Parents. We’ve all got them. Somewhere.
I’m lucky enough to have mine by my side…daily. Either in person, on the phone, or digitally by my side via the incredible FaceTime, my parents are always there.
It wasn’t always like this. 2009 changed everything. There was a time before then when complete freedom was still possible. And I don’t mean to say that I would’ve enjoyed isolating myself from my family. In fact, I’m the one doing most of the calling these days. I’m just talking about the days when I could stop by McDonald’s for an ice cream cone, without the fear of being fat-shamed by accidentally sharing my location with millions (okay, I don’t have even a million social media friends, but just roll with it). Life before 2009 allowed me to go to the movies with friends, chill in my parked car for an hour, or go on a solo run without having to report it to the world. I never had to explain my actions to anyone. My choices were mine. Until October 6th of that same year.
The air was crisp and refreshing as I walked along the lake convincing my friend’s that I was once a hair stylist. The conversations continued and revolved around my friend’s birthday bash later that evening. As per the birthday boy’s wish, we stayed in and danced all-too-embarrassingly to David Guetta’s “When Love takes over” before moving on to Christina Stürmer, a lesser known, but just as important karaoke go-to.
I was one slice of cake and one cup of strawberry wine in when I suddenly get abruptly interrupted by my roommate. She had been sick all week and much preferred her violin over David Guetta. You could tell she had unwillingly dragged herself down to the party, which she had no interest in attending. It was 11pm on a Friday and she was already in PJ’s – I mean come on! She walked straight toward me and with the fewest words possible told me that the phone had been ringing non-stop for the past hour and a half -it was for me. Remember, this was still 2009 I didn’t even have a cell phone, I’d barely signed up for a Facebook, and the only form of communication between my family and me was an alarmingly-red, ten-pound corded phone in my room. Fritz, my childhood dog or my grandparents must have passed. That was the only reason for calling so persistently at that hour.
I run back up to my room, give them a call and my mom’s crying and my dad is furious. I could hear it in their voices from miles away. I knew in that moment that I was in trouble. The dog was fine and so were my grandparents. My mind went a million per hour trying to remember my every move for the past 24-48 hours. Blank. Did I forget someone’s birthday? No. Had I left some unfinished prank when I left a few months prior? Couldn’t be. Did I unknowingly spend too much on my debit card? Not unless each bread roll from the bakery across the street was worth 500 Euros.
I was lost. First year away from home and of course this happens! Why did my parents suggest I take a gap year and travel to Europe by myself. I was definitely out and up to no good, when suddenly I lose control of my own body. I can’t formulate a single word in any language, I can barely walk straight, and everyone and everything turned into blurry blobs. I had been drugged. I ended up in the middle of the forest lost and in danger. Until I was picked up and dragged by an older, disgustingly muscular man, who didn’t even sigh a single word. Surely he was Eastern-European working for one of those Mafia Kings, who was to take me straight to the King himself to assess me as a prostitute. High-end or low-end. I was new in the game – definitely high-end. There was no way for anyone to find me. Heck, nobody was looking for me. Except for my parents that is, but they were too late. They were 7 hours behind and an entire ocean away! Headlines began appearing: “Search for American Teenager Abroad: hope to find alive.”
That’s the story that had been running through my parent’s mind while I was in the kitchen attempting to sing ‘happy birthday’ in 7 different languages. From that day forward I learned to call my parents at the very least once daily – forever losing the freedom of having an entire day to myself.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.