Running Forward

How to move towards your goals while moving away from limitations

When I was eight years old, I packed my bags and ran away from home.  Maybe you feel like doing that right now.  I know that a lot of times when we feel a need for change, we head for the door.

Perhaps what excited us before has become commonplace, and the desire to cultivate a current situation (relationship, career, lifestyle etc.) is far from our thoughts when our focus has changed to greener pastures.

I know, because the lesson I taught myself as a child was if life was incongruent with my beliefs, I had to do something about it.  No one was apparently coming to save me.  Still, I do not believe we should change for the sake of changing.

Running never solves anything, unless you’re running toward something!

My departure, which may at first appear as running away, was actually a positive response to a negative environment.  Otherwise, running away would have been just quitting, giving up, or being unwilling to test my metal.  Eight years was enough.  Maybe I was just tired of the condition of not feeling wanted, being moved from one place to another, or maybe I was tired of being filled up with wine and sent to the grocery store in the middle of winter to buy cigarettes for my guardians.  Perhaps it was the drunken state of affairs.  I like to think my running away was for more positive reasons.  This constant moving from place to place and living with people who felt like strangers didn’t give me the confidence I needed as a child. And so I developed a chronic level of shyness and to go with it, a lack of confidence in myself.    I literally ran for my life.

To give you an example of my idea of “chronic,” imagine a small boy standing in the backyard of his house too afraid to go inside to use the bathroom.  I’m naturally embarrassed to even think back to see Mr. Tew, a leader of men, suffering from some serious conditioning that was closer to resembling a weak, scared little mouse.  I say “shyness” because there wasn’t a realistic reason to fear anyone.  I may have been ignored or picked up on a feeling of being unwanted, but there certainly wasn’t any valid reason to fear going inside.

I was born in Ohio, but the last place I remember living as a scared child was in Indiana just before I ran away from home.  My mother had recently visited, but couldn’t take me and my brother with her to California at that time.  So we were left behind.  As a child, I was unaware of the reasons or complications behind her choice, but I was very aware that she loved us and that was enough for me.  So I planned for a few days and then made a break for California.  As you can imagine, I didn’t get very far.  I wandered the streets until it was late and businesses were closed.  I found a car dealership which was the best place I could come up with to spend the night.  I tried every car door until I found a truck that was left unlocked.  I climbed inside and went to sleep.

The next morning I decided to try hitchhiking my way to California.  The only problem (outside of being an eight-year-old with his thumb up) was that I was on the wrong side of the road.  I don’t even remember where I learned to hitchhike.  In any case, I was picked up by a couple of ladies who didn’t seem too pleased to see an 8-year-old standing on the side of the street with his thumb in the air.  They took me straight to the police station.  After some threats from the officers about how they could throw me in jail, my caretakers came to pick me up.  Hugs were abundant and backed with comments such as, “We were so worried about you.”  Funny, it was the only time they ever acted like they cared.  I didn’t buy it.

That event was enough to get everyone to take a serious look at what I was willing to do to be with my mother.  So my brother and I were sent off to California.

It may not have seemed like it at the time, but getting out into the world and sticking my thumb out was an action that set into motion specific events that would turn my life around.  I believe this is an effective strategy for any challenging period in your life.  Get out and start sticking that thumb up.  Positive action begets positive action.

Against the wind and in a storm, I was able to turn my ship around.  I faced my fears head on and somehow mustered up the courage to do something about my current state of affairs.  If a little eight-year-old boy from Ohio can do it, so can you. 

If you become fearful, picture a small boy on the roadside with his thumb in the air.

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