The Year I Left.
Actually, it was two years. And although it feels like a lifetime ago, everything still sits so vividly in memory. Caught up in a swirl of activity and events, I could hardly recognize myself. I didn’t know it was depression at that time, all I knew was that I was ready to leave this life. I wanted to do the opposite of everything I’d ever stood for.
When I decided to write The Year I Left, it was for personal reasons, just like all my other books. Writing my thoughts and experiences has always been an outlet. Sharing my stories with others has been so fulfilling. It has been my way of helping others recognize what I’ve been saying all along – no one is ever alone. It’s pretty interesting to see the demography of those who have read this book. Some have hated it simply because it is hard to imagine a mother abandoning a life of responsibility. Some have loved it precisely because of that. But each and every discussion I’ve had with women about this book hammers home the point that we can be physically present, fulfilling what we promised we would, existing for our loved ones, and yet we can be somewhere else. Never there. The symbolism of leaving and disappearing isn’t literal. But it happens all the time.
I was succeeding so much at my career, but my heart and mind were somewhere else. I craved for something totally different, and that created a tiny sliver of a space in my heart that allowed something, someone, to sneak in. It was a crazy time. A time of searching, of doing what I thought would change my life, of being selfish for myself for once. There are no regrets. I am who I am today because I’ve lived through it. Two years after drifting apart and away, sailing through the open sea in search of that one island, I woke up just like I did when I lost myself, and felt found. I walked away from all those inexplicable, unrelenting highs and lows and never looked back.
Here’s the thing, though. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do things for yourself. As a child of divorce, you’d think I was one of those who would swear against it, stick to my guns and prove to the world that I am not like my parents. But in fact, I stand for the opposite. I would never stick it out in a marriage that wasn’t working, never martyr myself in the name of duty. We all deserve to be happy. I remember a close friend reminding me that what I deserve, everyone else does too. We stay in relationships that make us better people. Sometimes we take a vow and make a promise that ends up being a mistake. You don’t need to pay for that mistake until you die.
Your first duty is to yourself.
You have to be selfish about yourself because a happy, healthy you makes you a better mother, daughter, sister, wife. I learned that during The Two Years I Left, and when I made my choice to come back, it was a choice made out of love. Not obligation.
I opened up my heart when I decided to do the most recent Book Trib interview (click on link) about this book. There were things I said that weren’t printed – in retrospect, it may be for the best. But there is one line that was omitted and it’s important for me to say it. Because I wrote the book for a reason and to hide it would take away the honesty I stand for. Authors are people and people are human. We learn from each other’s stories. Good or bad.
There was a Carin. And there was a Matias.
And life goes on.