Until the age of 23, Pauline Dakin’s life never made any sense. She knew from childhood that her upbringing was acutely wrong, that her parents kept secrets from her, and that the restless, nomadic lifestyle her family led was unusual. She could never have imagined why. Her story, recently published in her personal memoir, Run Hide Repeat, is a fascinating insight into the nature of paranoia, and a life spent looking over one’s shoulder. Dakin is now a journalist and a lecturer at the University of Halifax, but her bizarre childhood and the strange discoveries she made were weirder than any story she ever covered in her career.
It all began when Dakin was five, and her parents, Warren and Ruth, separated. Warren was allegedly a violent alcoholic, and thus Ruth retained full custody of the kids. She took Pauline and her brother Ted away with her, and they moved to Winnipeg, and later to Saint John, New Brunswick. Her mother never told them why they were moving so erratically: “There was no opportunity to say goodbye, it was just this abrupt, severing of relationships,” Pauline states. “She would only say, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t tell you, when you’re older I will tell you.'”
Every time the three of them were almost settled, Ruth would force them to move again. By the time Pauline was 11 years old, she’d had the distinction of attending six different schools in four year. She completely lost touch with her father. “I knew something bad was happening. I didn’t know what it was, but there was always a sense of something dire that was unspoken … My brother and I would talk about ‘what do you think it is?’ A couple of times we had moved away without telling anybody and turned up thousands of kilometres away and picked up the pieces again,” Pauline explains.