"Dear Diary"? Geez, how very adult of me. Even when I have a nice, fresh start I always manage to fudge it up with something. I know it isn't safe to talk to anyone about my situation and so I intend on writing my story here. It might be nice if I felt like I was writing a letter to a friend, but at the end of the day...maybe I just need to focus on myself and not feel like I owe any explanation to a person, fictional or otherwise. After all, feeling that way was what was wrong with my old life.
Today is Day 1 of my new life, of working towards being the person I actually want to be. Day 1 is always a tough place to start. Do I tell you about the past? Do I tell you about what is behind me or do I focus on today and what I want for tomorrow? I never know where to begin...
My name is Paige and today is my birthday. My real, birth-given name isn't Paige. Today also isn't really my birthday so much as it is my Rebirth Day, the day I chose as my birthday on the Florida Driver's License in the bag sitting on the chair next to me. I am not from Florida. In fact, I've never even been to Florida. Florida is where I'm headed.
At the moment, I am in a little coffee shop filled with hipsters wearing stupid hats. I'm sure I stick out like a sore thumb, but no one seems to really take notice of me and for the moment I'm comfortable with the most amazing chai tea and a blueberry scone. It's the first time I've eaten anything since I left where I was raised, and this is the most relaxed I've been since I don't know when.
Honestly, any place would be more comfortable than the damn car I've been driving for the last 10 hours. It isn't pretty and it isn't as luxurious as my old car, but it's gotten me nearly 600 miles away from the hell that used to be home so I can't really complain. The price was right, the guy took cash and didn't ask too many questions and judging from the cannabis I saw peeking through the wood fence that surrounded his place I doubt he'll do much talking to the police if they come around. I'm maybe a day's drive away from the beach yet, but I'm too exhausted to go on right now.
I am now sporting a very hot pink, angled bob. I always wanted hair like this, and a new life means new hair. I hit the road sometime after dark last night when the neighbors wouldn't see me leave, or would at least be too drunk to notice. I threw the plastic bag of my hair and the boxes of dye in the trash bin of the apartment complex on the other end of the block. Anyone looking for the girl with long brown hair and the conservative sweater won't look twice at me.
I figure I have a week, maybe even two, before anyone notices I'm gone. The longest mom has ever gone without calling is thirteen days, but I'm willing to bet after this last argument it will be longer. My brother and sister never call. I gave two weeks notice at my job and I've spent the last few days packing things up. I paid my rent for the month and gave my landlord notice that I would be vacating in thirty days. My loose ends are tied up and no one has any reason to suspect anything might be wrong.
Yesterday, I did all of the things I've wanted to do for so long after I slept in late in my bed for the last time. I closed my bank accounts. I cancelled my credit cards and cut them into tiny pieces. I cleaned out the last remaining food in the house, Chinese take-out from the night before. I cut my hair and bleached it, then dyed it bright pink. I deactivated my Facebook account, and scheduled my cell phone to cancel at the end of the month. All of the things I couldn't bear to part with or sell were already packed in clearly labeled boxes in the living room, when the landlord goes in to clean the apartment for the next tenants he will find my note explaining that I've left and to call my mom to come get my remaining things.
I've never traveled so light in my life and it is kind of liberating. I took nothing with me except some clothes, my cats, and the money I got from selling my things and saving over the past year and a half. All of my identification, all of my photos, everything that was me and my life before today is in a box waiting for my mom. I sold everything from my TV to the tennis bracelet my high school sweetheart bought me for my 18th birthday. I wonder what he would think if he knew I'd sold it. Not that it matters what he thinks anymore. Hell, it doesn't matter what anyone back there thinks anymore.
It doesn't matter. If it did, maybe I wouldn't be running away from a life that never served me. Isn't that what they say? "Get rid of everything that doesn't make you happy and focus on what does" or something like that. Well, that's what I'm doing. The situation "back home" is one that never really served me. I spent so much time asking myself "Is this really my life?". I know my family loves me by genetic default, but the truth of the matter is that my own mother doesn't even like me as a person. My sister has her pseudo family of friends she prefers to her real family; It doesn't matter I guess, she's happy and there's no place for me anymore. My brother is just humiliated by us all, and I don't really blame him for feeling that way...after all, I'm the one running away so who the hell am I to judge? I didn't have many friends to lose. All I really left behind was a town full of history, too familiar places, some people who think they know me, and this idea of a person I was supposed to be but could never quite live up to.
I experienced a moment of doubt when I hit the state line. I actually pulled over, cried and thought long and hard about turning around. I left a key under the flower pot next to the door. I could walk back into my house, pick up my phone and cancel the cancellation, unpack and find a new job. But I pushed on, and here I am nearly 600 miles away. The prison that held me is still there if I want to return to it, I don't know if that thought is bothersome or comforting.
I suppose there is a kind of safety in the familiar. I could have stayed there in the same mundane routine, in the same place, with the same people who would always think and feel the same thing about me. I would have been safe. It seems like the entire town was exactly like my dysfunctional family: they can abuse you and tear you apart, but everyone else had better treat you with respect or else. I would have been safe so long as I let them tear me down, treat me the same way they always have, and do all the things they think I should be doing. I would have been safe if I would have been compliant and the person they wanted me to be.
Which is why I had to run. As sick and sad as it sounds, I had to run away from the person I was and the life I was born into. If I didn't leave, I would constantly be at war with the people who are supposed to love me over the person they think I ought to be - someone I have no intention of being. If I didn't leave, there's a chance I might have ended up going back to the relationship that ruined my life and my reputation. I don't know how I could stay in that town where I lived in fear every time he drove past my house and was forced to hold my head high as the biddies in the beauty shop held their magazines up next to their faces to talk to each other in hushed tones about what they'd heard about me. Our relationship was unhealthy. I'd given in and done things he'd wanted me to do because I thought if I pleased him, it would make things better. In the end, he used the things he'd asked me to do for him as means to shame me even though his behavior was what was shameful. If I didn't leave, my choice was to return to the man who abused me, or live with the family who shaped me into a woman who would take the abuse.
But this... what am I doing? I bought a new identity. I changed what I could about my physical person. I've changed almost everything I could change about myself to pursue what? I don't even know who I am because I left behind the person I've always been. I don't know if Paige is the person I've always wanted to be. What if I try and chase this dream down and it is nothing like what I imagined? What if the decision to run for another life leads me to a life that is even worse?
I'm headed for the beach. I've never seen the ocean and I figure seeing something you've never seen before and going someplace you've never been is the right place to start a new life. So that is what I'm doing. Maybe changing my name was a drastic move. I don't actually expect anyone to come looking for me, but if they do they wont find me. I wasn't physically in danger, I just need to feel like I'm far enough away from what was that I am safe from not being that person ever again. I just can't take the chance that I can't escape a past and a town that never really fit me anyway. I need to try and make a go of my life the way I want it. I don't know if the cage I was held in was of my own creation or the creation of the community that surrounded me, but I need to try to do it my way now. And the first step is getting to the ocean....