When I was deciding on colleges, I had one criterion: get over the state line. Escape. Get away from my (literally) crazy mother, explore another part of the country. I applied to colleges over the state line, and to one in-state university to appease my father. When I was accepted by all of them, debates with my father ensued regarding why I should go to an out-of-state college that would cost more. I finally convinced him that aid would make it fairly equivalent and off I went, the first time I would move to a new state alone. Alone and without knowing anyone who lived in that state. That was Massachusetts. I later moved completely alone to Utah for graduate school and later moved completely alone to California.
After college, a friend and I went on a three-month road trip and saw the country. We drove from coast to coast and from north to south several times. We hiked and camped until I had nightmares about being trapped inside of large boulders or about trees falling on me. I slept in a tent for so long that I had difficulty sleeping in a room, which provided too much space around me for comfort. For months afterward, I kept water in my car at all times so I would not need to rely on anyone if I was thirsty (many parts of the country are completely desolate). My mother said it “worried” her that I was too independent.
As an only child, I learned how to spend hours alone, rainy days, inventing stories with stuffed animals, playing board games alone. Content in my well-developed imagination.
I used to be independent.
Once, I planned to move alone without any help from Salt Lake City to San Diego. The move would take me 14 hours across the barren, town-less Utah and Nevada deserts. I intended to drive a small moving van carrying my possessions while towing my car behind, with only a non-compliant cat as my companion. My (now) husband calmly listened to my plan, repeated what I said back to me and said, “So that’s your plan? Huh.” Several days later, I asked if he was still willing to help me, and was glad he was.
These days, I am in a family. My family. A son who just started kindergarten. A daughter who is learning to walk and talk. A cat who follows us around the house and another who hides under beds. A husband who helps me hold it all together, helps me make it through the day. Children who show me who I am as I see myself reflected in them as they grow. I am intertwined, tethered, convoluted, muddied. I am now so accustomed to making decisions as a family that it becomes difficult to make any decision just for myself. I am no longer independent. I am part of a family.
And it’s good.