Growing up an outcast in Scranton, Pennsylvania, I’d often dreamed of running away and being someone else. I ran away often. My family owned a suburban home in our large town and sandwiched between other homes belonging to people we couldn’t stand, I felt trapped.
At school, I traversed the halls with my head down, picking it up only to answer questions in class, to be engaged with my studies and nearly nothing else. I ran away constantly to the minds and bodies of others in works of fiction and non, burying my head in books, sometimes laying out in the sun and finishing a whole novel in one sitting. I also ran away through my own works of fiction, by the time I reached sixth grade, I would complete one nearly full-length novel with characters who were on physical journeys, the journeys I would take with them. I played other people in my spare time as well. Years and years before Twilight and Harry Potter would debut, I hunted and escaped bites from my vampire neighbor who kept a garlic wreath on his door; and used my amulets and amethyst stones to procure magic in my neighbors yard. I was constantly bobbing up and down between fantasy and reality, tying real life into the dreams and fictions I lived out in my head. I sometimes had accomplices in my journeys, a best friend named Michael who was equally in need of escapism. I once ruined a brand new outfit after dunking myself in a pool of mud as I was tried as a witch in Salem and found guilty, my mother ready to punish me as I emerged from my dream.
The beautiful thing about my hippie family was our large property in the woods just a few miles from our home. We planned to build there one day, but until then, we just spent 2-4 days a week in the woods. It was here that I lived out my greatest escapes. I ran blindly through the fields of trees I knew as well as the back of my hand; and took off at lightning speed escaping imaginary captors, wicked warlocks, and sometimes just a life as an orphan. My parents let us roam far and wide in this woods, knowing we knew our way, but once, I went too far. For hours I walked and walked, weaving in and out of paths, following no clear direction and after the sun was lowering in the sky, I knew I was lost. Weaving this reality into my tale du jour, I decided that I would sleep in a burrow I would carve out, eat some of the plentiful teaberries and raspberries I knew the woods grew, and drink from the cool clear creek that undulated and turned through the length of the acreage we had. I was not afraid, I was an experienced warrior in the forests of my ancestors and I would emerge a hero at journey’s end. As the sun was setting, I grew not scared, but despondent, the thought that my parents would freak out broke my excitement and fervor for my adventure. I wasn’t afraid of the dark, or so I thought. Taking up screaming “hello!??” for a while, while walking in what I felt was the direction towards the car, I somehow reunited with my parents and made my way to my home, my fantastic journey thwarted by stoplights and radio banter.
A few months later, during the summertime, my sister, her friend and I set off on an epic adventure, following the creek that ran northward through our property and up to the next. We forged the creek, which sometimes poured down rocks and sometimes merely trickled. We climbed up steep embankments, braving the 90 degree angles using all fours to continue. At one point, the path grew perilous and the steep walls that we would have to cover to continue following were very difficult to cross. As I groped and footed my way across the wall, I started to slip.
Grasping for leaves and roots around me, I found no savior and tumbled into the cold pool of water below. Fully under and splashing, I emerged to hear my sister screaming for my help above, despite the fact that I had already reached the place she was afraid of heading. Her friend grabbed her and helped her to safety further on the bank and I made my way out. Fully drenched from head to toe, my thirteen-year-old self declared that I would get frostbite and I removed my pants. We decided that in efforts to save my life, we should head back. An hour later, we caught site of my father up ahead, chopping wood. Seeing my pants-less legs, he yelled “What’s wrong with you?” Weird people were living in the woods and I would be an easy target for foul play.
I proudly declared that I didn’t want to get frostbite and he brashly replied, “you can’t get frostbite in 50 degrees”.
I hated my town and left for college as soon as I could, but over the years, I have gotten a pain and it’s deepened as time goes by. Since leaving, I have found myself, found “my people” and ideologies and adventures in real life; and as much as I wanted to escape the place I found to be so unbearable as a young person, I come back to it. I miss it. I miss the things that plagued me as a child, that I wanted to replace. Our shabby chic home, I wished was more grand, the tractor I had to drive to cut the grass or the two ton duel wheel pickup truck of my dad’s that I drove to high school when everyone else drove BMWs, Mercedes, and Lexus’. We were different, I was different and it took running away from this place to make me come to a realization that this is just fine, in fact, it is awesome.