If I Stayed – The Solo Girl Anthem

I need to confess something. I am in love.

Not with a person or an idea of one; but with the road that lies at my feet. It whispers sweet secrets into my ears, keeping my eyes open at night, making my bones ache for another ground to lie on. Promises of grand adventures seduce me, and I leave the bed I have made with my lover. The road calls me, and I must go.

You might say that I’m mean or cruel or, worst of all, selfish, and some days you might be absolutely right. You might blame me for indifference or say that I was leading you on. I can assure you, that was never my purpose; if you were being drawn in, I was getting sucked into it twice harder, like into a raging tornado.

You might feel hurt that your name now stands at the long list of past loves and woulda-beens. After all, a memory is a fickle thing; perhaps one day yours stops making noise and you fade into the fabric of my forgotten dreams. The worst is not to love and to lose; worse yet is to love and forget.

As I take to the mountains, you will be there, though, sitting on my back or perhaps striding along. As I dive into the lights of a brand new city, you will be there, your hand in my hand. In the deserts, at the sea, even up above the alabaster clouds, you will be there. I don’t have the heart to chug you away just like that. And as your shadow silently sits beside me, I remember how it feels to lean my soul into yours and I wonder if I shouldn’t have stayed.

But how would I have known?

There was the boy who was sweet and shy and never disagreed with me, and for a moment I thought I could like him. When I left him, I told him we’d still be friends. Perhaps I was trying to convince myself, right there on the brink of that broken teenage affair, that we would because I thought that’s just what lovers do when they stop being lovers. But then, on the other edge of the world, I went to collect a package from home and found a love letter from him instead, I stared at it with slight exasperation and threw it into a bin in front of a Woolsworth and lied that I never got it. I didn’t know how to reciprocate unreciprocated love.

There was a boy who promised me wealth and security; and another who promised to take me around the world, even if that was at his pace, not mine. There were a few that had me so mad for a chance I was ready to pack my bags and move in the apartment downstairs from them just on the off-chance we might fall in love.

If I stayed, I could be a perfect little wife. If I stayed, I could be your American Dream. If I stayed, maybe I would never be lonely again.

Perhaps lonely isn’t that bad when you’re alone with the world.

See, this is my downfall: I have never met a man whom I would have loved as much as I loved the wide open road. My dreams of being tied to you have never been as strong as my dreams of new continents and exciting love affairs with medieval villages, high-tech steel metropolises and dilapidated colonial towns.

And now, every time I latch onto a new lover, I don’t ask whether he’s the one for me. Instead, I wonder:

Is he finally going to be the one to make me want to stay?

Every time I almost think he is. I picture a ring on my finger. I picture lazy Sundays, entangled so close it is impossible to tell where my skin ends and yours begins, a warm weight of your cat sleeping in the curve of my back. I picture life in a city only known to me through you, a home with two toothbrushes in the same mug, my name and yours on the envelopes on the kitchen table… But then I remember my dreams of Kyrgystan and Colombia, of Rio de Janeiro and Hong Kong and places I can’t even fathom yet, and I get wild again.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t cry over you. Just because it didn’t mean anything doesn’t mean it meant nothing. In the past I would have given myself a hard time over that: dropping tears over some boy I knew for two days, for five, for a month, what’s the use? But I have learnt to cut myself some slack. If it hurts me, it fucking hurts. It’s as simple as that. I can’t think the sting away.

And maybe you felt a tinge of regret, too, as you let me walk away, because you knew how far I was going to go and all of it without you. Maybe you felt slight relief to be rid of my mad, my obsessive, my challenging, my wild. Maybe you understood what it felt like to leave you because you would have felt the same if you had had the chance to do it first.

If I stayed, I could be happier than I ever even dreamt to be. But my heart grows restless and my feet grow light, and I think that if I started running now you would never keep up with me. So I go – boldly, surely, a little bit sadly, but I go nevertheless. I long to be wild again.

Thanks for reading! Permanent realationships are not easy to find when you’re a travelling girl, but as much as I love love, right now I value my freedom more. Tell me: have you ever had to choose between a relationship and something you really wanted? Would you choose the freedom and uncertainty of travel over a stable life?

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