I grew up in the country and spent my formative years close to the land. Everyone I knew hunted and fished. Friends lived on farms and had livestock and horses. After school and on weekends, my time was spent outside, usually with a bb gun and a pair of boots.
Farms were a big part of life. It felt like everyone had a pickup, usually with a gun rack in the window. My first jobs were on farms — bailing hay, painting barns, painting fences with creosote, splitting wood, and shoveling shit. The woman I lost my virginity to lived on a pig farm.
When I went to college, I moved away from all that, and lived in a bigger small town. State College, PA had 40,000 undergraduates and 40,000 locals. It was a big place to a guy who grew up in a town of 3700. After college I moved to Baltimore and have lived in the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington ever since.
Lately, I’ve had an overwhelming desire to get away from where I live. I find myself daydreaming of empty roads and western mountains. Places like Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Northern California seem to be calling to me.
This morning it occurred to me that this desire is all about escape.
The need to escape has been with me for a long time. Even though I romanticize life in the country, the reality is that I couldn’t wait to escape from Taneytown, MD. I couldn’t wait to escape from my Catholic High School. Both were hard places to grow up. There just wasn’t enough to do.
In college, there were times when I felt the need to escape from town. I distinctly remember a solo hike in Shingletown Gap in my junior or senior year. I hiked to the ridge and took a good hard look at the valley. Penn State looked small. I liked that. The notion that such a big place could look small was comforting.
Escape isn’t always about physical location. I’m recognizing that a great deal of my drinking was a form of escape. Getting away from feelings. Putting things on hold. Mentally and emotionally removing myself from things.
It’s no wonder that after 49 days of sobriety I have been feeling such strong feelings centered around desiring to escape. I’m not escaping with alcohol anymore.
I don’t know what it is that I feel I need to escape from, but I know these feelings of wanting to get away are something that I need to spend some time with. I know that I need to get to the bottom of these feelings, and that if I do, I might just start to feel emotional sobriety.