Drapetomania (n.): an overwhelming urge to run away.

When I was about nine, my family and I visited these ole friends in Vancouver, British Columbia. We had been living in New York City for a couple of years. Well, all over the U.S. really. California, Connecticut, New York. And we had decided to come back to California via Canada.

There was a boy in the family, maybe a year older than me, who I started to like. I’m not sure when I started liking him but I think it coincided with when I started tutoring him in math. It was summer time but for some reason he needed help with math, so there I was, sitting in the dining room with him, leading him through math problems. I felt proud and strong that I could help someone and it was the first time I started even remotely thinking about being a teacher.

Anyhoo, my crush grew within just the week or so that we stayed there. It grew to the point that when I heard a Beatle’s song playing in the living room – ‘The long and winding road’ – I started to feel sentimental that I would be leaving him soon. I knew this little budding romance would go nowhere but I was enjoying savoring the feelings that he conjured up in me.

And then, on the last day we were there, my family and his went for a walk. It was a long walk on a paved path that led up to some monument in Vancouver. It had a view of all the city and it was twilight. We walked and walked and walked. And then, after we got to the top, we turned around and started heading back down. I’m not sure what prompted me to do this next thing I did. Maybe his mom had said something about her son or maybe it was an even more generalized statement like, ‘I bet you’re going to miss staying at our house’ with some pointed look towards me and him. I don’t know, but I started running. I just ran and ran and ran and ran. After a while, I just started enjoying the run. The feeling of running downhill in the summertime at night. The feeling that eventually they would have to start chasing me and trying to find me. I enjoyed the powerful feeling of running away and getting attention for it. I enjoyed the mystery of it. But mostly I just enjoyed the running part. When I looked back, I saw his mom running faster than me and catching up with me. Finally I slowed down and let her. And I thought she would laugh because by that point I was just having fun running and had forgotten why I did it in the first place. But she didn’t. She was very worried about me and started asking me all kinds of questions about what was wrong with me. I thought it was super funny. I mean, I felt fine. What was she so worried about? And the more worried she became, the more laughable it all seemed to me.

I’ll never forget that run. And the fact that I’ve never liked people pointing out when I like someone. Or the fact that I love running down hills. Or the fact that sometimes it’s fun to run away from your problems. Or the fact that sometimes problems are worth running away from and contemplating later, if ever. Or the fact that on that trip I started to love teaching.

But mostly I like remembering memories like this because they remind me that life can be pretty simple. With all the stress and worry about climate change and Trump and xenophobia and gun control and lack of critical thinking and fake news and more and more and more to worry and fret and stress about and more and more and then more, it’s nice to remember that you don’t have to freak out all the time. And that sometimes the most restorative means for dealing with any of the onslaught is simply to remember that sanity can exist. Even if nutcases do take office, you don’t have to become a reactionary like them. You can stay calm and laugh despite the panic and hysteria and realize that no one solved much of anything by being agitated and stressed about it. So just take a chill pill. The rest of the shit will always be there. But you can step away from it sometimes and not feel guilty about it.