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Walk Away From Life? You Can Get There From Here

The first sentence of the story in the Friday Times caught my attention: “For everyone who has ever wanted to leave life behind and start all over again with an entirely new identity. . . .”

Leave life behind. Start all over again. Entirely new identity.

Where do I sign?

The story was about the San Diego County man who walked out on his life 14 years ago in Maryland. He left his wallet, his car, his private papers and a goodby note. Only in the last year has he confessed to his new family about his previous life.

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The man’s story was tinged with sadness, because emotional problems were what apparently led him to drop out 14 years ago.

But are there many among us who haven’t entertained the thought of coming home some night at 6, packing some clean underwear, getting in the car and hitting the highway?

Kiss it all goodby.

I offered that scenario to 10 people, randomly selected while shopping at Fountain Valley’s Price Club. Let me clarify: They were shopping at Price Club, not me.

This was my proposition: If there weren’t family considerations to take into account and if they could start all over tomorrow, where would they go and what would they do?

Here are the answers, in no particular order:

Richard, 34, of Santa Ana: “If I could chuck it all, there are a couple things I’d probably do. I’d probably end up in Guadalajara, Mexico. What I’d do, I don’t know. Probably start a business of some sort, some kind of international business venture.”

Hattie, mid-40s, Mission Viejo: “Sedona, Arizona. I love it. I like the mountains, the creeks and everything. It’s so beautiful there. I’d find a job in real estate or insurance.”

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Alastair, 23, Newport Beach: “I always wanted to be a game show host. I’d go to some South Pacific island, like Vanua Vatu, and have the production facilities there and have a game show. It’d be a very exclusive show, hard to get on.”

Maryann, 32, Huntington Beach: “I’d go out in the country and own a little restaurant or retail store.”

Pat, 68, Westminster: “Maybe some small villa in Mexico and just hustle tourists for a buck. They’ve got some nice senoritas down there.”

Judy, 45, Huntington Beach: “I’d go to New York and become an accountant.”

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George, 62, Santa Ana: “I’d go to Alaska, get a cabin and just live.”

Charlene, 37, Huntington Beach: “Heaven, in a minute.” Pressed for a more earthly escape, she said, “British Columbia. I’d go there and sail. I’d be on a yacht and sail around the world.”

Scott, 43, Costa Mesa: “I’d probably go someplace like Montana, Oregon, Idaho or Washington and do real estate deals. Build houses one at a time. You could work four months a year and sit on your butt for eight.”

Karen, 34, Trabuco Canyon: “I’d go live on a beach in Baja and say forget it to mortgage payments, work and all the hassles of living in Southern California.”

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Let’s face it, those aren’t exactly exotic fantasies. I was thinking more along the lines of being a gondolier in Venice or a ski instructor in the Alps.

But maybe most people’s dreams aren’t as far removed from reality as we might think. I can understand why Alastair doesn’t start his game show on a Pacific island, but I wonder why Hattie, for example, doesn’t just move to Sedona. Or why Scott, a firefighter, doesn’t move to the Northwest. Folks, you can get there from here.

Maybe we just get too rooted, too complacent. Maybe it takes too much energy, or a spouse or parent doesn’t want you to move, or they discourage you from opening that boutique in the Midwest.

I have a friend who, like me, has said his fond farewells to youth and is getting to know middle age on a personal basis. We talk about running away together and going into the house-painting business. We always get bogged down, however, over whether it’ll be interior or exterior painting. If it’s interior work, I’m afraid the fumes would get to me. If it’s exterior, I mention that I’m afraid of wasps flying around eaves.

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So, the dream never takes off.

Maybe I’m just making excuses. Maybe I don’t really want to be a painter, interior or exterior.

Maybe I agree with what Pat, the 68-year-old man from Westminster, said outside Price Club: “We’re all stuck with what we’ve got.”


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