Not everybody has run away before because they were so frustrated. I have.
This happened about a week before I moved to the Modesto area. My dad was almost always gone because he's in the Marine Corps. He was always getting ready for deployment or was already deployed. I spent more time with my step-mom than with him. My step-mom and I didn't get along. We spent a lot of time "butting heads".
I remember the exact date my life changed completely. It was Friday, Aug. 17, 2007. I was blamed for something I didn't do and it escalated into a huge argument with my dad's wife.
I packed up my stuff and took my $200 in savings with me. I remember the things that came to my mind while walking through the pitch-black darkness that night. "What the heck am I doing? WHY this? Why can't life be different?"
But also, I felt as if a huge weight was off my shoulders. There was also an adrenaline rush. I felt so free and, for the first time in a long time, just a little bit of what I thought was true happiness. I was only 14 years old.
I chose not to bother my friends about what had happened. Instead, I found a small park with a little playhouse. I rested there for the rest of the night. I didn't go to sleep. I couldn't. All I wondered about was what I was going to do.
I prayed that night, to help me find something or some way bright in my life, to give my family and me strength, to take care of us through life, and I even asked the best for my dad's wife. For the first time in a while, I missed my mom very much.
I really thought about her that night. I hadn't seen her in years. I thought about my brother and my other family members.
I was depressed but surprisingly not scared at all. Even though I was by myself, I couldn't let go of any tears.
I glanced at the night sky and counted three shooting stars. I made a wish that there was some faith left and my family problems would become the past. The night slowly rolled by and I watched the sun rise. I packed up my belongings and left the playground at 5:30 a.m.
I went to my closest friend's house to say goodbye to her. The military police caught me there. They took me and called the CPS (Child Protective Services). I told them the truth. They talked to my step-mom but I think they didn't believe her.
My grandparents who live in the Modesto area took me to live with them. Now I feel like a completely different person. Even though the anger and sadness I have toward my dad is still there, he has tried to deepen our father-daughter relationship.
Traumatic experiences someone can have in their life can either make or break them. At times, I felt like I was broken and thought I was helpless in every way. But I have managed to not give up and even learned from the mistakes that I have made. My hopes for the future are to hopefully help teens who are going through hard times in their lives and to provide them support when they feel helpless and, most importantly, not have my own children go through the same turmoil that I have gone through.
My running away resulted in my ending up in a better place. It is definitely not a choice I recommend — running away can put a teen in a very dangerous situation like being kidnapped or worse.
Vanessa Etheridge is a freshman at Valley Charter High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom journalism program.