Sometime in the past week was the tenth anniversary of my first attempt at running away from home.

I was just as much an adult ten years ago as I am today. The difference is that ten years ago it was legal to hit me, vanish my relationships, and sequester me from society.

I look around the apartment I pay for and it’s like a utopia. There is a lock on the door. No one can come in and attack me, no one will destroy my writings. There is my computer—it has access to Wikipedia. There is my bookshelf—where I used to live in fear that my smuggled copy of “The Care and Keeping of You” would be discovered, I now have Hitchens, Pinker, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the spines all facing proudly outwards. Someone lent me their copy of Birthrights, and it’s just sitting there on the nightstand face-up. It poses no danger to my physical safety. There are people on the sidewalk which I can see from my window, and I can hear the neighbors down the hall—I am not alone in the world at the mercy of those who would hurt me.

Most importantly of all, I have friends who cannot be suddenly taken away, never to be seen again. My phone is right there—I could pick it up and call my best friend right now, without putting either of us in danger or risking the relationship being discovered and never hearing from him again.

Gratefulness and anger go well together. I am so happy. And I should have had this ten long years ago.

Do not share images of runaway teenagers.

Do not share posts that contain information about their last known whereabouts. Rip down flyers about runaways when you see them. Teenagers do not run away from home for no reason.

Do not help the state capture people and ship them back like possessions to their owners. 

Know, also, that parents often lie about whether their “missing” teenager may be a runaway. Before sharing the image of a teenager believed to be abducted, do your due diligence. Think carefully about whether it is worth the risk that you are merely helping the state capture people desperate to be free.

Happy pride. Liberty and justice for all.

Tommy Crow is a UW Madison economics graduate, philosophy club founder and speaker, and proud former teenage runaway. She writes about religion, youth rights, and academic philosophy at medium.com/@tommycrow.