A year ago I was in another country.
When I boarded that final plane to head across the Atlantic, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was terrified about being stranded in customs, unable to enter over the insidious letter on my passport. This, of course, turned out to be rubbish and I was granted entrance without a second thought. That first day still seems hazy due to poor quality of sleep I had on the plane. I remember leaving the baggage claim area, boarding a bus, and walking along the streets of Manchester in a surreal haze. The morning was cool and biting, the sunlight hurt my eyes...
The rest of the day was a blur. In the end I fell asleep on a sofa, desperately trying to stay awake long enough to watch the first episode of The Prisoner. I never did get to see the rest of it, unfortunately. I managed to get through the first 5 minutes before passing out. A pity too, I really wanted to see what happened.
I went to the UK for a handful of reasons. I wanted to get out of the US, even for a little while to satiate my Anthropological drives. It would be my first vacation in the true sense, and the last time I thought it would happen. Lastly and foremostly, I went because I had to answer a question. I wanted to know -- I needed to know -- if the relationship I was in at the time would work.
I did eventually get an answer, but not the one I expected. It wasn't a "yes", nor was it a "no". It was a confusing, heart-wrenching feeling that I don't belong here. The intensity of that feeling was so overpowering it resulted in a near psychological meltdown, leaving me a confused wreck. It was so terrible by the end of my two weeks there, I had to resort to deep meditation techniques just to keep myself functioning.
When I left and I was once again alone and anonymous, I felt I could relax a bit and think. What was this feeling? Where did it come from? Once away from the situation I began missing the preponderances of the nation. Paradoxically, I felt right, there. There was a definite sense of Yes, this is how it should be. I don't mean this to apply to everyone, but it did feel a better fit for me personally. Yet, I didn't feel that way with the people whom I was staying with at the time. I felt foreign there, an outsider, an intruder.
This isn't to say anything negative about my benefactors. They are, and continue to be, wonderful people. Nor is this to say that they weren't inviting. They have repeatedly reminded me that I was very much invited. This sense of I don't belong, however, is not something that can be dismissed in that fashion. It's a deep internal sense nearing intuition. It's something that I myself cannot control, and as I learned, could not easily ignore.
Investigating immigration options revealed a situation that was almost laughably impossible. In order to be granted a visa as an individual, I'd have to have enough "points". These points are a calculation of age, income, and a few other things. I didn't make enough at the time to reach the point minimum. If I was making what I am today back then, it wouldn't be a problem. However, by the time I made that amount, I entered a higher age bracket, and the points were against me once more. Now the emotional and practical signals were saying to me, I don't belong. This unfortunately, tripped one of my survival mechanisms.
If a thing or person suggests, intentionally or not, that I don't belong, I go. More accurately, I don't just go, I disappear. This worked for me in the past, as no one seemed to give a damn if I came or went. Ideally, I'd vanish just slowly enough that no one would realize I was gone or miss me at all. It's a falling-out perfected to a fine art.
Does it hurt? More than you can imagine, but I pride myself on having a high tolerance for pain. Once I decide to disappear, there's little going back. I accept whatever hurt it might cause me as necessary for the greater good. The end goal is to take the total responsibility for the disappearance, and leave the original subject as ignorant as possible.
I tried to disappear, I tried to vanish. I felt the life I had the last two years was in ruins. The strain unlocked doors within my psyche I had thought I had long ago bricked up, plastered, and painted over. Walls that were neatly sealed to hide words like "neglect", "abuse", and a preponderance of critical moments where a kind shoulder was denied. I was supposed to be a responsible, hard working individual where such pathetic human emotions were taboo. Silly things like depression were tantamount to laziness and were not to be tolerated. But to stand up, to say, "no, you were wrong", required running affront to the subtle conditioning in which I was raised.
I didn't want help, I wasn't supposed to want help. I wanted to vanish, from myself if no one else.
In the following months I began to blame what had been the linchpin of all of this pain. I tried to turn myself against the entire experience and everything related to it. I wanted to turn my hope and wonder into fear and suspicion, to corrupt the memory of the experience and ultimately wipe it from my memory. I remembered wondering around my apartment, looking at letters, notes, memorabilia of the last two years. How can I separate myself now, I thought, without destroying myself in the process?
The question hung around me for nearly half a year. I never took anything down in my apartment. I never packed things away never to reopen them save for the occasional nostalgic mood. In fact, I didn't decide what to do about that question until sometime last month.
It was a quiet day. I was organizing the last year's pile of bills, pay stubs and other records in preparation for filing my taxes. It was mindless mechanical work. I had a documentary on in the background about th paleolithic which I had already watched twice. As I sorted the files it occurred to me, This isn't fair. No one deserves this. Nothing had been done to me to deserve the treatment I had given them the last year. My attempt to disappear had ruined a relationship (or in the least, hastened its demise), if not destroyed a friendship of 5 years.
I couldn't go back of course. What has been done is now in the past, unchangeable and forever. This is not to say that never could that friendship be rebuilt, but the form of what it once was is now gone. Perhaps someday, a new form will take its place.
Either way, I bare the consequences of my own mistakes.