The bittersweet power of leaving

Leave by h.koppdelaney via Flickr

“[…] I long for the leaving. I am restless, I am ready, and the leaving whispers to me at night. It says that I will breathe easier when the air is full of fog and seagulls, that I will breathe easier when I am at the start of a story, rather than at the end.”
The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente
Eskhol, read by SJ Tucker

It’s so foreign to me to think that some people don’t have the power of leaving; that there are people in the world who don’t know how to leave. A person, a city, a situation, a job. Anything. They just don’t know how to do it. And yet I have it in overabundance. I need to be at the start of the story rather than at the end. I feel so much better there, more myself when I’m at the beginning, looking at a fresh landscape.

There’s a difference between fleeing and leaving. Something to do with choice and resistance and fear and denial.

You flee out of fear. You’re running away to protect yourself (whether the threat is real or imagined). It’s needing to escape because something horrible is happening, the discord between reality and self too great.

But when you leave, it’s the call of yourself, pulling you away, urging you to choose. The call begins patiently and gets gradually louder and more insistent the longer you wait to heed it. It wants to learn more, experience more, be more, do more, see more. It’s the uneasiness that comes with stagnation.

Still, it’s hard to tell the difference in the moment. The urge to leave can change into the need to flee in an instant. When pressure becomes too much, even for a moment. And it can change back again. They dance so closely.

The leaving is on me.

I’m done with this city and these hobbies and these petty dramas. I’m done with pollution and sickness and cold. I’m done with perpetual stress and fear. I’m done with the worn-out, faded, antiquated parts of my life.

I can assuage it for a while. I run away for a week to far-off places filled with strange people and sensations for awhile, hoping for clarity on what waits back home. I have to temporarily escape or leaving will turn to fleeing, and I’ll do and say things that I can’t take back and burn the bridges I want to keep. Playing at leaving helps make not-leaving easier. To unhook myself from the old, even for a few days, and imagine I’m at the start of the story again.

But it comes with a price.

We’re called cold and heartless, those of us who have the power of leaving. Who use it. Who love it. People think we’re detached from the world. That we’re incapable of real love or having a home.

Masters of leaving hide their need for fear of being rejected because the leaving is underpinned by a deep craving for roots. We leave because we’re searching for the perfect place to thrive continuously, without someday needing to pack up and look elsewhere. We’re searching for the right friends and lovers, the right vocation, the right landscape. An environment that understands and supports our tidal nature.

Until I find that personal utopia, I’ll never tire of leaving. The leaving is always with me. It puts me at the start of the story again, where I’m my strongest and truest. My oldest, truest friend, it guides my path home.

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