Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Perhaps looking back isn't always sentimental

I've been reading a blog for a while now called "Nothing but Bonfires". She is a world traveler, originally from England who has settled in San Francisco. I've gone back and read many of her archives, and she is a fantastic writer. Detailed, for sure.

Anyway, she started a series of posts recently about her life each year since she's been alive. Starting when she was born to age 1 and she's now up to age 11. Her entry at age 11 is heartbreaking, where she describes the lonliness and homesickness she felt as she started boarding school. How she can still feel that pain, and if she had the ability now to change that feeling she would in a heartbeat. It's that painful.

It got me thinking about when I was that age. I had a (not-so-slight) problem with homesickness, and I wasn't the most outgoing of sorts. It was magnified right after my parents separated and I was a teenager, when I basically became debilitated with anxiety attacks at the thought of leaving my home overnight.

However, it was definitely a problem long before that. I can't remember the exact age I was when I was preparing to spend a week with my grandparents in Virginia. I was to fly to Dallas by myself and meet my cousins, and we would then fly out to Virginia. We would spend the week touring the DC-area and even taking sailing lessons on the Potomac River.

I started getting myself all worked up internally several days before I was to leave. And then there was a lot of news coverage on a local TV station about a reporter who had died in a helicopter crash right before I was to leave.

Sidenote: thus began my fear of flying

Anyway, the day came to leave and I started telling my parents I didn't want to go. We packed my suitcase. We loaded up the car. We arrived at the airport. We checked my bags. We got my tickets and met the airline assistant for minors and sat in the terminal waiting to board. All the while I insisted I didn't want to go.

It came time to board and I began to have what I believe was a panic attack. I began crying hysterically and screaming. They tried to load me on the plane and I screamed and begged down the concourse. I was sure I was going to die on that plane, I was sure I couldn't be away from home that long. My senses were on fire. Even as I write this I can feel the sheer panic taking over my little body.

I don't know why, but they relented. Maybe it was the incessant, unbearable, embarassing screaming show I was putting on. But I didn't go. We walked back out to the car and went home. And even though I was only a child, I have regretted not going ever since.

You know how you remember things in small glimpses? I haven't even talked to my parents about it, soI don't know if I'm remembering details correctly. I don't remember what happened after that, or the frustrated phone call they had to make to my grandparents. I just remember screaming in the airport, never more sure that I didn't have the strength to go.

There were several more equally humiliating moments where homesickness and the panic of being away ruined experiences for me. There was at least a year where I couldn't go to slumber parties. There was a very memorable trip to church camp I almost didn't make after screaming and crying in front of my entire youth group before my mom made me get on the van.

I can still remember all those emotions, that pain each time it happened. I wish I could change that part of myself. I wish I'd been adventerous and free-spirited and not bogged down by separation anxiety. I think that's why I am so proud of myself for the travels I go on now. Each time I step off the plane in an unfamiliar city by myself, I smile and my confidence grows a little more. To think about being that little girl who couldn't leave, to doing what I do today is mind-blowing. Who knew?

No comments: