Sunday

Runaway train...ing

When I was 15 or 16 I ran away from home. Not one of those overnighters to a friend's place, I mean the 1200 km to a very big city for a couple of months with a boyfriend kind of running away from home. Many of the details have faded from memory and as with most things, actual facts have likely become somewhat distorted over time. Also, my memories are just that, mine. Anyone else affected by my actions will have their own memories, their own version of the story and how what I did impacted them. To this day I do not regret what I did, I think it was necessary, I just regret that I hurt people who didn't deserve it.

I write this post in the attempt to maybe help those thinking of running away as well as parents who may some day have a child who feels their last resort is to run away from their problems, with their problems more than likely being one or more of their parents.

Since I had run away myself, starting at a very young age I talked to my son about running away. I didn't tell him that I had until he was grown up because it wasn't necessary and I did not want it to influence the relationship he had with his grandparents, especially with his grandma since it was because of her that I had run away.

When I talked to him about it it wasn't a big production. I kept it very simple. I told him that as kids grow up they sometimes feel like running away. That sometimes they feel like it's the only way to deal with whatever problem they have. I told him that if he ever felt this way, even if I was the problem he wanted to run away from, to come to me and I would help him figure it out. That if it was because of me, I'd believe him and find someone to help us figure it out. I talked to him about how I would feel if I didn't know where he was, how it would be the worst thing that could ever happen, me not knowing if he was ok. We talked about how dangerous it can be for a runaway, how there are people who just wait to prey upon young kids who are alone and vulnerable. We promised each other regularly that if he felt like running away, no matter the reason, he'd tell me and that I would believe and accept his feelings as valid and help him through whatever was going on.

Son, if you're ever feeling like you need to run away from home, tell me first and I promise to help fix whatever is wrong, even if it's me. I will be there for you no matter what the problem is. If you're going to run away, promise to tell me first and I will do whatever is necessary to help you get through what's going on


If you're a young person reading here and thinking of running away, if you feel you have no other choice, that if you don't get away you'll go crazy, I understand. My eyes tear up at the thought of it and I'm sorry you feel that way, but I understand.

I guess my questions to you are, as a person who has been there, are you absolutely 100% sure there is no other way? Are you positive that you can't tell one of your parents, a friend, a sibling, a teacher, an aunt or uncle? Just tell them you can't hack it anymore and you need to live somewhere else, with someone else, even for a short time. That if you can't get someone to hear you and take how you're feeling seriously, you will have to run away. Or as I preferred to call it, leave home.

I've already said I had no other choice, I needed to leave to save my sanity. I cannot regret doing what I needed to survive but there were consequences I will forever feel badly about. I will never forget the look in my father's eyes when I finally came back home. I remember pulling up to our home, getting out of the car, and my dad barely glancing at me as he did his yard work. You see, I wasn't running away from my dad, but he still paid the price. At the time my dad was coaching my softball team, had for a few years, taking time out of his life to do something for me. When I left home we had made the playoffs for the very first time and do you know my dad carried on coaching the rest of the girls, through his pain and likely humiliation of everyone knowing what I had done. My dad loved all of his kids very much, dedicated his life to being there for us, no matter what. It took a long time to regain his trust and respect, but eventually he allowed me to. He even went so far as to tell me that he understood why I needed to do what I did and forgave me for putting him through the pain of not knowing where and how I was. My dad went through hell when I ran away, and I will forever feel badly about that. When he was dying and I was taking my time alone with him I whispered in his ear that I was sorry for the things I'd done that hurt him. I hope he heard me.

It affected my siblings when I left home. I can't and won't speak for them but it doesn't take much of an imagination to picture what it may have been like for them, stuck in a home of worry with two parents possibly blaming each other, sick with worry, one or both dealing with "what the neighbors might think". My brother and sister didn't do anything to deserve to suffer the repercussions of my leaving, but they did.

I had friends who didn't know I was leaving, didn't know what to say when they were asked questions about my whereabouts. One friend actually brought my mom a card and flowers.

The worst thing that happened to me when I was gone was starvation. When I left I drained my bank account but that money only lasts so long, and not as long as a teen imagines it will. Something always comes up unexpected, something only life experience can teach us which is the thing as teens we are kind of short on, life experience. I was fortunate in that the boyfriend I ran away with was a very good and kind person. He is the one that got his mother to call my parents when I wouldn't, or couldn't, just to let them know we were alive. There was no drugs, alcohol, or manipulation. I somehow always knew that I couldn't do drugs. That I wouldn't be able to handle the effects of them, or that I would love the effects and never be able to stop.

It's near impossible to get a job with no address. When you're living in a car, you have no address and back then without cells, no phone number. We did try, especially him, but under the circumstances it was impossible to get work and make some money, just to eat. It was this, not eating for three days, that forced me to "phone a friend", a friend who lived in that city who came as soon as he could, took us for food and left us with a bit of money and helped us to make the decision to call family that lived close by and ask for help. Please believe me when I say that if there were any other alternative that didn't involve something dangerous I would have taken it, but there wasn't. It's very, very difficult to make it on your own without a penny in your pocket and no address or phone number.

I was fortunate to have been born with or somehow develop, let's call it a street smartness. An ability to somehow keep myself safe in very unsafe situations that I put myself in. I was fortunate to have friends and extended family who loved me and were there for me when I needed help. I'm fortunate to, as a teen and an adult, have never been the vulnerable type, the kind of person predators prey upon, which are all factors in my not becoming just another statistic when I left home. This is not the case for most young people who run away so I guess my message to young people is to please, please think twice and three times before doing something drastic. It's a scary world out there with scary people just waiting for those of us having a bad time at home. Your story will likely not end up like mine, coming out for the most part unscathed with only the scars of guilt for hurting those who didn't deserve to be hurt.

Parents, don't think "not my child". Talk to your kids about running away. Tell them their problems matter to you, and mean it. Show it. It's not easy being young and although your children's problems may seem trivial in comparison to your own, they are not. They are as big, if not bigger, and they need you to care, listen, and be real. Entertain the thought you may just be one of their problems and allow them to be honest with you. At the time you may wish you didn't know, be tempted to be unwilling to own your part in their struggle to grow up but it will be a hell of a lot harder not knowing where they are and who is doing what you should be doing.

What you should be doing is making them feel worth, heard and believed, and valued for who they are, not what you want them to be.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Campbell.

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  2. I am having my daughter (12) read this, right now she would rather be anywhere but here. She thinks because I lived in foster homes/group homes and on the streets and I survived that it wouldn’t be so bad. She just has no idea how hard it really would be. (I have always avoided telling her about all of the bad stuff, I thought it would stress her out.)

    Thank you for writing this, maybe reading it from someone else would help.

    I am already exhausted and she starts high school NEXT year… I am trying to brace myself!

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  3. How did you choose the city that you ran to?
    Were you planning to start a life and then call your parents later when you were all established?
    Or were you planning never to speak to anyone ever again?

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  4. Marilyn, I "think" it was where the bf was heading, and no, I don't think my plan was to never speak to anyone again.

    Sunday, you're ahead of the game if she's able to tell you she doesn't want to be there. I'd be trying to figure out the reason why and seeing what could be done. Its not easy on anyone that's for sure.

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  5. ". . . you never know, maybe what actually is will be a hell of a lot better than continuing to hope for something that never will be."

    Totally. Although apparently, for some people, believing that is easier said than done.
    Anyway, it sounds to me that if you had not run away, the consequences of staying would have been much more destructive on everyone concerned.

    Thanks for writing this. It's useful.

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  6. Not sure about everyone involved anon, certainly for me. Thanks.

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  7. I think what I mean is, the fallout might have been a whole lot worse for more than yourself if had you stayed.

    Same Anon.

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  8. @ Same Anon hah that almost sounds ominous. Like you know something I don't. I dunno ... now, it matters not. What matters to me now is parents or kids reading here get another perspective.

    Thanks for reading and weighing in. It's awesome when people take the time to comment.

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