PERSONAL SPACE & PRIVACY
If You’re Reading This, I’m Already Gone
I’m not off the grid, and I haven’t disappeared from social media, but no one knows where I am, and that’s just the way I like it.
If you know you me and you’re reading this, chances are, I’m not where you think I am. But don’t panic; I’m quite alright. I don’t know when it started or why, but I am uncomfortable with too many people knowing how to get ahold of me, whether by phone, email, social media, or in person. For over a decade, I have been an enigma, dodging social events and ignoring phone calls and text messages. I have seven different driver’s licenses with seven different names on them in my safe, all legal, and I scroll through social media while using accounts that have no followers because they are not only private but secret.
Unlike most people, I don’t enjoy human connection all that much. I am exhausted by interactions with friends and unaffected by the ending of friendships. I have no qualms about people coming and going, and in just the past few months, I happily ended friendships I’ve had for well over a decade.
Anyone who knows me knows I am likely to go missing from their lives for months or years at a time, but recently, I took my propensity to get lost farther than I ever have. I’ve started my life completely over, as a new person, in a different part of the world. I decided that I put the wheels in motion, and two months later, I was gone.
I am not running from anything or anyone. I am not off the grid, nor do I have any such desires. I am simply a woman who grew tired of how things have been, began to feel stagnated by my circumstances, and decided to change them. What I know to be true is that The Universe appreciates speed, and when I act quickly, it responds in kind. I also know that fear and faith cannot exist in the same place simultaneously, and I can only choose one. I know that baby steps in the right direction are better than no steps at all and that when I take giant leaps in my life, it exponentially and perpetually changes. So, I took such a leap and what follows is the simplified guide to how I did it, but first, a monologue:
Tell No One of Your Plans
I didn’t know I’d be leaving my old life behind. It wasn’t some long, drawn-out plan. Instead, the opportunity to leave presented itself to me months before I decided to take the chance, and I thought it was absurd. Then, one day, it hit me. I had an opportunity to create a major shift in my life, to change everything at that moment and forever.
Deciding to leave the place I lived for over twenty years and go somewhere I’d never been was both thrilling and terrifying. But, this was something I had to do on my own. To get through it without the excess noise of unsolicited feedback and conjecture, I couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want to entertain questions for which I had no answers, and I didn’t want to divulge the answers once I acquired them. What I wanted was to challenge myself to do something I’d never done in a quest to gain something I never had. The details of such were yet to be seen.
Change Your Name
Over the past decade, I have changed my name five times. Three of those name changes were due to marriages, and the other two were for the hell of it. I don’t like random people knowing my legal name, often presenting a pseudonym when meeting new people, and having two such fake names for my writing. This way, I retain some level of privacy and anonymity in my personal life.
My obsession with name changes serves an ideal purpose while I’m hiding in plain sight. In fact, not even my mother and father know my legal name at this point, and my partner of nearly five years recently asked, “What’s your real name, anyway?” Oh, how I laughed and laughed…and never told him.
However, this doesn’t mean the people closest to me can’t find me; it simply assures I don’t pop-up right away during random internet searches performed by the people I have chosen to leave behind. The people I want to contact me still have an avenue to do so.
Sidenote: As a domestic violence survivor, I have also changed my social security number recently. This doesn’t make me invisible to the government, as they have records of everything I have done since the moment I was born, but again, it’s just an extra layer of protection against the people in my past who may be hoping to track me down.
Move to a New City, State, or Country
I did everything but throw a dart at a map and call its bullseye home. I chaotically chose my future city in a way that originally had no rhyme or reason. But, once I chose it (or Google maps chose it for me), I quickly realized there were many benefits to the locale. Lest I give away my location, I can say it had places to go, things to do, and people to meet. There were eateries and bars, shops, museums and parks, professional opportunities, and loved ones within reach. Flying over the city on the internet, I could see there was more nature in this new city, fewer people than I was accustomed to, and far fewer cases of Covid-19.
From the day I became certain I’d found the right city for me, I began making plans with the help of online articles and listicles about how to move one’s entire life from one corner of the world to another. I found a home and secured it, purchased a shit ton of packing supplies, and for the next six weeks, painstakingly boxed, tossed, gave away, or sold everything I owned. The genius of the Coronavirus pandemic was that I could make such a significant shift without anyone noticing. There were no more visitors to witness my state of being, and even the phone calls became scarce after a while. We were all so caught up in our individual strivings to stay alive, and that’s precisely why I needed to get out of there.
Disconnect and Change Your Phone Number and Email Address
As soon as I landed in my new city, moved into my new home, and signed for the last furniture delivery, I changed my personal phone number and email address, leaving my business connections intact. It was the last tie between me and the life I left behind –– the fake friends and the emotional stagnation, the rat race, and the hamster wheel. After twenty years, I was getting off that fucking ride.
It was the most “new number who dis” moment of my life.
Eventually, I would have to give my new number to the people closest to me, so to throw the scent a bit, I changed it to one not correlated with my new location. Again, this wasn’t an attempt to disappear into the ether. For me, it was time to fully disconnect and start anew without everything and everyone I’d ever known trailing closely behind me. Knowing I wouldn’t receive phone calls, text messages, or mail from people I’d outgrown made my move that less stressful.
Sidenote: Another neat trick is to buy a ringback tone (if available from your carrier) with the ringtone from another country, like the infamous “boop boop” one hears when “ringing a telly” in the UK. Callers will assume you’re overseas.
Never Recieve Mail at Home
The easiest way to track people is through the United States Postal Service, so I have never allowed mail to be delivered to my home in the past twenty years. Within days of landing in my new city of residence, I established a mailing address at a personal mailbox miles from my home and had all my mail forwarded there. One of the perks of having my mail delivered to a PMB is that there is always someone available to sign for packages and return unsolicited mail.
Once, several years ago, a misguided fanatic showed up at my PMB location with flowers and a note, thinking it was my home residence, and that only solidified my choice never to write my home address on anything. It also crystalized how unsafe I have always felt in the world and within reach of other humans. Rest assured that my obsession with being an enigma isn’t unfounded or unscrupulous. History has proven that men will hurt me when given access, and it has become increasingly difficult to heal stronger in the broken places.
Leave Misleading Clues on Current Social Media
This article is filled with misleading information. Even the name I used to write it is a product of smoke and mirrors. Nothing is real. On my personal social media accounts, I may post an update every three months or so, and when I do, it’s usually cryptic and misleading. For instance, I may publish a photo I took six months ago in one location and tag it in another, with a caption reading, Today was a beautiful day. I don’t like people to know what I’m doing exactly as I’m doing it, or for them to know what I’m doing at all. I prefer people to talk about what they think my life is like versus how it really is. I’d rather tell truths in nonsequential order, or several contradictory truths all at once as a way to keep people confused and misled.
This allows me to feel unseen.
Sidenote: Starting new social media accounts for your new life is best. If you haven't changed your name legally, you can still change it socially by telling people how you wish to be identified, such as, “My name is Susan Smith, but I identify as Lola St. James. Please, call me Lola.” And presto, everyone will call you Lola. On your new social accounts will be your new friends in your new town, separated from the family and friends on your old account, and never the twain shall meet.
The Thing About Being Gone
Leaving it all behind and reinventing oneself is a concept we enjoy watching on television and in films, but not many of us have the audacity to get up and walk away. Upending our lives usually feels more difficult after a certain age, after we’ve had children or landed our dream jobs and acquired houses filled with memories.
It becomes difficult to shift when we’ve already planted roots.
I never thought that in my forties, I would all of sudden feel the urge to rip myself apart from my foundation and plant myself somewhere so far from where I’ve been. But this year has thrown me curveballs that were undodgeable. I lost a lot, and much was stolen from me, but I gave away even more. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s so easy to see what and who is essential, all the ways I’ve been afraid to shift, and the memories that have tied to me a life that has long passed by.
Now, I am off to find my new favorite restaurant and museum, ice cream shop, and bakery. I still don’t know where the closest beach is or who can do my nails just the way I like them.
Where can a girl get her vagina waxed around here?
There’s so much to learn and discover and not just about this new town but also myself. There is still so much life to live, so much I’ve never done, and I feel as if I have arrived at a jumping-off point –– a place where I have no roots, and so I am not stuck.
And that’s the thing about being gone –– when you’re no longer there, you can be anywhere!