Whenever I'm stressed out, my thoughts inevitably wander back to Jean Craighead George’s ode to independence, unprecedented child sassiness, and the beauty of running away from your problems: My Side of the Mountain.
If you never read this book in elementary or middle school, what you really should do is demand a do-over on childhood -- but until the space/time continuum can comply, here’s the gist of the story. Our lil’ protagonist Sam Gribley finds out the annual family trip is canceled (in retrospect, this is really not a huge deal), tells his father he’s going to run away; dad's like “yeah, whatever, you’ll be back in a few hours” and Sam straight-up runs off to the Catskills. And he stays! From 13 until he’s 18! He lives in a hollowed-out tree, braves the elements, befriends squirrels and hobos, has a pet falcon, and learns how to survive.
Let’s back up and do a quick recap of “independent” pop culture naturalists: Thoreau’s mom brought him his favorite socks and tasty yum-yums and hot towels and such while he was camped out on Walden Pond. Despite claims to badassery, Ron Swanson still keeps his boring government job. Sam Gribley? He’s the kid eating bark with a fucking falcon perched on his shoulder. I think we know who the real king of the mountain is.
I haven't read this book since I was nine or ten but it fastened itself to the “what if” center of my brain like precious little else I've encountered. It’s the simple, elegant solution everyone dreams of applying to their own lives. Not happy with your situation? Pick up and move on. Go somewhere you can make your own life. Leave the problems you know you don’t want to solve if you know you’ll be happy to solve the ones that await you elsewhere. No one will argue with you if the alternative is a face full of falcon talons.