Lessons from a Commitment Phobic Escape Artist

This is my nervous/scared face…

I remember what life was like when I was working full-time. There were some happy days in there, but a lot of those days were filled with frustration, stress, sadness, guilt, anxiety, and health challenges. I wasn’t happy at work; although I could fake it really well at times (I am a woman after all).

Sometimes going to work was like a scene from Star Wars. I was Luke Skywalker, my boss was Darth Vadar, and each work day my boss would use her/his Jedi mind tricks to crush my soul.

Yes. Crush. My. Soul.

I Was A Commitment Phobic Escape Artist

I spent years (I am totally serious when I say years) planning my escape. My tool of choice? Travel. I spent what seemed like endless hours surfing the Bootsnall forums, chatting with travellers. I bought guide books. I researched round-the-world tickets. I made lists of all the places I wanted to travel to. And I talked the talk.

Except, I never took any of those trips. I wanted to go, but life always got in the way. Bills to pay. Debts looming over me. Oh, and I was also incapable of saving money.

Sure, I had good intentions, but somehow my money seemed to evaporate into thin air. One day I had a paycheck’s worth in my bank account, and four days later I had like $50 left. (I’ll talk more about the money stuff in another post. Too much to cover in this one)

As you can imagine my dreams of travelling around the world were just that, dreams.

In time, I became a bit of a work-o-holic. I worked way more hours than I needed to in an effort to make my life feel as though it had a purpose.

The more I worked, the less I thought about things like money, or debt. In a way, work was its own escape – clearly I am no Houdini. If I were, I would have come up with a better escape plan!

So I used work to escape debt, and I used travel planning to escape work. In essence, I had painted myself into a tight little corner, pitched a tent, built a fire, and then surrounded myself with man-eating bears to keep myself from straying too far.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

In other words, I was keeping myself from achieving my dreams. I was my own judge, jury, and executioner. Why? Fear.

I Was Afraid to Challenge The “Norm”

I had been raised to believe that as an adult I needed to have a steady job, which provided steady income. A job, any job, was preferable to no job. It wasn’t about finding a job that filled me with exquisite passion, it was about finding a job to pay my rent, and put some food in my belly. Oh, and to keep my creditors at bay.

I know I’m not the only person who has this problem. How many of you have accepted a job because it was with a reputable company, paid well, or because you thought it would open up bigger and better doors in the future? It’s totally okay if you’ve answered yes. Many of us have!

Sure, some of you reading this absolutely love your job – and that is crazy awesome – but many of you are just trudging along. I was trudging along!

Work = Money.

Money = Success.

Success = Happiness.

But what if success and happiness never happened? What if success was fleeting, and happiness was… wait, what is happiness again? I can’t see the shinning, sparkling light of happiness through this thick fog of stress that surrounds me; especially with these manacles of guilt clamped around my ankles!

Challenging the norm seemed impossible to me, and in a way, I felt guilty about it as well (I am totally aware that I should have seen a therapist, but that in itself presented way too many feelings of stress and anxiety. Maybe I should stop writing this article…)

Dealing With Guilt

Work meant stress, anxiety, and guilt. Yes, guilt. I felt guilty if I had to call in sick. I felt guilty about the idea of quitting my job because I thought it would inconvenience my boss too much – I am totally aware of how sad that is. Now. Hell I even had a boss who made my feel guilty for being off work for almost three weeks because I was sitting beside my Grandmother’s hospital bed!

“Although the most acute judges of the witches and even the witches themselves, were convinced of the guilt of witchery, the guilt nevertheless was non-existent. It is thus with all guilt.” Friedrich Nietzsche

I know it sounds ridiculous. Why on earth would I feel guilty about being sick, or quitting, or putting my family before my job?! Perhaps it was feelings of inadequacy, masking themselves as guilt. I’m not entirely sure. I have an idea as to what part of the cause may have been, but I’m not sure if it’s something you want to read about. Then again, if I want to be totally honest with all of you, I think I probably should share it; as scary as it is to do.

Okay, take a deep breath, and exhale slowly…

Part of my guilt issues and feelings of inadequacy stems from an incident in my childhood. I was eight years old. My parents were out, and my brothers and I were at home, with my uncle. He was in his late sixties (he was the oldest of twelve children, and my father was the youngest). I was upstairs, playing (I have no clue where my brothers were), and he called me into our small library, which is where he slept. He patted the bed and told me to lay down. I did. He then molested me. Thankfully I had the mindset to stop it.

I remember leaving the room, and never speaking of it. To anyone. Over the years he’d come to visit us, and I would stay away. At night he’d wander into my bedroom, wearing only his underwear, and I would pretend to be asleep. Eventually he’d tire of waiting for me to wake up, and leave.

When I was about fifteen, I convinced my parents to buy a door knob with a lock. I said it was because of my brothers. I was lying. I wanted to lock my uncle out when he came to visit. When I was seventeen he died. I cried, and then told my Mother everything.

This one incident of molestation affected me in more ways than I ever imagined. It left me feeling unworthy, dirty, and incomplete. I became quiet. I had trouble (and still have trouble at times) interacting with other people. I took comfort in being a wall flower, being invisible. I felt feel guilty for not being a better person.

I felt like I needed to be perfect, new, fresh.

The abuse at the hands of my uncle is not completely to blame. I know that I am the key to a guilt-free life. Unfortunately it is easier said than done – especially when one’s boss has a habit of making one feel guilty for not working more than 40 hours a week!

Over the years I’ve learned to live with the effects of the abuse, and I’ve found ways to not feel guilty. Well, not as much as I use to.

Dreaming of escaping, working over time, challenging the norm, and dealing with my guilt were not the only things keeping me from quitting my job and pursing my dreams. My health, and my bank account were also in the way.

About The Author

I'm a travel writer and photographer who specializes in bespoke travel experiences. I write about boutique, savvy and cultural travel. My writing has been featured in Outpost Magazine, Travel + Escape, and UP! Magazine.

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23 Responses

  1. James @ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Wow. This IS a really heavy post. (By comparison, my last post was on my celebrity sightings. Sigh.) But it feels cathartic. In a good way. I hope you can also find a real live person to share this with, someone trusted and mature to help you find a way to let go. Not necessarily forgive, but to get to the point where it no longer holds you back in a negative way. I believe all our past experiences shape us in some way and I’m so sorry this happened to you. I hope that you find solace in your upcoming travel. Not running away, but running towards something bigger and better! (I currently work one day a week at a “regular” job and spend another day or so writing. Yes, I earn about 40% of what I used to earn, but I’ve never been happier. Now only if Conde Nast would call me back…)

    • Pamela

      Thanks, James. It ‘ruled my life’ for a very long time, but when I finally found the courage to quit my job in 2010, and pursue the things that made me happy, It became less of an issue. I still deal with some mild repercussions from time to time, but I think in a way, I always will.

      For the record, I had NO intention of getting so personal. It kind of happened, and I thought I should be honest and finally stop hiding it.

  2. Ashley

    I admire you for being so brave and posting something so personal. I am sure that posting this help free you in some way of your past experiences.

    • Pamela

      I’m in the ‘OMG, am I INSANE?!?!’ panic mode right now, but I think you’re right, Ashley. Writing about my experience made me feel a little lighter. It’s something that not even my closest friends knows (well, now she will). Hopeful those who have had similar experiences will also find their voice, in whatever way feels comfortable for them.

  3. Christine

    You are so brave and strong for posting this, I admire you so much for that. You should be so proud of all that you’ve accomplished!

  4. Ruby

    Brava. I think it’s incredibly important that you posted this. For you, it’s a sign that you’re no longer willing to bear the shame of something that was done TO you, not BY you. For others it’s a beacon that will hopefully let them know they are not alone, and that will encourage them to tell someone too. Don’t be worried about having shared this – be proud!

  5. Andi

    Girl, any time you’re having a bad day, come back and read these comments and see how amazing you are!!!!!!!

    • Pamela

      And I’m crying. Again. Thank-you, Andi! It was an interesting writing experience. I stared at my laptop, debating about whether I should include my abuse experience. After a time I decided to do it, and felt completely calm and comfortable as I did. That being said, I did go into full panic mode after I published it. Completely exposing oneself is scary as hell, but often rewarding in other ways. This morning I am so very grateful for my awesome readers, like yourself. Thank-you.

  6. Priya

    This post is beautifully written, and I am looking forward to more of this series. I’m so sorry something so awful happened to you. I believe you are stronger now and it shows in your writing.

    I’m one of those people who is talking the talk. I read travel blogs and connect with travelers as much as I can but I still feel like I’m stuck. Like I’m suffocating. I haven’t been able to find a steady job since I graduated over two years ago and been just hopping around. I mean, I don’t want a steady job. I just haven’t figured out a way to make income on my own and be able to do the things that I want to do. Like leave the country. But I’ll figure it out. One way or another.

    • Pamela

      Thanks, Priya!

      Being stuck totally sucks, but there IS a way out! Hopefully the rest of this series will be helpful, and inspiring. 😀

  7. Dan Thompson

    Oh wow girl, you’re very brave for sharing this. My wife and I had a few “I can’t believe I just posted that” moments while she was going through breast cancer, but I believe that sharing and getting things out is part of the healing process. Good job on you for taking charge of your life and truly chasing your dreams. No one else will do it for you.


    • Pamela

      Yes, the panic attack after hitting publish was interesting. Having it out in the open is oddly liberating; but at the same time I feel the need to watch comedy movies all day today. 😀

  8. Jo (The Blond)

    wow! You’re so brave to share this with everyone. I really admire you!

    When I was reading the first part of the post, I felt like I was reading about me. I’m exactly the same. How sad is this?? 🙁
    The thing is that I wasn’t abused, nothing like that, but I also feel guilty all the time. I’m going for my 3 months trip and all I feel is guilt: because I’m leaving my husband, because I’m spending our savings, etc, etc…How do I get rid of it???

    • Pamela

      Jo, do you follow the Travelling Savage at all? Keith has a similar situation – he travels and his wife stays home to work. I’d recommend reading his blog. I know he’s written about how they worked it out etc. Perhaps he’ll have some helpful tips for you!!

      • Jo (The Blond)

        Thanks for that! I’ll check it out. Didn’t know that there was a blogger with a similar situation!

  9. Tammy

    Geeeez. Pamela, I don’t even know what to say. But I felt like I had to say something. So I’m just going to say I’m sorry you had to live through that, and I’m sorry that it’s something you continue to carry with you. I hope you got some release in putting it out there. I think your bravery is something to be admired.

    With all your quotes, and the honesty of your post, it reminded me of my favourite quote, from psychologist Carl Rogers: “That which is most personal is most universal.” The things that we think we can’t admit to, that we think no one could ever understand, are the things that need to be shared the most, and that evoke the most empathy and understanding. I can picture someone who’s suffered abuse saying with relief, as they read your post, “Thank god someone else knows what it feels like. I’m not alone.”

    • Pamela

      Thanks, Tammy. I had this reflective moment as I was writing, and I thought, “Should I write about the abuse? It’s a part of me, and kind of explains why I react or behave a certain way at times”. I actually worried that I was either giving too much detail, or maybe I was rushing it and people would think I was down playing it too much, and therefore I would actually be more harmful than helpful. It was scary as hell to press ‘publish’, but liberating.

      The next post in the series is on job stress, and how it can effect ones health – and sometimes have physical manifestations. Next week is all about money. Needless to say, the rest of the series will be easier to read. 😉

  10. Deb

    Hi Pam, very very brave of you to post this. I know this may have been hard, but you will be helping people who are suffering is silence. When those who have gone through something similar read this, you will give them the courage to know that they didn’t do anything wrong. They shouldn’t feel guilty because of the actions of someone else. You were the victim and you have overcome that with your strength and honesty and you should never feel guilty. I’m so happy to know you and to know that you are thriving and living a rich life. You are always so giving and selfless. The first time I met you was in Bangkok when you went to visit misplaced refugees who needed your help. You’ve channeled a troubled childhood to do good in the world and I am so proud of you for that.

    • Pamela

      Thank-you, Deb! It was a rather heavy post for the start of a series, but it explains a little about who I am, and why I have guilt issues at times. I know readers have similar feelings, even if they have not had the same life experiences, and I’m hoping that in reading this post (and the others) they’ll realize that they CAN pursue their passions.

  11. [Series] Lessons from a Commitment Phobic Escape Artist, Part Two - Spunkygirl Monologues

    […] you read part one last week and you’re back, thank-you. I know I shared some very personal information last week […]

  12. cai

    You are so great for posting this, I admire your honesty. You must be so happy for all that you’ve done.

  13. [Series] Lessons from a Commitment Phobic Escape Artist, Part Three - Spunkygirl Monologues

    […] week I talked about being afraid to challenge the norm, and the boss-induced guilt (as well as a rather heavy personal story). I also wrote about job […]

  14. [Series] Lessons from a Commitment Phobic Escape Artist, Part Five - Spunkygirl Monologues

    […] })(); It’s amazing how this series has taken on a life of its own. After writing about my soul-sucking boss, my job stress, and finding ways to save money; and beefing up my travel fund, it made sense to […]


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