I think we all run—to places, and people. To open arms. To anyone willing to catch us, really.
We run because we’re scared, but also because we feel stagnant. We run to feel free.
We run to find comfort, love, places that feel safe.
We run to escape.
Because when something’s missing, our instinct is to believe whatever it is is hiding, waiting for us someplace else. And that maybe if we can find it, or at least leave the bad behind, everything will change—all the pain, all the brokenness, mistakes and regrets. Maybe the further we run they will begin to disappear. As if our life were just some lucid, drawn out nightmare, and if we keep running, eventually we’ll wake up.
At least that’s what I thought.
My whole life I’ve been running. From myself, from my life, from everything and everyone, good and bad. Every time I was uncomfortable, or too comfortable. I’ve gotten to be quite good at it, actually. I changed schools 10 times in 12 years. I quit high school to run away, quit college to run away, lost jobs, gave up on relationships, moved, each time convincing myself and everyone around me I needed this drastic change in order to fulfill my goals and chase my dreams, which I would evidently run away from as well. The same messy cycle over and over again. Until now.
I run because everything always falls apart, and I run because when it doesn’t, I don’t want to watch it crumble. I’m afraid for things to work out, I’m afraid to be happy. I’m afraid for my dreams to come true, because that means to risk them being taken away, and I’m more afraid of that than anything.
I run away. It’s what I do, it’s what I’m good at. I run because I’m searching for something else, something missing inside of me, but that’s the thing—it’s something inside of me, no outside entity can make me whole.
I was determined that on this journey I would undergo some magical transformation or revelation—find my purpose, come home a changed woman. Half of that happened. I have changed, sooner than expected and not in the way I had anticipated, but I suppose in exactly the way I needed.
It started very subtly. Small changes, things like naturally waking up with a smile on my face. Unconsciously noticing the little, lovable details—in words, music, colors, people. It was as though my life was a diamond found buried in the dirt, and even though it was cloudy and covered in mud, it still sparkled. I’ve chosen to see beauty. Not to say all of a sudden I’m a ray of sunshine, but I think about who I was six months or a year ago, and I can’t recognize her anymore. I let her die, and in doing that, the pieces of me worth saving came back to life.
Now I’m awake, screaming at myself, “Where the f*ck have you been?”
I know what it means to be destroyed, feeling as though you have no purpose. I’ve wanted to give up. I’ve seen my broken pieces scattered across the floor, sure there was no way I would be able to put them back together. Not because of any one tragedy, just from living with an overwhelming feeling of nothingness. Nothing to give, no way to brighten the world and make it a better place. I’ve laid in bed for days on end, tears rolling down my face seemingly infinitely. They told me I was silly, that I needed to count my blessings, that sadness isn’t beautiful, and it’s true, but it’s also true that sometimes our eyes need to be washed with tears in order to see life clearly again.
It’s incredible it has taken me this long to see. Maybe I didn’t want it to be true. Maybe I wanted to believe I was stronger, or maybe it’s because there’s always been someone waiting to catch me. I would spiral and spiral out of control, but for some reason never hit the ground. Instead, I landed in the arms of all those I had ever loved, of those who had slipped gently into my life and seemed to fit so perfectly. They saw the goodness in me, and it was enough to keep me going until I could finally see it in myself.
But I don’t think people really love me. They love versions of me I have spun for them, versions of me they have construed in their minds. The easy versions of me, the parts of me that are easy to love. Hell, those are the parts of me I love, too. But truly loving someone means to love all of them—even the parts we try and hide, the broken parts, the parts we run from.
This time when I ran, there was no one to catch me but myself. Twenty-three years later, I had to pick all my broken pieces up off the floor. I had to be my own hero. I had to finally come to terms with me, to stare into the mirror and fight my own battles, to learn to love the person staring back at me, to tell her she is worthy, and to realize the pieces of me that are broken are what let the light in.
Life isn’t meant to be easy. Not everything is going to work out the way you want it to. But how we overcome that determines how strong we are. Life will hit us hard, but we have to knock it back down and win the fight, and in order to do that we have to stand strong.
I think it’s time I stay still, in one place, without anyone to lean on. It’s time to focus on brightening the sparkle in my eyes, and strengthen the parts of me that were worth saving. We live in a world that values us for how fast we go, for how much we accomplish, for how much life we can pack into one day. But I’m coming to believe it’s in the in-between spaces that our lives change, and that the real beauty lies there.
I’ve stopped telling myself I’m lost. I’m not lost. I may be on a road with no destination, but I’m on my way.
And for the first time in a long time, I don’t want to run anymore—I want to go home.
Author: Tejiana Atkins
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Emily Bartran