Photo by Emily Long
Running away from home at the volatile age of 16 was one of the toughest decisions I ever made. It just so happens that it was also the best decision.
At a time when I was the most sensitive and insecure teenager for miles, I decided to pack up my bags, largely containing books, and walk away from a verbally abusive home. I remember it clearly, as if I was still that awkward skinny girl, crying in a pathetic lump on the bed covered in Ariel (The little Mermaid). To clarify, Ariel was and remains to this day my veteran baby blanket. I remember sitting in the backseat of the blue minivan with my younger sister and baby brother next to me while my parents sat silently in the front, as the whole family drove me to my new home. Despite the toxic environment that triumphed in that household, I had still called it my home, and every inch of my body shook in cathartic tears, as my family drove away without looking back.
The hardest part was separating from my younger siblings, who were hardly old enough to understand the reasons behind my swift departure. The thought of leaving them made me sick to my stomach. I feared that they might endure the same emotional pain I had. However, my wise grandmother persuaded me that leaving was the only way to save myself. She explained that there was nothing I could do, and she was right.
Regrettably, I still questioned my decision throughout the latter part of my adolescence. I feared that I was the reason my parents ultimately divorced, drank, smoked, spiraled into bankruptcy and hurt the ones they loved the most.
After therapy, reflection, and many more moments of crying into Ariel, I realized that I was a victim in the crossfire. If I did not run away from my “home” I would not have survived to become the resilient and independent woman I am today. I would never have paid my way through University on my own or landed a government job without turning my pain into strength, and my fears into courage. The right path is sometimes the hardest, but it is always the most rewarding. They say that pain patterns are passed on through generations, but I plan on breaking that chain and staying strong for myself and for future generations.
At 22 years old, it took me over 6 years before I could finally forgive myself for running away. Today, I finally believe that I made the right decision. Removing myself from the toxic environment gave me the freedom to find my identity, discover my independence, and even fall in love. And that, I shall never regret.
I will finish with a quote that got me through: “Although I may not have had the best childhood, I have the brightest future.”