Should I leave for the trip or wait for my escape?
January 6, 2013 4:16 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to free myself from an unhappy family dynamic by moving out. But, without telling my family, I bought tickets for a trip to one of my favorite cities but am now having second thoughts about the trip. Should I still go, or wait a few months to make my grand departure with no hurtful follow-up acts from my crazy family?

Hello Mefites, I am in need of your helpful advice. I am a female in my mid twenties and had to move back home after college after being unable to find a job in the economy. I've saved money, and am now in the process of moving out, hopefully within the next few months, before summer. I have not discussed any of these plans with my family, as they are generally unsupportive of my goals and tend to shoot down most things I say. For some background, here is the family I am trying to leave:

-My dad was an alcoholic and was abusive to my mom and me. He would punch me for wearing a sleeveless shirt when I was only 6, and later when I was a teenager, because I shaved.
-He lied about my PSAT score, which was over 1100 (out of 1600) and more than what my older brother made, which was more than 200 pts lower than mine. My dad is from a culture that is well-known to disrespect women, and I don't think he could take it that I scored much higher than my brother. I found out weeks before college that I scored that high and felt that I would have done so much better in high school had I known what I was capable of, as my dad would frequently call me "stupid". My dad wouldn't let me take honors classes in high school because my brother wasn't able to get into those classes, even though I was able to take them. My teachers would even tell me at parent-teacher conferences that they were wondering why I wasn't in honors. My dad never responded to them.
-My dad is no longer physically abusive, but he doesn't support my dreams and I hate being around him and just want to leave.
-My mom comes from a culture where women are expected to defer to men. She never protected me from my dad and will stand up for my brother even when she knows I am right. She frequently ignores me and does not even acknowledge my presence when our paths cross at home, whereas to my brother, she's laughing and all smiles and says encouraging things to him.
-My older brother is pretty much a jerk to me, and always has been. He posted bad things about me on his twitter and blog because I don't call him by the term for older brothers that people from our culture use, as well as for other things I do that "annoy" him. He slammed his door on my ankle one time and it bled and I have a scar there, but he never apologized. He shuns me and doesn't acknowledge me, unless if our cousins or other people are around. He says that I have no social skills (I'm guessing because I'm not on facebook or any social media and I have few friends) and that I'm "entitled" because I speak up to my family when I feel they do unfair things, like buying my brother a car, and not buying me one, even though I work full-time and my brother hasn't had a job in 6 years, since he was in college the first time.

So, that's the dynamic I'm trying to get away from. I just can't take it anymore. I haven't discussed any of my plans with them obviously, because I know my brother would try to steamroll me in some way and my parents would respond by giving something to my brother in response to me getting my freedom. I want to let them know with just days before my departure, so that there's no way for them to stop me.

So here is where my conundrum is: I recently acquired a ticket to one of my stand-up heroes in one of my favorite cities. He always sells out within minutes, and I thought to go ahead and get one, since it would be a dream come true. So I bought plane tickets, but now I'm wondering if I should leave for a trip, or should instead be focusing on getting out for good. I still have packing and organizing to do, as well as a job hunt for the city I want to move to, which I haven't decided yet. I don't want my family to pick up that I may be leaving, so that they don't try to stop me. So I'm not sure if I should go on the trip or not. There will be more opportunities to see the stand-up comic, and I can cancel the trip and get a full refund. I just don't know if I should go or not, because I would obviously enjoy it, but I feel like I should be spending all of my energy to get out for good. My therapist is out of town and so I thought to ask the sages of AskMe. If you all may have any advice, it would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance and take care.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Cancel those tickets and get the full refund. Put it towards leaving even earlier.

I came from a dynamic similar in terms of abuse, not culture.

Honey, you're a Super Spy Agent right now. They WILL sabotage you if the find out. Taking a fancy trip will be like waving a flag in front of a rabid bull.

Keep your head down. Get out. You are in danger, whether you realize it or not.

You have a LIFETIME to enjoy yourself AFTER you escape.
posted by jbenben at 4:25 PM on January 6, 2013 [65 favorites]

If you can get a full refund, it's a no-brainer. Cancel the trip and focus on moving out!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:27 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

First of all, good job on being proactive about getting yourself out of there.

Second of all, what jbenben said.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:28 PM on January 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes, focus on the big picture--cancel the trip and save the money and energy toward getting out and building a life where the people immediately around you don't shoot you down.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:31 PM on January 6, 2013

Even if your home situation weren't abusive and awful, my advice would still be to cancel the trip, get a refund, and focus your energy on moving out. Financial independence and freedom is so, so sweet, and so much better than a trip to see a comedian.

The fact that your family is clearly tremendously fucked up puts a big red exclamation mark after that.

Your favorite city will still be there next year. The comedian will probably still be doing shows next year (and probably with a lot of the same material).

Get out. As soon as possible. Good luck.
posted by phunniemee at 4:36 PM on January 6, 2013

I guess to me it depends on how much time and money this trip is costing you and how much you think you need. Is it a 2 day trip that costs 100$, or a week long trip that costs 1000? Because there's something to be said for a vacation, especially in this difficult and stressful time, but only if this vacation will not cause you more stress. (Subpoint: if the city you are going to see the comic in is a city you are considering moving to, the trip can be joint recon/vacation and might be worth it even if it costs more.)

Also this depends on whether you will get negative feedback from your family for either going on or cancelling this trip. You want to avoid anything that is unusual or will upset them until you are gone and it is too late.

I wish you all the best in moving out and on.
posted by jeather at 4:52 PM on January 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

Focus on leaving. You deserve so much better than your current family situation.
posted by Dansaman at 4:59 PM on January 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was initially going to say that it could take some time to get out, so you should go, to give yourself a taste of freedom and to spend a few days relaxing away from them to save up energy for the final push. But jbenben could be right: "taking a fancy trip will be like waving a flag in front of a rabid bull." So, I revise my answer. If you need a break from them (e.g., if you are starting to lose hope, get depressed, give in, or feel like you'll never get free), then yes, go, to revive your spirits for one last push. But it didn't sounds like that's the case. It sounds like you feel escape is close on the horizon. So don't lose momentum and don't attract attention in this way --just keep saving every penny and working hard to put together your final escape.
posted by salvia at 4:59 PM on January 6, 2013

One point in favor of postponing the show: depending on where you move out *to*, your favorite comedian might just do a show there. Not having to buy plane tickets for a show is pretty nice. Some of my favorite performers regularly visit the city where I live which means I get to see them regularly without having to spend a lot of money. Given how abusive your family seems to be (emotional if not physical abuse), moving to another city seems like a good idea (maybe even your favorite city!)
posted by R343L at 5:09 PM on January 6, 2013

Another reason to postpone trips and shows and fun experiences: you won't enjoy them anyway if you are worried about the fallout you'll have to face when you return home.
posted by headnsouth at 5:15 PM on January 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Congratulations, you've just decided to move to this city where your favorite comedian is playing!

Sell, give away, and throw out your things that you can't take with you on the flight.

Start looking at apartment and job listings in this city.

When you get to this city, start trying to find a place to stay and some kind of service job to pay immediate bills and feed yourself.

Congratualations, you just got away from your shitty family!

(The above assumes that the city in question is in a country you can legally live/work in, of course. And that you don't have anything standing in the way that would make this impossible. But yeah, seriously, though my tone is a little facetious, I think this trip should be the push that gets you out of there. Why not just... never come home?)
posted by Sara C. at 5:31 PM on January 6, 2013 [51 favorites]

Sara C.'s got it. Go on the trip and don't come home.

Starting over is scary, but it sounds like you really, really need to get away from your family.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:43 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh my dear girl. Congratulations on a brave decision. Let NOTHING stand in your way, not even this holiday, unless as Sara C. suggests, you want to move to that city anyway and you can leave and not return. It is possible that, as others have suggested, you might actually be in danger. Don't jeopardize your position until you can make your escape.

Have you picked a city? If you need any assistance that I can offer (I do a mean resume review), feel free to memail me. Hugs and luck and love to you.
posted by cyndigo at 6:01 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I left home in somewhat similar circumstances, I'd already purchased my one-way plane ticket when I broached the news. It felt great.

And then my mother -- to my surprise! -- helped me pack and move. They drove me together to the airport. It wasn't nearly as bad as I'd predicted. They really understood I needed a change.

I agree with above posters: leave and don't come back -- for at least a few years. Don't drag out the move. Just do it. Hopefully, they'll understand, and even if they don't, at least you'll be safer and happier.
posted by sock puppet du jour at 6:05 PM on January 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Have you and your therapist talked about a long-term strategy for either cutting contact or setting boundaries with your family, post-move? If not, it'd be worth doing.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:26 PM on January 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm someone who would probably donate a kidney to my favorite standup comic if he asked, so I feel your dilemma. That said, scalp the ticket, seriously. Get a refund on the plane tickets. Or put your stuff in storage and make it a one-way ticket.

The problem with families like these is that they are unpredictable. They may well drive you to the airport, like sock puppet du jour's mom did, or respond with physical violence. It's possible that you're in greater danger than you might think. Your family could accomplish all sorts of snooping and sabotage while you're away on a trip. I wouldn't risk it.
posted by ziggly at 6:31 PM on January 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I really like Sara C.'s idea, if it's at all possible.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:15 PM on January 6, 2013

Keep the ticket and use this as a scouting trip. Unless the trip is totally going to suck all of your savings dry, anyway. But seriously, this way you can scout things out without your family figuring out what you're up to.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:07 PM on January 6, 2013

You should leave now because you want to and you have the means. You seem over invested in waiting for cultural signs to tell you what to do, but your gut is the best guideline here.

For future searchers: the PSAT has been scored on a scale of 20 to 80 for a while, not the old 1600 scale. For those who took the PSAT on the old scale, 1100 is below average and 900 (as OP says her brother scored) is way below average and would not have qualified him admission to any accredited college unless he had a football scholarship.
posted by SakuraK at 8:21 PM on January 6, 2013

Taking a risk like this can be so incredibly scary if you don't have enough money saved up to help yourself stand on your own two feet.

I'd strongly recommend selling these tickets (for the flight and show) and either doing one of the following things:
1. Staying with your parents until you have a bit more money saved up and have thought about the strategic/planning aspect of moving. OR
2. If your physical or mental health is presently being affected to an unbearable amount then move to a different city that isn't a flight away when first starting out.

Based on what you've written, there's a lot of intricate details in your family's history (as with many other families). But, I'm unsure as to whether or not these events are recent or from a long time ago. This would help determine which course of action to take to better your life. If it happened a long time ago then consider option #1, but if it happened recently and a long string of events have occurred recently then consider option #2.

Also, I know it may not feel like it now, but realize that people can change and people do change.

Often times, with families that have strong cultural roots, there's a tension between the parents and their adolescent children/young adults. A lot of parents with strong cultural roots love their children so much and consider their children their life. So, some of these parents get scared shitless when they realize that they are no longer in control of the kid they raised. They realize that you're a smart, independent, hopeful, and brave person who's not willing to settle, be controlled, or live your life according to their standards. They know that you are gaining more control in your life and that scares the shit out of them, so they express their fear in messed up ways.

So yeah, I hope you realize that it's possible for the dynamics to change between you and your family (or at least some family members). No, clearly not now, but one day when you're all older. Living in your own place will give you more control in terms of how to live your life. You will not feel familial or cultural pressure as much as while living with your family.

But right now, my advice is to stay under the radar as much as possible, think about your future which will give you the hope that you need, and work on creating a plan with your therapist so that you can be safe (in all aspects), in a healthy mental state (esp. with the conditions you're working with), and with the resources like money so that you can thrive (rather than just survive) when you make this big, yet necessary move (when the timing feels right for you).

Hope this helped. Oh, and feel free to send me an email.

posted by livinglearning at 8:58 PM on January 6, 2013

I agree you should focus on the goal of moving out.

Also: I want to let them know with just days before my departure, so that there's no way for them to stop me.

No. Tell them after you are out. Not before. They can still try to stop you, even if you tell them the day before. Or the same day.
posted by adamrice at 8:58 PM on January 6, 2013 [20 favorites]

Whenever I was "this close" to breaking free, my dysfunctional family ALWAYS sabotaged me.

By the time I got into my early 20's, I was often making decisions like this that helped their cause, rather than mine.

My first comment was really really really blunt. I'm sorry.

You are not wrong, but I want you to be SMART. I want you to be SAFE. I want you to have THE BETTER LIFE YOU DESERVE.

Hold on just a little longer than I did. Keep going. I understand the temptation, just... With a little more effort, 300% rewards await you!!

Sara C. gave the best advice in this thread if you have enough savings. Let me tell you why...

I held on to the bitter end to what I could of my birth family, into my late 30's. Their bullshit, sabotage, and emotional games cost me too much. Finally, I married a man with 1,000 times the character, respect, and love for me than the remaining bits of my family ever felt for me at their best. Within a shockingly short period of time, my remaining family evaporated from my life. Forever. And I did not miss them at ALL.

I voluntarily estranged myself from my mom at 24 years old, and spent the next 14 years and CONSIDERABLE emotional expense trying to hold on to the rest of my family. Total. Waste. Of Time.

I might still have a relationship with some of them now if I hadn't spent more effort than they invested at the time trying to keep relations going. Not that I would want them contaminating my marriage or son at this point in my life - just saying my efforts in their direction were THAT misguided, and likely kept me from better relationships for many many years, even though we were physically separated and I was only keeping up appearances and still striving for love and validation I was NEVER EVER going to get, for over 14 years.

I probably would have been happily married even sooner if I had stopped fantasizing about a (birth) family dynamic that was never going to happen with them. It happened without them - which looking back, was obvious!

If you can ditch it all now and start over - YES! DO IT!!

Get over them. Grieve. Be safe and SMART.

I'm cheering you on!!
posted by jbenben at 9:17 PM on January 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Definitely don't tell them until you are moved out. Telling them by phone or even in writing may be helpful, especially since it sounds like they may try to sabotage you or guilt you into staying.

I wish you the best of luck. I went through a situation where I broke off things with my family but it wasn't complected by the cultural and sibling issues you have. I can only imagine how hard it is but you sound like someone who is smart enough to deal with it.
posted by Melsky at 12:46 AM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Your family scares me. I would not go on the trip and keep your plans as secret as possible. Go for the main goal of leaving permanently
posted by Vaike at 2:15 AM on January 7, 2013

Agreed with most of the posts above - concentrate on getting yourself out of there!

Focus on finding a stable job that allows you to earn enough money to leave home and stay away! The last thing you want to do is have to go back again. Focus on survival - if that means you can't work in your field for a while, so be it.

Good luck!
posted by bitteroldman at 8:29 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

"He would punch me for wearing a sleeveless shirt when I was only 6"

Whoa, wait, you were 6. Where were you getting those shirts from? Your parents purchased clothing for you and then would physically attack you for wearing it?

I think based on that alone I'd highly recommend making absolutely no mention of your plans until you are well out of the house. Many dysfunctional families will fight tooth and nail to prevent the status-quo from changing. It's not important to them that you live well, they are getting something out of pushing you down to the point where they apparently set you up to be attacked.

They might send you out of the house with a boot to the backside when they find out you are leaving, or they might sink their teeth in and sabotage your life. It's just not worth the risk. They don't need to know until it's done.
posted by Dynex at 10:03 AM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
Dear Mefites, thank you so much for all of your responses. Once again, I am amazed at how supportive this wonderful community is. You have all helped me tremendously. And although I go to therapy, I was afraid that people would ask me what the big deal was, because I am so used to my family belittling me and ignoring me. I was molested when I was 5 and to this day my dad says it's not a big deal, because I wasn't raped. I forgot to include that, but your responses without that really hit home what kind of people my family are. Thank you for telling me that I may be in greater danger than I realize. You don't know how much you have helped me.

I love Sara C's idea of leaving and not returning. That would work, except I am an artist and have large canvases at home, so I need to document those and get rid of them and have all of my things ready to go, and then I can go on a nice little "trip." Thank you, everyone, and thank you Jbenben for sharing your story. I look forward to seeing my favorite comic as a free woman. :) I may post other questions should any arise in the move-out process, either anon or with a new account. If I don't, know that I will be safe and smart.

Thank you, everyone, from the bottom of my heart. Take care.


Your Anonymous Super Spy Agent (thanks, Jbenben!)
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:24 AM on January 7, 2013 [9 favorites]

Get a local storage unit for your canvases, or see if there's a friend who can hold onto them for you. If those aren't options, see if a local college's arts program has storage lockers for this sort of thing. Maybe you could "audit a studio class" for a semester or so as a storage fee?

Please don't stay with your abusive family a second longer simply because you own large art. I know your work is your heart and soul, but keeping your possessions safe is so much less important than keeping you safe.
posted by Sara C. at 5:35 PM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Ask people who like your art to store a canvas on their wall for a while. There are people out there who would leap at the chance to do this.
posted by yohko at 12:12 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

There might be a coffeeshop that could use some art. Maybe lend your works to them for a while? Bonus is that if your parents ask where they've gone, the truth is utterly inocuous.

Yes, keep your head down and stay safe!! Be aware of where your closest police or fire station is. Be prepared for any possibility. Better safe than sorry.

> They can still try to stop you, even if you tell them the day before. Or the same day.

This is absolutely true. It's been seven years since I've spoken to my parents. The night I put the last boxes in my car before a cross-country move, they started a huge door-slamming, screaming-out-on-the-front-lawn fight with me. Can't imagine what the neighbors thought of them. I wish I could've done what Sara C. suggested.

Whichever way you do it, I hope you walk out with your head high and don't look back. Feel free to MeMail me any time. Know that you can do this. There are tons of stories on AskMe of people that have cut off contact with their parents. They broke free... so can you.
posted by halonine at 9:12 PM on January 8, 2013

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