe.
I'd been to therapy, or rather, I spoke to my old therapist from London, prior to our move to Glasgow, via Zoom (a lockdown staple now). I'd spoken to her. I'd began working through my darkest thoughts and reached a revelation.
I am miserable, not because there is something wrong with me. On the contrary, there is something wrong with me, and I am miserable because for almost 30 years I have conditioned myself to run away. Hide. Go off-grid and live my best life. What I wasn't prepared for, however, was that my worst life was still waiting for me to come home. And when I did, I let it eat me up inside until I couldn't take any more, and booked myself another return ticket.
And thus, the cycle continues.
This year, not only have I lived through lockdown, I have become a mother through lockdown. I have settled the other side of the country through lockdown, I have taken the hardest decision of finally removing my mother from my life... yes, through lockdown. And that shit has taken its toll.
Remember that whirlpool from earlier? It is now a monsoon, ripping my very foundation from beneath me, leaving me drowning in a debris-filled minefield.
I don't know where I'm going with these metaphors. It makes sense in my head, okay?
On my Instagram, I shared a post about my past with suicide and how I'd managed to overcome that. But little did I know that just by sharing my history, a new story was being written. No, not a new story, a retelling of an old one. Reliving the pain I had felt as a child made it all the more real, and with no escape in sight, I crashed. I felt the water filling my lungs once more. I felt that I could no longer live.
And then I look at my son. If there was one reason for me to continue living in this world, it was him. His blue eyes, his toothy grin, his laugh that drives away the water in my lungs. That was my reason.
How can I run away from my home, if my home is him, and he needs me the most? What does that teach him? What does that teach future me who had done all this work to overcome a troubled past? That it's okay to give up? That running is an acceptable form of dealing with the things that hurt?
I stood in front of my mirror and gave myself a serious talking to. Like, really freaking serious, like the kind of serious that that little girl had from what appears to be her grandmother. You know the one I mean.
I jumped, I shouted, I hit my mirror, I stamped the floor, and I lectured myself until I was all lectured out. I mean, sure, therapy is great and to a certain extent, it works. But what I needed in this moment was a kick up the arse from my own reflection reminding me that running is never the answer.
I mean, do I have the lockdown to thank for this? Maybe. Perhaps. I hate that we're in a lockdown. I hate that my country is being run by people who really couldn't care less about my physical or mental wellbeing when it comes to lining their pockets under the guise of "protecting our economy". But I will admit, I really freaking needed to not run away in order to recognise that running away was an actual semi-effective coping mechanism.
Where am I going with this post right now?
All I know is that while I can't travel, I can't run away. And while I can't run away, some horrible, horrible stuff is going to keep on creeping up for me. And I can either crash into it and tackle it all head-on, or I can let it drown me, choke me, until my will to fight to survive is completely obliterated.