It shouldn’t be complicated. Leaving home in your twenties should only require some saved money and packing, but sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it requires a lot more; mainly courage and some selfishness.
Two weeks before my thirteenth birthday my parents had a little girl. I wasn’t very thrilled with the newcomer in the family, not because I didn’t want a sister, but because we were far from the ‘happy family’ picture and I didn’t want it to become more complicated than it already was. But what I could see at twelve, my mother couldn’t see at thirty-two. She really thought that a baby was the thing missing in our home and my father just complied.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm, though, I felt in love with my baby sister as soon as she came from the hospital. I wanted to protect her, to give her what I hadn’t had when I was little, to be for her what my mother hadn’t been for me: a good carer. I was still in secondary school, of course, and my grades and friends were still my daily life, but during my free time and specially after my mum went back to work, my afternoons and my holidays were dedicated entirely to her.
With time, it became obvious that the new structure of our family hadn’t fixed the problems of the past, but made them more visible; so when I was 15 – or maybe it was 16 – my parents divorced. I had wished for this since a very young age, so it didn’t take me any time to decide I would stay with my father with no forced visitations with my mum. My sister would come and go, a week here and a week there – or some arrangement like that, I honestly don’t remember much but, how could I, it didn’t last long. Shortly after my following birthday they came back together.
During that year my mum had had a few serious break downs, ended up in a mental institution for a few weeks, and learned she had bipolar disorder. It was obvious that she couldn’t be taking care of a toddler on her own so my dad took a decision – the easy one -, he brought them back home.
So, my mother was mentally ill and that suddenly became the explanation – and excuse – for every wrong thing she’d ever done and ever did. I gave her a second chance, a start-over now knowing that she wasn’t completely aware of everything she did or say, but it was complicated, no matter how good doctors tried to explain, it was tiring having to take care of her as if she was a child when there was another child in the house that needed caring too.
To that you should add the fact I had started university and those who I thought were my best friends had left me aside when I most needed them because – my interpretation, obviously – they grew tired of me complaining of my personal problems – I don’t blame them, we were teenagers, not adults, they behaved like so.
I became overwhelmed with it all and I needed to go away, to have a break and clear my head so I went to Ireland for a summer to work as an au-pair. I had never gone abroad on my own before, in fact, the only times I’d travelled had been with school, so I needed to find courage, and I also needed to be selfish.
That was six years ago. If I could do it then, I guessed I could do it now again.
Do you think it’s ok to be selfish when it comes to a big decision like moving away?