This has been on my heart for a few months. Within a 30 day period earlier this year there were two back to back disappearances of young women that I took very seriously. Facebook blasts went out from two mothers who were both looking for their daughters. Both these daughters were in their late teens to early twenties. Both mothers were friends of mine from childhood who were frantically looking for solace and answers to their daughter’s whereabouts. So both times I stopped what I was doing and sent up immediate prayers and requests on Facebook for any leading information. Within a few days both of the missing young women were found safe. And in both cases the young women appearingly wanted to disappear. Fast forward to today, a young student from Columbia University, Nayla Kidd, hit my Facebook timeline. She too went missing, she too was found a short time later, safe and well. And she too wanted to disappear.
Almost everyone is going to have an opinion over this subject, what the parents did or didn’t do, how inconsiderate it is for a young person to cut off everyone who loves them, and on and on. However from my view I have a little perspective of both sides. In the beginning of my 40’s I can’t imagine how I would feel if my child were to cut ties with me while I had no idea if they were alive or dead. I do feel that would be extremely selfish of any young person to put their loved ones through. Then I remember my younger self, I too was once a 18 year old who got on a bus and went off to a far away land and told no one. So my far away land was Orlando, but I intended to leave and not look back. I wanted to start my life anew in a different place, and unlike the show Cheers, I wanted to go where no one knew my name.
The reality is this, any young woman or young man for that matter who has the desire to start over somewhere else is in an enormous amount of pain. And for one reason or another they feel that they do not have a solid or safe place to express their pain. My 18 year old break up with who I at the time deemed as the love of my life was more than the normal teenage love that adults around me thought it was. After the ostracization from my boyfriend’s family following the break up, and my own family turning away because I’d chosen this relationship over college, I drastically and deeply fell into depression. So looking for answers, looking for healing, I one day bought a Greyhound ticket and headed south.
When I arrived at that church back in 1992 with no money and no contacts, I was sent off to a home for “troubled teens.” Now where my story is a little different from these more recent ones is I actually wanted to contact my family after being in Florida for only a few hours. Although I knew my family wouldn’t remotely understand what I was going through, I definitely didn’t want them to worry about my safety. However the “caretakers” of this home refused to let me call my family for weeks, (that’s a story for different day). So while I did not intentionally cut off all ties with my family, the reality is that those who cared for me did not know where I was or how I was for weeks. The effects on my family were the same as what I can only assume these families that have recently gone through this have experienced.
To this day though it’s interesting to me that this entire experience has never been discussed within my family. I would assume that the pain that I placed on my family is not something they were able to face or articulate. But to the credit of that 18 year old who was in what felt like insurmountable pain, the silence that remains these 20 years later speaks directly to the lack of openness and understanding that was present then that made me want to leave in the first place. There is something to be said about childhood and adolescent struggle that somehow we as adults conveniently forget. Pain is real and pain that we are too young to process is all the more real. We have to have an open door for our young people to walk through to express it.
So I don’t have the answers to what is appearing to be a pattern among young women who want to run away. I can only advise a 19 year old not to jump on a Greyhound and leave town. But I have to also balance that against my own experience and remember that young people need a sounding board, someone to understand. Otherwise they’re lead to irrational decisions. In the meantime of trying to figure all of this out, go bury your pain in food like the rest of us. #Joking #Kinda 😉