I grew up in a small town in South Georgia known for onions. The town literally has on onion mascot named Yumion. My parents worked very hard to send me to a private, college preparatory Christian academy in middle school. But, I never really felt like I fit the mold in that school or that town. Mostly because of my undiagnosed social anxiety. I did a lot of sports and clubs in school. I survived. I always knew I was destined to leave the small-town life, I had bigger aspirations for my life. I couldn’t evolve into the career woman I wanted to be there. I had to go.
I knew I didn’t want to go to college. But, I was determined to be independent and self-sufficient. I was not going to depend on anyone else but, myself. My aunt had given me an old atlas and I mapped out where I would travel all over the world when I moved away. (Including that cafe in Paris!) So I went to the local library and pulled law books to see when I could legally move out and not get in trouble with the police. (There was no Google.com at my fingertips, I had to research actual books!) At that time, the age to move out on your own in Georgia was 17. I told a few friends I was planning to run away, I don’t think they believed me. I didn’t believe me. But, I knew what I wanted to do.
I didn’t have the guts to tell my parents my big life plan. I couldn’t face them and tell them I wanted to move away. I’m a planner. I planned and I executed my plan 5 days after my 17th birthday. I packed whatever I could fit in my cheerleading duffel bags and threw them out the window as my friend loaded them into the trunk of her friends car. I locked my bedroom door and left a note on my bed. I jumped out of the window and ran to the getaway car. I was scared. Scared to lose my parent’s love, scared I wouldn’t make it in life, scared I would lose friends because their parents wouldn’t let them be around me anymore. Some of that happened. I was labeled a “bad girl” in a small town.
I went to a family friends house where she let me move in and finish the school year. I was able to finish my junior year at private school since my parents prepaid my tuition. The night I ran away, my friend was out of town and left spare keys for me. I remember getting into her house and hearing nothing. That loud, brain throbbing silence. It began to sink in that I actually ran away. I knew by now my mom had definitely found my runaway note (which was full of 90s teen anguish). I sat on the stairs and cried for hours. This was a time before cell phones. My parents had no way to call me, they didn’t know where I was yet. I know they were shocked and hurt and worried.
I was in pain for hurting my parents but, also excited to see the world! So I did what any newly freed teen would do. I dyed my hair red and blonde, got a tattoo, and pierced my tongue. Our family friend tried to slow me down and was very good to me. She took me in and let me live with her for a few months. I finished the school year and continued to save money from my fast food job. (Thank you, Amy, for never giving up on me and feeding me pizza late at night. I will never forget how much you helped me.) I was spiraling and confused and trying to find myself! After a few months, my on-again/off-again boyfriend since middle school and I broke up. I needed a fresh start. I ultimately moved to Florida with my sister.
My sister was doing the family life in Florida. She had her husband and was pregnant with my first nephew. I was meeting new people and making new friends. Going to dance clubs and rave parties, it was the was the early 2000’s! But, I was also in high school trying to finish my senior year and working 2 jobs. After a couple months, I dropped out of school and got my GED so I could work full time. After about 9 months, I saved enough money to get my first car. And after 11 months, I saved enough money to move off my sisters couch and get my own place. (Thank you, Missy, for helping me through that period in my life. I love you.) This was the beginning of my adult journey. Many twists and turns, fun and mistakes, great memories and terrible ones. Being a teen was hard back then so I can’t imagine what teens go through today with social media… Anyway, that’s pretty much what happened. That’s my runaway story.
I can’t end this post without sharing the fact I wouldn’t be here today without my amazing parents who are ALWAYS there for me even when I’m making huge mistakes. To this very day, even though they are 8 hours away, they will come to me if I need them. They always answer my call (or text). They always support my dreams. To my Momma and Daddy, I’m sorry for running away and not telling you. I love you more than you know. My kids are so lucky to have you as grandparents.