It’s kind of romantic to run away from your own problems.
It is one of our favourite language pictures: the hero or the heroine’s heart is broken or their dreams are taken away and so they set off. You reinvent yourself. You start over. We like this cliché because it is one that focuses on empowerment.
We like to believe that any fight we are dealing with can be won by simply deciding to go. By changing our environment, changing our mindset and preparing to start over.
We like to think that courage is enough to step out of our comfort zones and it’s all we need to reinvent ourselves.
And to a certain extent this is the real truth. There are times in life when we have to detach ourselves. To step out of our normal environment. To give us the chance to change everything.
But this strategy has its limits.
The problem is that if you run away from things long enough, you will inevitably notice that you only really feel good when you are always on the move.
For the people who run away most of all, leaving will always be more convenient than staying. Running away will always be easier than staying.
Packing up your life and putting it in a state of eternal chaos is your way of staying comfortable instead of struggling with inconvenience.
Because as long as you’re always the one who walks, you’re always in control.
You are the one who has the say. You are the one who chooses this chaos. If your heart breaks every single step of the way, then you are the one who breaks it open. And you feel comfortable there. You know how to deal with these self-inflicted wounds.
Leaving is not a real risk for you.
The idea that you actually stay is scary. It is scary to invest something of yourself. It is scary to open yourself and your life to a situation or person or circumstance that is not entirely under your control, with no guarantee that it will work in your favour.
It’s scary to build a life you can’t escape if something goes wrong and every nerve in your body is on high alert and tells you to go out and protect yourself at all costs.
It’s scary to be personally, financially, or emotionally invested in something over which you have little less than complete autonomy. That is what is outside your comfort zone. That is what is profoundly and unmistakably terrifying.
The truth about people who mostly run away is that they are not braver or braver than everyone else. They just feel good when they’re in control.
They feel comfortable with problems that can be resolved by buying a plane ticket, packing a bag, or moving on to whatever it is that tears at them.
They feel comfortable with changes that they make themselves, but not with externally imposed changes. They feel comfortable in their physically mobile bladder of emotional security.
And ironically, if you know that you are one of these people, the only cure is to follow the advice that started the whole cycle. The answer is to step out of the comfort zone. It is to stay when your impulses tell you to go.
It is to stay focused and focus on what matters, even if it is troubling and scary
Because at the end of the day, the entire art of living lies in this careful balance of staying and walking.
It is in understanding when to run and when to hold your own. When to give in and when to stay strong. When to give up and start again and when to stay and fight for what you have.
At the end of the day, all of us are influenced by the original fear that we won’t be enough – not enough if we stay, not enough if we leave, not enough if we get hopelessly stuck between the two and never one way or the other take.
And the only way to fight that fear is to challenge it – accept it, face it, and stare at it. Refusing to run away when it matters.
Because you know when it’s important.
And it is what you do in these moments that ultimately makes the difference.
JK Rowling once said, “To numb the pain for a while just means that if you finally feel it, it will be worse,” and I think that’s largely not true.
Pain can be almost completely avoided, but the sadness associated with avoiding it cannot.
If you are the person who runs away most of all, you cannot be fully present anywhere. You know you won’t stay, so you look around. You look at everything that makes you most alive.
If you run away from all your problems, you will eventually flee from yourself. You forget the person you could be if you stayed in one place, work through your falls, accept your shortcomings, and then overcome them.
You forget that there is a version of you that is reliable, passionate and strong. You lose the sense of pride you used to have when you showed perseverance.
Because if you run away from all your problems, you’ll encounter infinitely more. You create a world within yourself that has to be tiptoed and easily knocked over. You are a landmine of unfinished wounds that bleed again at the slightest scratch.
You catch yourself constantly having to run harder, faster, to escape what you carry in you. The further you run away from your problems, the further you run away from yourself. And the harder it is to find your way home.