lifestyle

Ever felt like running away from home? You're not alone.

Elly Varrenti
Sometimes I fantasise about throwing my  suitcase into the car, taking off down the highway, sucking up that white line like spaghetti and running away from it all road-movie-style.

Sometimes I am on my own escaping my current life and indulging the exquisite loneliness of solitary travel. Other times I have my son with me and we are on the run together – Bonnie and Clyde meets Bananas in Pyjamas.

There are so many ways to run away from ourselves: to wrestle with all that stuff between responsibility and romance, commitment and excitement.

Sometimes I wish I could just disappear. Not forever. It’s not some kind of a death wish but more like an urge to put the pedal to the metal of the great life force.

I was at the theatre recently, and during the interval I hid in the loo.

There I was behind the locked toilet door waiting for the audience’s usual chitchat and glass clinking to stop so I could go back in for the second half.

I’ve worked in the theatre for over twenty years, in one way or another, and have always felt at home in it, more or less. But that night I needed to hide from my so-called family. That night morphing into someone else – like how that character Mystique does it in X-Men – seemed like a good career move.

When a friend phoned me, breathless and excited, from her car one night, I knew I wasn’t alone in my once-in-a-while-need-to-flee.

‘I’ve just left home. I couldn’t stand my family any more so I just picked up my bag and left.’

‘Where are you going?’ I asked.

‘I don’t know! Anywhere that’s not home. I’m just gunna drive until I do know.’

‘Okay. I said. And, so, the kids, are?’

‘Yes, yes’ she snapped. ‘I didn’t leave them in the house on their own. I haven’t gone nuts. I’m just sick of my life and want to pretend to live someone else’s for a while. You know what I mean?’

Sure I did. I know what it feels like to want to start again, to be given a second go at making life righter or better; forks in the road, sliding doors and all that. I am not one of those je ne regrette rien people; je regrette heaps.

‘You want me to meet you somewhere?’ I asked her.

‘What?’

‘DO YOU WANT ME TO MEET YOU SOMEWHERE?’ Australian Crawl in the background. On her car stereo. ‘The Boys Light Up’.

“I thought I was running away from the grown ups and now I’m the grown up.”

‘No. Yeah. Nah. I’m fine. I’m really, really, REALLY FINE!’
My friend’s life looked pretty good to me. But that night she wanted out. That night she was in her own road movie, on the run and with the music up extra loud for company.

I heard this story once about a train disaster in the UK and how after the massive clean up, authorities discovered there were six people (I think it was six) still missing.

All the other passengers’ bodies had been identified and it was only later they discovered that those six, having survived the crash, all decided to use the catastrophe as an opportunity to ‘disappear’. Some of them were found living assumed identities and others figured their old lives weren’t so bad after all and eventually returned home.

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I wonder if when we travel do we become more of who we are or less? Do we become more like our real selves or do we invent a different self to suit the place?

The first time I ran away from home I was seventeen. I came back after nine months. I’d had enough of take-away kebabs and burning newspaper for warmth in the hearth of our under-furnished share-house.

I had missed home. I’d wanted my freedom but I had missed home too. It was confusing and it still is. I thought I was running away from the grown ups and now I am the grown up. I’ve lived in over thirty houses.

‘You enjoying the show?’ A couple of women have just come in to the loos. They sound young.

‘Yeah, I think so. I mean it’s really good and everything but it’s pretty depressing.’

‘Sure, but some of those singers are making a really awesome noise don’t you reckon?’

A really awesome noise? In my day we just used to say someone had a great voice.

‘I’m going back in’, one of them says. ‘You want some bubbly?’

“Sometimes I wish I could just disappear.”

The audience has gone quiet all of a sudden and I am sitting on the loo with the seat down. The second act is about to start and I am still hiding. Why bother going back in, I know how the opera ends. The soprano dies trying to escape the groin of patriarchy as usual. But there is that knock out aria. It might be worth creeping back in just to hear that.

‘So anyway,’ my friend in the car said. ‘I just needed to, you know, tell someone. Thanks. Sorry. I’ll go back home. I will go back home, I promise. I just wanna…I don’t know…just, drive, around, for a little bit longer.’

I unlock the cubicle door and go back into the darkened theatre.

‘Do you know where you were sitting?’ an usher with a torch whispers.

The aria I return for is delivered with such a magnificent mix of craft and heart, I am blown away and crying into my program notes like a fool having a mid life crisis. Why travel when everything is right here in front of you. Right?

The next day I pack a suitcase, a soundtrack that includes YA talking books for my son and OA (Old Adults) ones for me. We are both heading for the highway to happiness and the forward thrust of the great life force is pushing us just a little scarily over the speed limit.

Elly Varrenti is a teacher, writer, broadcaster and actress. You can find her blog here.

Have you ever felt like running away from home?

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