the legacy of the last to leave

I’ve always been a little conservative. Growing up in a family with four children, this was particularly evident. I was the child who put herself to bed while the others were lodging their cases regarding whether they’d eaten enough of their dinner to warrant dessert, or bickering over who should get the next turn on the Nintendo. Since ever I can remember I was self appointed dish rinser and bath runner, ate fruit because it was good for me and it never had to be asked; I had always done my homework.

In view of my prudent and level headed nature, it was taken for granted as we grew older that I would attend university once I’d finished school and that the only serious change I would experience during my adolescence would be evolving from a sensible child into a sensible adult.

Meanwhile, time lapsed and my siblings slowly but surely began to leave the nest. A spirited creature, my younger sister was unsurprisingly the first to fly, baited by the freedom of independence. My older sister was drawn south after having fallen together with a man whose life was already established elsewhere. Our brother ventured interstate to spend the weekend with a friend some four years ago and is yet to return, having found a much sought after brotherhood some place far off.

And so it came to pass that I became the daughter who didn’t move away. Having secured reliable employment within an hour of our family dwelling, while I moved out and even travelled overseas a couple of times, I was never far from home. If I’m honest, I suppose I liked it that way. I’m a terrible sook; I’ve only recently conquered my fear of the dark and letting go of things has always left me feeling overwhelming nostalgic and pathetically tearful. So it’s fair to say I enjoyed the safety net provided by my dad and the familiar. I wasn’t ready to wander off alone.

Call me naive, but until now it hadn’t occurred to me that it might be difficult to be the last to leave. It is. And complicated. Because just as I have grown used to the security of having family close by, so too has my father. And while I have decided it’s time for me to venture further afield and go it alone for a spell, he is dealing with the culture shock of having this decision thrust upon him. I empathise; I’m sure it’s less than easy.

The inevitable guilt of my decision dropped like a dead weight earlier this week and quickly became tangible. What does one do when she’s the last to go? The unexpected pressure has resulted in an onslaught of heated discussions amongst the numerous and all too opinionated voices in my head. The pessimists among them are incessantly claiming that I’m making a massive mistake and that my behaviours are clearly those of a selfish narcissist with an inflated sense of self worth. Mercifully, the majority remain faithfully on my side. Despite my many doubts, they assure me I’m doing the right thing. The truth is I’ve wanted this for years. I’ve simply lacked the courage.

So there’s been nothing for it but to lug the feelings of doubt and disloyalty with me, all the way to Melbourne. Despite what has become a full time search, I haven’t found a place yet, but I’m hoping when I do it will be big enough to contain the mountains of guilt I’ve had to haul along with me. In view of my budget, this is unlikely.

 

So this week is my dedication to all the kids out there who were the last to leave. Guys, I’m feeling you. To their siblings, spare a thought; remember the way their mere presence inadvertently assuaged your guilt when you knew it was your time to roll out. And to their parents, know that the guilt of the child is only marginally outweighed by their desperate desire to grow.

 

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2 thoughts on “the legacy of the last to leave

  1. Hi Michelle,

    I think you should reflect on what freedom is (and how you define freedom?).
    What is freedom’s relationship to responsibility?
    To be free is to leave security behind. Kiekegaard said that the feeling of anxiety was associated with the sense of freedom. To be truly free, you have to leave all obligations behind, as obligations can stop you being free. What about responsibility? Do you leave responsibility behind, as responsibility can stop you being free? You state that you feel an obligation to your father, and you feel guilt for leaving him. To be free, you have to leave guilt behind.

    To be free and to eat, you must be prepared to take from where ever you can find food.
    To be free and to love, you must be prepared to have no guilt.
    To be free and to sleep, you must be prepared to sleep in the rain.
    To be free and to have your own mind, you must be prepared to have no friends.

    Freedom is about being selfish, great loads of it.
    It is about risk and self reliance.
    It is about the consequences and how you deal with it.

    Some one once said, “Give me liberty or give me death”.

    So Michelle……what is your next step?

    G.

    • Glen,

      If anxiety is a side effect of freedom, I am officially liberated! If the last few weeks have taught me anything, it’s that feeling stressed won’t kill you. I can only hope that this experience is going to leave me somewhat stronger and wiser.

      In the words of a legend, ‘ when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose’. Though in saying that, I never did fancy myself a rolling stone..

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