People leave for a reason.
Sometimes home has become a cage, love has reduced into an idea, or dreams have morphed into a time-washed promise of yesterday. The present becomes an enslaving chain of uncertainty and despair until only the unknown horizon gives the hope of something – anything – better. And so we dive in, trying to chase happiness that for all we know lies in that ‘somewhere else’.
Drapetomania (n) – the overwhelming urge to run away
I am a drapetomaniac, although it was only recently when I discovered the existence of such a word. Ever since I was a young child I always had these dreams where I do nothing else but run – away from monsters, strangers, and even family and friends. Sometimes I couldn’t tell why exactly I was running away. I just felt the need to. Growing up, I dreamt less and less frequently (or I couldn’t remember them upon waking up, at least) my fascination for the horizon remained. I would stare at it far ahead and wonder what it’s like to chase it, too just keep going straight and never looking back. I have a good home, a great family and friends but there is the overwhelming desire to go somewhere far and live a stranger’s life. I attribute this idea to my being an introvert. Or probably, I just like escaping from anything that threatens my peace of mind.
I could say I’m the type of tries to escape from her problems. I make impulsive decisions, and those who have witnessed my misadventures would probably say that I’m much of a quitter. I admit, recently I have been turning down opportunities and taking a step back from many things because of my rather complicated pessimistic mindset. Sometimes I get tired of understanding myself that all I want to do is curl up, stare at the blankness of space, and make an estimation of the number of stars that give dead light. But most of the time, I imagine myself going out into the streets and sneaking myself in a ship bound to the opposite continent. Then what do I do when I get there? I never thought of it, actually. It’s not the destination that I’m after; it’s the act of running away that stirs my euphoria.
I was never a fan of goodbyes. I say it a number of times, of course, when my friends and I part ways after school, when I end a call, when I just…leave a place, like everybody does. But when I think of it, I actually meant none of those goodbyes I’ve spoken out loud, because I knew there would always be a next ‘hello’. I grieved when my grandfathers died, but I don’t actually recall that I said goodbye, not because I didn’t want to but because it didn’t cross my mind at all.
When I was young, a good friend of mine left without an assurance of ever coming back. I didn’t cry nor feel even a bit of sadness. On the last day, our eyes just met for a mere millisecond. We didn’t talk. We didn’t say goodbye. I didn’t care. You may think we might not have been close friends at all, but I tell you, we’ve been friends for a really long time and shared many happy childhood memories. This kid was that one loyal friend you’d have once in a lifetime. A friend who stays by your side even though you choose to play with someone else. A friend who listens in awe to your nonsense stories. A friend who gives you stuff you never asked for. A friend who just wants to see you happy. That time, I thought leaving was not a big deal. I thought it was just as easy as coming home from school. I didn’t have to be sad, I told myself. In my memory, I didn’t feel anything. But what I clearly remember is that I quietly cried in my room that night. I cried because I badly wanted to say goodbye.
My next distinct memory with goodbye was after high school graduation. My classmates and I stayed together overnight, and it was a happy memory. It seemed to last for a long time. When we parted ways, we said a simple ‘bye’, an unceremonious one. It was delivered in such a normal way, but when I said it, I knew I was going to remember it for the rest of my life.
THE HAPPY GOODBYE
The next goodbye I said was just a few days ago. It wasn’t goodbye to a person, but to a direction. I decided to leave the career path I have been building for a year. To put it simply, I was unhappy. It was a good course and I am very grateful I chose it as an initial course because it shaped the way I see the world. I feel more aware, more experienced. However, deep inside me was a voice trying to be heard amidst the noise of my troubled heartbeat. It was telling me that my place is somewhere else. Being the impulsive decision maker that I am, leaving was a burdensome process not only to myself but also to my parents. The consequences transcend even to this day. Of course, there is anxiety and doubt. I begin to question whether I made a foolish move. It’s hard to weigh career decisions for me, because I don’t have a definite dream. My desires change even before I could start paving the yellow brick road towards them. My desk was a mess of paperworks from last semester. I dreaded cleaning it up because I was afraid I’d feel regret. But just the other day, I found the courage to clean up. As I sealed the box that now houses those memories, I felt an unexpected happiness. My heart felt as if it has been freed from a cramped cage. A grocery box filled with papers and books became the recipient of my first happy goodbye.
So here I am at the doorway of that place called ‘somewhere else’. The present is still shadowed by uncertainty, but I learned that it is not always an enslaving chain. Uncertainty is more like a road. You may not see the destination, but you know it was built to lead somewhere. If you believe happiness is in the horizon, then you might as well accept the fact that for every two steps you take towards it, it draws farther, two steps away. Truth is, the horizon is just an illusion for the sky never meets the ground. Horizon and happiness only share one similarity: the letter ‘H’.
I don’t think I will ever stop wanting to run away, just as I wouldn’t start believing in goodbye. Maybe it’s because I don’t intend to say goodbye that running away sounds so easy. There is that joy in moving from one place to another, and goodbye is a bittersweet marker in an unmapped journey. It could either enslave or liberate a person; use it well.
As for myself, I still can’t say goodbye. And I guess this is my reason to leave.