When I was 16, I wanted to run away from myself. I remember not being able to sleep at night, wishing I could slip out my window and just go. I had no idea where I wanted to run to, or how this would exactly fix my problems, but I remember wishing I could disappear more times than I was happy to be around.
I thought it was just because my friends were taking different paths than I was, or that I was realizing my “first love” relationship was probably coming to an end soon and I wasn’t ready to let go, or that I was just being a typical melodramatic angsty teenager. Although all these were part of the reason for my discontent, the ultimate reason was that I just didn’t like myself. And when I wanted to run away, I wanted to run away from myself, not everyone else.
I was really lucky that my mindset changed early because I still see people trying to run away from themselves in their twenties. It wasn’t an immediate process; a lot of factors played into my changed perspective and went into completely changing my life.
First, I personally realized I couldn’t continue hating myself forever. I needed to find all the things I liked about myself and capitalize on them, and then I had to find all the things I hated about myself and find peace with them. Sometimes it’s still a struggle; I think I’m a little too talkative and loud, sometimes I don’t think before I speak and I’m overall very attentive, almost to the point where I am needy. But today, it blows my mind that there was a time I used to lay awake at night and think it made sense that I felt so lonely, or that I deserved to feel lonely. I can’t believe I ever thought I didn’t deserve unconditional love.
Second, people came into my life and made me never want to leave their sides. Again, because I didn’t think I deserved unconditional love when it came to friends, I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. When were they going to get sick of me? When were they going to realize I wasn’t someone they wanted to be around? When were they ultimately going to abandon me? This was something that had become a little bit of a pattern when I was very young, and I had grown to expect. But then I made these friends, and they were kind and funny and accepting and loving. And people can’t fix you, but they sure made me want to fix myself. I dropped my hang-ups and never in a million years would I expect them to not be there for me. I’m lucky enough to have friends both from my hometown and my college, whose love and affection I never doubt. It made me realize that not only I’m an incredibly blessed, but that sometimes we think we have wanderlust because we’re looking for the right place to fix all our problems, but really we’re just looking for the right people.
Finally, I met some people who wanted to run away from themselves, and it made me realize how ridiculous the whole thing was. I loved people who didn’t love themselves, who thought moving far away would change not only their lives but their outlook on themselves and their situations. I couldn’t grasp why someone I loved so much wouldn’t love himself or herself, and I couldn’t grasp why they thought changing their location would solve all their issues. I knew it wouldn’t work, and I was right. Watching them make this mistake made me realize I never wanted to make the same mistake again.
Happiness isn’t a location. It’s knowing that you deserve the best, and having the strength and self-respect to fight for it. It’s being unequivocally you and being proud of it. Home isn’t four walls. It’s the sound of someone’s laughter. It’s the guarantee that you have someone to run to even if you are thousands of miles away.
It’s great to have wanderlust and to see the world. It’s great to want to move far away to experience something new. But these things won’t change who you are. These things won’t make you happy, unless you’re happy with the fact that you will always be taking yourself with you. You can live in your hometown your whole live, or you can move all over the world, but none of it matters if you aren’t happy.