Most people begin to find independence as teenagers. I found it at age 22, when I moved 3 hours away from home.
It was the summer of 2005. I was 21. I’d been living back home, with my parents for almost 2 years; since that day Kay called my mom and told her of the mess I was making out of my life. I’d left my abusive college boyfriend, but things had fallen apart even farther from that point. By the time my parents came to drag me back home, I was deep in the grip of eating disordered behavior, self injury was a daily occurrence, I had overdosed multiple times, and poor Kay was worn out and on the brink of a nervous breakdown just trying to keep me alive. But I had just turned 20, and I couldn’t see that, then. So, I left without saying goodbye, and ignored texts and phone calls for the next year and a half.
The drive home that day was a special kind of hell. My mom, angry with me for failing yet again, not even able to look at me from the front seat. My dad, no emotion on his face, silent, driving home. Me, in the backseat, with some of my crap, crying. I was lectured the entire way home about how I was ruining my life. The two lines that stick in my head the most are my mom’s cries of, “You had such a bright future, you were so smart.” As if at age 20, I had flunked out of life, and destroyed any hope of ever having any kind of future. And the other one, a question, asked in anger, “How could you do this to me?”
Once home, my mom moved fast. By the end of the week, I had a therapist, a nutritionist, and an eating disorders group to attend. And so started yet another journey of my parents directing my life, and me attempting to allow the shrinks to fix me. I’m not sure that the goal of being fixed was ever sufficiently met, but I did get better enough to build a facade of being whole and healed.
I announced I wanted to go to school to do hair one night. It was a whim, really, but seemed fun, and I had found a school near the university Kay was now attending, 3 hours away from our hometown. I thought my parents would lose it. They were shocked and slightly horrified. So I persisted. Eventually, they relented. An interview was set up for me to try to get into the school. I’m not sure my parents expected me to be accepted, and yet I was. So, I was enrolled at school. An apartment near school was found. My stuff was packed up, yet again, and a moving van filled. My parents moved me into my apartment at the end of July. School started in September.
At first, I was lonely. I had never lived alone before, and I had never lived more than 45 minutes from my parents. But then, I started to feel like I could be anyone, do anything. When school started, it wasn’t long before I knew I wanted this to be my career, and not just some passing whim before I went back to “real school”– as my mom and dad called it. Being so far away afforded me a level of safety in telling them that I was going to apply to one of the major hair companies when I finished school. It felt as though their freak outs and disappointments couldn’t touch me.
During the time I was in school, I met the man who became my husband. It was a set up, a friend from school wanted me to meet a friend of hers she had gone to high school with. We ended up actually having things to talk about, and although he didn’t ask for my number at the end of the night, he did ask our mutual friend for it the next day.
That was the beginning of my dating the first safe guy I ever dated (well, unless you count my high school boyfriend who went to my church and who wanted to become a pastor when he grew up). That relationship was strange to me; I couldn’t figure out what Hubby-before-he-was-hubby wanted from me. I think in some ways, I kept dating him to try to figure that out.
All of these things– being far away from my parents, taking a job I wanted that they didn’t really approve of, dating a good guy– made me feel independent and free of the stress and ugliness from life before. It was easy to split my life into two parts, the before out here, and out here parts. But, these things laid the ground work, the foundation, for my safety to be in therapy and confronting all the issues and ugliness of my past that I’m confronting now. I guess, in some ways, I’m attempting to integrate the splits I created in my life.