Should you move away if you feel you don’t fit in?

Wooff asks: I want to go to a university abroad rather than stay in my country, but my mom is not supportive. Her reason being is due to financial reasons but I said I would go if I got a scholarship. It’s not about money, which they have enough to support me with. It’s just more about the fact that she knows that I plan on settling abroad. I really have nowhere else to go or ask someone without getting a heavily biased opinion. Ever since I’ve been young, I’ve wanted to go abroad. While I owe a lot to my country, I do not want to stay in it. At all. I get stared down by men if I do not wear a certain type of clothing. People use their influence/connections to get to higher ranks. You have to be a people pleaser to be successful (which I am not). I have to behave a certain way to please other people, I cannot walk freely with my boyfriend hand in hand. I live in a third world country. I have no freedom, people only watch out for themselves. And I cannot survive here. I am by nature a very sensitive person. And I have been abroad and I love how everything feels so free there. My mom keeps saying “I raised you and now you want to leave me. A lot of people here are surviving. You can go abroad when we’re dead.” I would not have chosen to be born if I knew being in a family is such a give and take situation. I did not chose to be born here. I don’t want to survive anymore, I want to live. I want the basic right to clean air, if that’s not too much to ask for. If she had the best intentions in mind for me (which I doubt now), she would want me to have my best life. I suggested that they could leave with me but she said it’s not that easy. The reason I’d be staying is because I was forced. I think it’s my right to want a better life for me and my future family. I lived as a second class citizen my whole life in this country. Reading in my country’s education system rather than international education system. Only because I was told that it was too expensive and they could not afford it. But now that the decision has come to choose my universities, I want to go abroad. Yes, I’ll prepare for both here and abroad, but if I could get a decent scholarship, I’d leave. But I’m not getting any support to try for abroad. Maybe the best course of action would be to try for both, while focusing mainly on abroad. I don’t want to take a gap year but maybe that would be the best? What do you think Shirelle? Am I being selfish? Am I in the wrong? What should I do? Conform again or live my life? I’m sorry if I sound hateful, but I’ve been living with this anger since high school, and even now, it hasn’t gone away completely. Would really appreciate an unbiased opinion.

Dear Wooff –

So before I answer you, Handsome said “Tell her to listen to Bruce Springsteen’s song ‘Independence Day.’  That’s exactly where she’s at.  At least she won’t feel so alone.”  And I never disagree with Handsome… on music.  (On what he feeds me, and where he lets me go, I disagree with him all the time.  But enough about that.)

Wooff, there are lots of people, I suppose most people, who are very good at living the way they’re supposed to.  They’re nice people, who relate to the social standards of their culture, they work hard enough, they’re good to their families, and sure they make mistakes but overall they do fine.

And then there are the other kinds of people.  People who don’t fit in so well.  They might be good-natured, they might be very kind, they might be brilliant in some ways, but they’ve just never quite felt like they belonged.

There are dogs like that too.  I’m one of them.  And I think you’re one of those people.  So you and I are alike in more ways than just your name and my species sound!

What I’m saying, Wooff, and what Handsome’s saying with that song, is that this isn’t just about right now, and it’s not just about choosing a university, and it’s not even just about your parents and your country.   This is you.  And the you you’re going to be, at some level, forever.

And what this means is that you’re going to be re-inventing yourself, probably a lot.  If you move to another country, if you move back, if you dress less conservatively or more, if you go to one university or another or none, even what you choose to study there. 

I know it feels scary.  You’re right.  People who comfortably live by the rules don’t have to face this particular fear (Of course everyone faces lots of other ones, so it doesn’t mean their lives are necessarily better than yours; they just don’t have to deal with this).  You might alienate people you really love, or you might give in to them and feel that you’ve cheated yourself.

In fact, I’m going to change that last comment.  You WILL alienate people you love.  And you WILL give in to them and feel that you’ve cheated yourself.  You will also be misjudged in bad ways, and given credit for strengths you don’t feel you deserve.  You will struggle and fail, and you’ll struggle and succeed, and sometimes you’ll just give up on the struggle.

My dear friend, of course I can’t tell you whether to stay in your country for university or not.  I don’t know nearly enough to give a decent answer.  But from what you wrote, I sure

don’t see any reason to not apply, just to see what’s available to you.  And maybe, while you’re waiting to see if you’re accepted, you can talk with your parents more, about what they want for you and from you. 

Oh, one other thing.  About your mom.  Every time I see Handsome packing a suitcase, I don’t know if he’s packing for an airplane trip where he’s leaving me behind, or for a drive that he’s taking me on.  But I get scared it’ll be the former.  And while it might make more sense for me to then spend more time cuddling up with him and giving him licks, what I do is to pull away.  I ignore him, sleep away from him, treat him coldly.  Because my fear makes my heart hurt.

And if I were a human, with your more complex brains, and my daughter was talking about moving to another country, I might get downright mean about it.  Sure I’d want the best for her, but I also would know I’d be losing her for long periods of time, and that she might even move away forever.  A pain that’d be just too hard to sit in.

So when she acts that way, I know it feels rotten, but give at least some thought to the idea that, beneath all the mean words, she’s really saying “I love you more than life, and just hate the thought of not having you near me.”

And Wooff, if you can live with those two awarenesses – of your own nature, and of her love – you will make the best decisions and choices possible.  I know it.  Which doesn’t mean they won’t have consequences.  They always do. 

Because you’re the sort of magical, unique, explosive miracle you are. 

And always will be.

With great love,


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