Move three thousand miles away before you turn 18. Put a continent of distance between yourself and the only family, friends, and living quarters you have experienced thus far in your short life. Disappear beyond the horizon; to another coast for a different ocean, to a place where you will always stand out. Realize that always standing out simultaneously means that you will never fit in. Start to romanticize home. Make it way more than it is, pretend that, there, every day sees a blue sky and, even when people get hurt, it is a diluted, My Little Pony type of hurt that is easily remediated with guileless and perpetual love from good-looking friends. Spend all your time in this new place harping about the virtues of your faraway home without ever having to address the reality of that home. Make things easy on yourself; bank your joy on your imagination.
When you visit for vacations, start an unsustainable relationship. Dive into it with blind intensity. Push for things to happen, fast fast fast, snap your fingers. You don’t have time for taking it slow. Attribute to him facets of personality that do not actually belong to him. He is your unicorn. When he reveals himself to be just another donkey in a party hat, ignore it. Close your eyes and chant “I love you” until you convince yourself it’s true again. Let him treat you like crap, talk down to you, insult your friends. At night, when you sleep in his bed, close your eyes and catch the scent of another woman who is having sex with him, right where you’re lying. Allow her to remain nameless and faceless.
Leave again, your life no longer belongs there. A mutual friend calls you and tells you that he’s been with someone else the entire time. Laugh and hide it by pretending you’re crying. Shrink sneakily away from him, recede back into the darkness, and apologize to him in lieu of a goodbye. Your heart is breaking where you left it with him, but from so far away it doesn’t feel like anything. Pretend the whole thing was a dream. The whole thing becomes a dream and you find yourself, but a few days later, on a generic date with a generic man whose name you forget before he even introduces himself.
Work harder than anybody around you. Achieve greater success. Have nobody to celebrate with. Never be satisfied with what you attain because you can’t allow yourself to stop reaching. The reach is the distraction that keeps you from dwelling in your aloneness. Keep yourself exhaustingly busy, working twelve-hour days everyday of the week. Retire the need for weekends. When you can’t avoid free-time, get gloriously drunk. Even then, when you’re surrounded by people, realize that you are by yourself.
Spend the eve of your twentieth birthday in the company of red wine and studying fanatically in your apartment that you share with no one. Somebody is throwing a party for you that you promised, via text, to go to about three hours ago. Never end up going; nobody really minds because they still got to drink and dance and yell, with or without you. At midnight, smoke a cigarette with the garage door open. As you watch the rain put out the cherry smoldering at the tip of the butt, make a wish: wish that you wouldn’t have to eat dinner alone today.
I have this foolproof defense mechanism that I will let you guys in on. I call it the potato method. In times of great distress or overwhelming doubt, it will bring you unparalleled clarity. Just do what a potato would do. Potate. No, it doesn’t make any sense. Yes, it does work anyway. Adamantly ignore things that would otherwise hurt you and focus your attention on technical responsibilities. Focus on things you can excel at as a result of sheer effort alone, on things in which luck plays no part. People will admire you for your determination and they will never realize that you are potating. If you are ever accused of cowardice, of running away from your problems (as you are, frankly), maintain your potating. Commit to the potato method. This is how you can run away from everything. Also, vodka.