I was 6 years old the first time I tried to run away.
Without telling my parents, I packed myself a sandwich and a magazine and ventured out into the sunshine. I walked 200 feet out of my driveway, felt like I was in a brave new world, and promptly sat on the sidewalk curb and started to eat my lunch.
We lived in a cul-de-sac, and I distinctly remember wanting to walk all the way around by myself. It doesn’t sound like much of an adventure, but getting to the other side of the loop used to seem like going to the moon for me. That fateful day, I got about halfway down my street when one of my neighbors went to tell my mom what I was up to. Let’s just say that she was not overly thrilled about my escapades.
Even though I was apprehended, my brief time on the lam was sort of fantastic. Eating my forbidden sandwich on the curb, I felt completely alone. It was an amazing feeling.
At this moment in my life, when all of my friends and I are caught amidst the throes of AP exams, I wish I could just pack up a sandwich and walk away. I wish I had the courage to simply set my life down and leave. I often joke about how my dreams for the future either involve being a writer in New York City or being a hermit living on the side of a mountain, but that dichotomy is becoming more and more true.
I’m a loudmouth and an extrovert, but being alone is something I value above all else. I often meet people who are afraid of solitude and repulsed by silence, and they puzzle me. The ability to sit alone with my thoughts is incredibly significant for me now, as it has been for my entire life. That’s something I think my parents have unconsciously instilled in my sister and me.
For example, my younger sister Mei has always had the strange capability to disappear with a few buckets of Legos and action figures and survive for days on end.
While my sister and I both love our friends, neither of us is afraid to be loners, especially when we’re together.
While not everyone can climb Everest or hike through the Outback by themselves, going somewhere on your own shapes your personality like nothing else. It could be as simple as watching a movie by yourself or traveling within the realm of your own imagination: solitary exploration is the single most powerful method in which to know yourself separate from other people’s expectations and prejudices.
However, discovering yourself has little meaning without the context of a community to challenge and support you: It’s too easy to be yourself by yourself.
For me, the biggest part of that community has always been my sister. We’re only three years apart, which means that I’ve had a best friend for as long as I can remember. I’ve dragged her into situations that definitely made both of our lives more interesting (you’re welcome, Mei), and we have shared an infinite number of adventures both large and small. She is the best person I know. She’s been witness to my life. She’s my co-conspirator and my right-hand gal, the William Clark to my Meriwether Lewis.
Kids have an amazing natural inclination to explore places, even given familiar environments. I will probably never know anything better than I knew the house that I lived in from age 5 to 14. My sister and I knew every squeaky stair, every stray curtain thread, every hidden scratch under the dining room table. We crawled, ran and tumbled our way through every single square inch of that house.
I’ve never admitted this to my parents, but when I was 10, I figured out how to break out of the house and get onto the roof. My parents’ bedroom used to have a high window with a loose screen, and one night (during a dull dinner party they were hosting) I sneaked into their room with a singular purpose.
I clambered on top of their wardrobe and jimmied the window screen off. Feeling like James Bond, I carefully set the screen on the outside of the roof where I would be able to replace it after making my escape. I crouched to fit myself through the window frame and stepped out into the cold night air.
If I lived in a Hollywood movie, there would have been a cliche camera-pan up to the stars at that moment. Yes, my view of the constellations was beautiful, but more beautiful was the fact that from my perch on the roof, I could see all the way over to the other side of the cul-de-sac.
Even though I had long been allowed to walk the loop, at that point I knew: I had arrived.Emily Ge, a junior at Charles Wright Academy, lives in Gig Harbor. She is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email her at email@example.com.