Full text of travel writer Teresa Rodriguez’s talk: “Owning Alone: conquering your fear of being solo” at TEDxWilmington conference.
Teresa Rodriguez – Travel writer
Well, I married a beautiful, tall, blond Australian man in a courthouse outside of San Francisco. It was an interesting event. It was short and it was sweet. But we did plan to return.
Shortly after our marriage, we moved to Australia. I packed up my life in San Francisco and I hauled it across the world. There we planned to return after a year to plan the big white wedding. Everything a girl dreams of.
And sure enough, we did return, well at least I returned back to San Francisco to plan our big white wedding. There it all started, the wedding dresses, the cake, and the bridesmaids. And the day that I picked out my dress, I’ll never forget. It was the 80s, it had big shoulders. It was fabulous.
Well, I went home to celebrate my find. And there I found a letter from my beloved. I was so excited. This was before the Internet, this was before cell phones, and this was before Facebook. So I could check up on it.
And the letter read as follows:
“Dear Teresa, the marriage is over. I’ve moved. I’ve disconnected the phone. I put your clothes and personal items in garbage bags. I just need to know where you want me to ship them.”
I was devastated. I fell into a deep place of depression. And I was so afraid to spend my life alone. I was alone, I’m alone up here too.
Well, I started seeing a psychiatrist every week. As a matter of fact, I was seeing her on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. She would give me two Valium, one for that Monday, the one for the Tuesday, and then went on, Wednesday, Thursday.
I was highly suicidal. And she was afraid I was going to hurt myself. So she thought that if she gave me the whole bottle of Valium, that there was a chance that I would overdose. And I have to say that she was probably correct.
It was weeks into this treatment, and I wasn’t getting any better. I lost over 15 pounds; my hair was falling out.
And I came to see her on that Friday at 2:00 p.m. as usual. And I was given the grim news by her that, ‘You know Tracy you’re not getting any better. And I have requested that you start inpatient treatment next week in a lovely facility in the rolling hills of Martinez, California.”’
She handed me a stack of admissions papers that were heavier than my broken heart, and I walked down that sterile hallway in that hospital. And I looked down, and to try — oh, there we go. And it read: inpatient psychiatric services. Provides 23 beds for seclusion rooms and three with straight rooms.
I walked out of that hospital and I looked up in the sky. And I saw a flock of blackbirds dancing like I’ve never seen before. And that line from Ken Kesey’s book came to me, ‘One flew East and one flew West and one flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’
It was at that moment in my life that I said there’s no way that I’m going to let another person put me into a psychiatric ward. There has to be another way of doing this.
So I took those admission papers. I threw them away. I got into my dad’s old Volvo, and drove back to my parents’ house. And I called my girlfriend who had happened to be going to London the following week. I called her and I said, listen, is there any chance that I can tag along on this trip.
And she was a little bit resistant because her sister set it up. And she agreed.
So instead of flying over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I flew east. I took the money that I saved for my wedding and I bought a ticket to London.
Well, we got to the hostel that her sister had organized and it was completely booked out. So there was no place for me to stay. And I was like- ‘Uh alrighty, I’ll figure this out. Hey, I was about to go to a psychiatric ward last week, which could be worse.’
So I grabbed my bags and walked out onto the High Street. And something magical happened. Yes, I was alone, but I was alone in London.
In John Bradshaw’s book- ‘Homecoming’, he talks about one of the best ways to heal our broken child is to go back to that place of discovery, to that little toddlerhood, where we look at things in a new light with new birb and new excitement. And I was there on High Street for the first time in a long time, I was alive.