It is surprisingly easy to run away.
Step one: pick a destination. Easy. Mum and Dad’s place. They’ll let me crawl under the covers in their spare bedroom and lick my wounds.
Step two: sell the car. Still easy. I’ve got a mate who lives out of town who relies on their spouse to drive them around. We do a quick cash deal; I give them mates’ rates.
Step three: figure out how to get the dog to Darwin. Tricky. A plane would work, but he’s old and he has a heart condition. He might very well die on the way up. After faffing around for a few weeks, Mum pitches the idea of a roadtrip.
“I didn’t get to do a roadtrip when we moved up here. Your dad and I could drive down and you and I could come back up together.”
“Yeah, but we’ll probably kill each other if we’re together for five days in a row. Are you cool with that?”
“We’ll do our best.”
Step four: quit my job. Tricky again. It requires me to explain to my boss why I’m leaving half-way through the semester.
“I’ve been having some personal issues. Family issues. I just… need to put some physical distance between myself and the situation.”
“We can arrange to have your classes taught remotely. I hope you’re feeling better soon.”
“Thanks. I do, too.”
Step five: tell my friends. The hardest thing yet. It’s the first time I’ve cried in front of them after three years of working on our PhD candidacy together. I’d never cried over the workload, or the stress, but I cried that day.
“I just wish that you were leaving to go to something amazing. Not running away from something awful.”
“It’s such a shame.”
“You’ll do great things.”
“I didn’t realise that things had gotten so bad for you.”
“We’re going to miss you so much.”
Step six: start the car. Leave and don’t look back.
“You okay?” Mum looked over at me, crouched in the passenger seat with my arms wrapped around a terrier and my eyes all watery. I know if I cry she’ll only be upset for me.
But I also can’t lie. “I feel like I failed.”
“You didn’t fail, babe.”
She doesn’t offer a different verb. She just starts the car.