For as long as I can remember, I periodically have experienced the desire to abandon the life I have been living—leave absolutely everything and everyone—and start over as someone new in a new place.  The fundamental problem with that fantasy, of course, is the “everyone” I would leave; among them are people I simply could not bear to hurt. There are other obstacles, of course. I am very reserved in person-to-person relationships, meaning it takes a long time before I become sufficiently comfortable with others to have more than a loose acquaintanceship, much less a real friendship. That trait would make for long stretches of loneliness while adjusting to new places and new people. And I imagine doing what is necessary to change one’s identity, while retaining necessary financial resources, would be difficult, time-consuming, and fraught with other pitfalls I cannot imagine. But those complexities might be worth the trouble, inasmuch as all one’s history—all the emotional baggage—could be left behind. Yet two questions arise from that possibility: First, would leaving that emotional baggage behind really be possible? Second, How difficult might it be to construct and readily remember an entirely new history? Somewhere along the line, I imagine some elements of the elaborate lie required to create a new identity would come to the surface; any trust other people might have developed in the new stranger could be shattered.

According to a questionable statistic I found online, roughly 630,000 people are reported missing each year; about 6,000 of them remain missing. It is impossible to know how many of either group intended to disappear, either temporarily or permanently. And it is equally impossible to know how many of the permanently missing remain alive. But it is reasonable to assume quite a few of them intentionally and successfully disappear, living a new life as a new person. I wonder how they view the transition? Did the circumstances that prompted one’s disappearance evaporate? Is the post-disappearance life significantly better or less stressful than the one left behind? Was severing personal ties and relationships as painfully difficult as I might expect? Getting answers to those and many other questions probably would be hard; someone who abandoned his old life is not likely to want to reveal that he did it, nor to explain or dissect his reasons.


I could manufacture my disappearance in the form of fiction. It would not be the same as the real-world upheaval of my life, but the accompanying pain would be equally as artificial as the experience.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Disappearance

  1. David, he was right, I guess…

  2. Larry D Legan says:

    As Yogi said, “NO matter where you go, there you are.”

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