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Starting a New Life

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"We can leave our old lives behind. [...] I want to live here, with human beings. I want to live here with you! We'll both finally be free."
Rose Quartz, Steven Universe, "A Single Pale Rose"

What happens after You Can't Go Home Again? For whatever reason, a character has been forced to leave behind their old life, and can't return. Rather than trying to get their old life back, some characters may choose to start a new life, possibly even with a new name.

How much they share about their old life depends on the character, and the circumstances in which they left home. If their new companions are not aware of who they used to be, this may serve as a Mysterious Past. Either way, no one from their old home knows what happened to them.

In order to be this trope, the character must intend their new identity to be permanent, or at least long-term, although how successful that is varies.

Even if they originally left home unwillingly, a character who has truly begun a new life may choose to stay even when given the opportunity to return. Of course, if they're the hero, this isn't as likely to work.

May involve Faking the Dead. Witness Protection is a government-funded version of this. A Retired Outlaw or The Atoner may do this to avoid past associations. Compare I Just Want to Be Normal and Heroic Fatigue. May overlap with Going Native.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Dr. Marcoh has begun a new life as a small-town doctor. And after Yoki, originally a corrupt government official, was brought down from power by the Elric brothers, he eventually became, of all things, a circus clown.
  • Kaze no Stigma: Kazuma, after being banished following his failure in the successor tournament to one day lead the Kannagi Clan, decides to leave Japan all together, cut all ties to his family, and settle in China under his new legal name of Kazuma Yagami. However, things did not improve for him in the long run...
  • Very common in One Piece, especially among minor villains, who often get side stories showing what they've done with their lives after the heroes defeated them. For example:
    • After the Straw Hats force King Wapol from power, he starts a toy company and becomes quite succesful.
    • Captain Kuro faked his death and had intended to start a new life as Kaya's servant, but eventually grew tired of being a servant and tried to reclaim his riches.
    • Retired Outlaw Silvers Rayleigh has also done this, and is now living a quiet life running a cafe.
  • This was the backstory of Team Rocket's James in Pokémon: The Series - he had to flee and cut ties with his parents when they tried to force him into a marriage. Jessie may also have done something similar, depending on which of her stories of her past are accurate.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, this is common for Ghouls that choose to enter human society. Their identities typically involve false Family Registries, altered or false names, and a Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story. Should their identity be compromised, they quickly abandon it and may attempt to create a new one somewhere else. Touka and Nishiki are prime examples within the series, both forced to abandon their old lives after their caretakers were taken down by Investigators. And both are forced to abandon their human identities during the finale, leaving their homes, human loved ones, and academic careers behind to flee the 20th Ward.
  • After the events of YuYu Hakusho, Minoru Kamiya changed his face and name to evade law enforcement agencies due to his involvement with the Sensui Seven. He founds a clinic to help heal others, which was a result of realizing that the group lost their fight against Yusuke and his comrades, which contributed somewhat to his Heel Realization.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In All That Glitters (Othellia), Hans disguises himself as a man called "William Schultz" and goes to work for the Coronan treasury.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: After Darnell and Petey are attacked and injured by Jack in “The Survivor,” they decide to move from Brooklyn to Minneapolis, where they enjoy a far better existence.
  • Hunters of Justice: After the destruction of Remnant and being transported to Earth after their defeat at Brainiac's hands, Teams RWBY and JNPR decide to start new lives as superheroes on Earth with the help of the Justice League. While they do hope to one day rescue the bottled cities of what's left of their home planet, they also recognize that, even if they do succeed, their lives will never return to the way things were.
  • Two Letters: According to Mayor Bourgeois, Bob Roth and his son XY were forced to spend most of what remained of their family's fortune crafting new identities for themselves after the new Ladybug caused Roth's reputation to take a nosedive.
  • The Witch of the Everfree is all about Sunset Shimmer doing this following her fight with Celestia.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Lion King: After having been run out of his home by Scar following Mufasa's death, Simba runs away and grows in a jungle with new friends, with no plans to go back to Pride Rock. This changes when Mufasa's spirit visits him, filling him with the resolve to take back Pride Rock from his Evil Uncle.
    • The Lion King II: Simba's Pride: After Kiara reunites with Kovu following his banishment, he suggests that they run away and start a pride all their own. She declines, saying it's better that they try to unite their warring prides.
  • In Megamind, Metro Man pretends to be vaporized so he can pursue a... erm... "music" career.
  • After the entire Simpson family is run out of Springfield, they go to Alaska to start anew in The Simpsons Movie. Circumstances however force them to head back.
  • In Turning Red, Mei briefly considers moving to another city and changing her identity after being severely embarrassed by her mother.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan leaves the greater galaxy to live on Tatooine as an outcast, and to keep close to Luke. A New Hope shows that he changed his name as well, going as Ben.
  • Sunburn (1979): Thoren used to be the Nazi saboteur Heinrich Stressman. After the war, he escaped his American captors by killing a guard, fled to Mexico, and changed his name. His new life went well for decades, until the son of the murdered guard started blackmailing him.
  • In You Only Live Once, Eddie Taylor, an ex-mobster, tries to go straight after being released from prison in order to leave it all behind and settle down with his fiancee peacefully. Then, he finds that nobody will hire him because of his criminal record. He knocks out his old boss and never looks back.
  • Oscar Diggs, the con man who would become Oz the Great and Powerful fakes his own death and returns using theatrical means to make the Witches of the East and West believe he is now a powerful wizard. Since he can't return alive, he disguises himself as one of the Emerald City palace guards and is the only access to the Wizard. (This explains why, in The Wizard of Oz, the same person is both Oz's guard and "the man behind the curtain" when Dorothy Gale arrives years later.)

  • In the Belisarius Series, the Byzantine noblewoman Irene becomes queen of a newly founded kingdom after marrying a Kushan soldier and Going Native.
  • Chocoholic Mysteries: Snowman Murders reveals that there's an Underground Railroad with a base in Warner Pier that helps battered woman (who are trying to escape from potentially murderous physical abusers) do this. It serves as a major plot point in Cupid Killings when a detective is killed while trying to track down one of the women that's being helped to do this.
  • Dead End Job Mysteries: Protagonist Helen Hawthorne is forced to do this in order to avoid making the court-ordered payments (half of every paycheck) to her deadbeat ex-husband Rob, living off the grid in South Florida and working a string of dead-end jobs with under-the-counter paychecks (cash only). He eventually manages to track her down and demand "his share" of her money anyway. She never does pay out, since he ends up dead by the end of book 9.
  • Paul Atreides in Dune, changing from a pampered aristocrat into a messianic tribal warlord.
  • In Going Postal, Moist Von Lipwig is forced to start over after supposedly being executed for his crimes. He's not entirely on his own, because Lord Vetinari has decided to make him the new Postmaster, which means that he's starting out with a job and a small apartment, but it's still an adjustment for him, because he's not used to making an honest living and has to get over his instinct for cheating other people.
  • Hoshi and the Red City Circuit: The criminal Luzzie Vai, aka the Sea Witch, deals in new identities for Operators who want to live as normal people. He supplies the addictive drug nyquolium-quadrolate, which improves sensory, motor, and verbal processing so Operators can function without their navi, as well as fake life histories and black market plastic surgery.
  • In the original The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gringoire is forced to go into hiding from angry sponsors after his play bombs, and joins the Gypsies as a street performer.
  • In Island in the Sea of Time, Swindapa leaves Alba (what we would call England) behind, it having been taken over by the Iraiina, and heads to Nantucket, where she becomes Marian Alston's assistant (and later, her lover.) She's later able to return to her people, but she's changed quite a bit by that point.
  • The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I mean Noel): Soup heir Noel fled the industry to start a new life as jockey Seymour Hall. He couldn't bring himself to tell Mrs. Carillon, so he told his friend Pinky to give her the message, "Noel is Seymour Hall. I am Newton Pinckney."
  • In Technic History, after the breakdown of the Poleorsotechnic League's heroic age, David Falkayn gives up his life as an Intrepid Merchant and sets himself up as a Founder of the Kingdom for a new joint human and alien state.
  • In the first Venus Prime book, Sparta spends something like two years setting up a new life for herself as "Ellen Troy" after escaping from a mental hospital.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jack Bauer attempts this once in 24. Season 4 ends with Cheng Zhi and the Chinese government wanting him dead, so he fakes his death and changes his name to "Frank Flynn" so that he can stay alive and start anew. At the start of Season 5 he has started a new family and has a new job as a construction worker. But alas, he is forced back into action, requiring him to go back to his former terrible life at CTU.
  • In Arrow, Roy Harper is forced to do this after he implicates himself as the Arrow in order to protect Oliver Queen's secret identity and then fakes his death. His cover is eventually blown by a hacker, and after a brief return to Star City, he's forced to start over again.
  • On Black Sails, Flint used to be a British naval officer who had to flee Britain after a disastrous scandal. He and his lover fled to the Caribbean where he became a pirate and rose to be the captain of the pirate ship Walrus. Flint has embraced his new life and has plans to make New Providence Island into an independent nation. His lover has not fared so well and she is quite willing to support a plot that would help her regain even a small part of her past life.
  • Breaking Bad: Season 4 introduces a distant associate of Saul, named Ed Galbraith, who will grant someone a completely new, untraceable identity somewhere in the country at a base (non-refundable) price of $125,000 per person. Due to the extremely steep cost, the fact that it's a one-time offer, and because you have to abandon anyone you once knew, it's presented as absolute last-resort choice. Near the end of the last season, both Walter and Saul are forced to make use of it once Walt's crimes become public. Walt is given a new name of "Mr. Lambert" and relocated to a remote mountain cabin in New Hampshire, while Saul is given the new name "Gene Takavic" and becomes the manager of a Cinnabon in Omaha (setting up the Framing Device in the followup, Better Call Saul). In both cases, they are eventually forced back to Albuquerque to atone for their actions. Jesse also makes use of Ed in the epilogue movie El Camino, but because he backed out on a previous new identity at the last second in Season 5, Ed makes Jesse to pay double. Jesse eventually succeeds in gathering up the necessary funds and is relocated to a town in Alaska as "Mr. Driscoll".
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 2 ends with Joyce finding out that Buffy is a slayer and telling her that, if she leaves again, she shouldn't come back. Buffy absolutely had to leave to save the world, but she still takes Joyce's words to heart after that and decides to leave Sunnydale. Between Seasons 2 and 3 she starts a new life in Los Angeles as "Anne" with a job as a restaurant employee. Within the first few episodes of Season 3 she's back home and mostly patched things up with Joyce, but the whole situation remains a case of Once Done, Never Forgotten for Buffy far after that.
    • Angel actually started from Angel doing the same thing as Buffy at the end of Season 3, only staying there for good. However, Cordelia and Wesley (and eventually Spike and Harmony) joined him shortly afterward, making his escape from his Sunnydale life not completely successful. Still, he did make mostly new friends and enemies and successfully lived a new productive life away from Buffy.
  • Charite ends this way, with protagonist Ida Lenze marching out of the hospital where she's been a nurse after she's worked off her debt, travelling to Zurich for her medical studies to become a doctor. It's a triumphant end for her, but she leaves a lot behind: colleagues and companions, two men who loved her, the grave of a dear friend whose loss she still mourns.
  • The CSI franchise has several stories of people "reinventing" themselves after bad things happen to them, but as a specific example, on CSI: NY one Sympathetic Murderer master chef (having lost everything to a Frivolous Lawsuit on the West Coast and a subsequent divorce) managed to climb back with an assumed name and open a restaurant in New York.... only for the woman responsible for the Frivolous Lawsuit and her lawyer (both of whom have become rich through continuously pulling off this kind of scam) to walk into the restaurant on opening night with full intent to do it again. His murder via suffocating the woman with a live octopus is seen by the investigators as a Pay Evil unto Evil afterwards, but they still arrest him.
  • Simon Tam from Firefly left behind the life of a prestigious doctor in the Core and started a new life as an outlaw after learning that his sister River was being put through hell at the Academy. After mounting a daring rescue mission and getting River out of there, he currently serves on board Serenity as the ship's primary medic, trying to find a way to fix what the Academy has done to her, in the midst of patching up Mal, Jayne and the others after their many dangerous jobs.
  • The premise of In Plain Sight is that the people entering Witness Protection have to leave their old lives behind and make a new life for themselves under a new identity. Some embrace the opportunity and thrive but others cannot adjust and try to reach back to their old life thus causing serious problems for the US Marshals tasked with protecting them.
  • This is the driving trope of Lilyhammer. American gangster is moved to Norway to start a new life in witness protection.
  • Nirvana in Fire: Lin Shu is one of the few survivors of the massacre that killed his father and the Chiyun Army. He's poisoned and chooses to undergo a cure that completely changes his appearance. Then, using the name Mei Changsu, he sets out to avenge his murdered family and friends.
  • Supergirl (2015) has Kara, J'onn J'onnz AND Mon-El all being forced to do this because of destroyed or otherwise inaccessible home planets. Ouch...

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Battletech novels have Sven Newmark, AKA Reginald Starling, who is an aide to a corrupt Steiner politician and winds up knowing who planned the assassination of Melissa Steiner-Davion. He has to flee and assume a new identity as an eccentric painter. He winds up killed, but he left a package of evidence and the people who were trying to find him fake his being still alive to make the guilty parties rush to tie up other loose ends and expose themselves.
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement Shadows of Yog-Sothoth, adventure "The Coven of Cannich". In the Back Story, a man named Marcus Arturus is forced through a magical Gate to a forest in "another world" (actually another location on Earth). The other end of the Gate is destroyed, so he can't return. He befriends the people who live in the forest and starts a new life with them, joining their clan and marrying the daughter of one of them.
  • Red Markets: The retirement plan that the characters are working towards is usually to save up enough profits from their various jobs to bribe their way into the zombie-free Recession with new identities for themselves and their dependents.

  • In Jasper in Deadland, Jasper and Agnes agree to remain in Deadland after they realize that the lives they're trying to return to aren't that great. Subverted when Eurydice convinces Jasper not to give up.

    Video Games 
  • In Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, Cipher's Wingman Pixy is shot down in the final battle of the eponymous war (by Cipher himself), and, after recuperating under care by some Belkan villagers, decides to start a new life, reevaluating his views on nations and borders and never taking into the sky again—that's where the journalist who interviews him in the Framing Story finds him.
  • By the end of 4B (Égalité) of Aviary Attorney the corrupt king of France is preemptively tried and exiled before the revolutionaries can get to him. He's sent to someone who can make him disappear, who goes for as much money as he can and gives him a ridiculous costume, an unconvincing name, a nationality whose language he can't even speak, and sends him on his way, saying after he leaves that he'll be lucky to get down the street.
  • Raven's backstory in Elsword: He was once a commoner who became a Self-Made Man by leading the Crow Mercenaries, until his best friend betrayed him and ordered him and his group to be exterminated. As he was Left for Dead, a Nasod (a race of robots) found him and offered him a chance to live in servitude as its exchange. He was then healed and given a robotic arm for his missing left, that gives him periodical insanity and urges to hurt people. For a long time after that he's used as the Nasod's human weapon and leads a new group called the Black Crows, until our heroes beat him into submission and free him from his mind control device. He's thoroughly regretful for what he had done while under the influence and grateful for the heroes to free him, so he joined them to atone for his sins.
  • Cloud Strife of Final Fantasy VII was already this, having separated from SOLDIER and taking on a new line of work as a mercenary, but it never really went anywhere besides joining Avalanche and everything that followed. His expanded interpretation in the remake goes deeper into this territory, with Tifa, Biggs, Wedge, Jessie, and later Aerith encouraging him to take odd jobs around the sector slums to get his name out into the wild and build up his reputation for work more suited for his particular skills.
  • In Freelancer, prior to the story events Trent had gotten himself a nice ship and a cargo that was going to make him rich. Then Freeport 7 was destroyed with his ship aboard, and he winds up on planet Manhattan without even enough money to get a ticket home, hoping desperately that someone there has a use for a shipless Freelancer.
  • In Legacy of Kain, several characters have this going:
    • The guardians of the Pillars of Nosgoth are various people who essentially had to give up their old lives to guard the Pillars, as they're a Cosmic Keystone, and destroying them meant destroying the world itself. A curse later corrupts the Pillars and causes the world to slowly decay, and Kain is not only expected to become a guardian, but perform a Heroic Sacrifice to restore them. In the canon ending, he refuses.
    • Several characters, including Kain himself, were transformed into vampires—thus ending their human lives. As the Last of His Kind, Kain later decides to create new vampires, siring his lieutenants, including the Deuteragonist, Raziel.
    • Kain later on betrays Raziel and throws him into a huge pit of water (which burns like acid for vampires). Raziel spends thousands of years falling through the water and burning away, until he finally reaches the bottom as a mutilated Spectre, whereupon the Elder God gives him a new lease on life as the Soul Reaver.
  • If you spare Prof. Mordin's apprentice Maelon in Mass Effect 2 after taking away or destroying his lifetime work on a Genophage cure, he is left utterly devastated and even asks his former teacher on what he should do with his life next. Mordin offhandedly suggests that he goes to Omega and opens a charity clinic (which is what Mordin himself did before you recruited him)—and in Mass Effect 3, Maelon will write to you, revealing that he did just that and that running a clinic for the poor let him be more at peace with his earlier actions.
  • In the ending of Mega Man Battle Network 5, Dr. Regal undergoes this, going from a baddie to Lan's dad's partner at Scilab courtesy of Regal's father, Lord Wily, who uses his Soulnet that his son misused to give him Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • Metal Gear has Snake and Raiden always wanting to do this and ending almost every game promising to themselves that they will leave their lives of war behind, only to come back again at the start of the next game. Snake does eventually leave his life of war behind in ''MGS4'', but only because he is old and dying with mere months left to live at that point.
  • This is how Pillars of Eternity starts; whatever their past or place of origin, the player character has left their old life behind — or been forced from it — and is trying to make a new life in the Dyrwood, tempted by promises of land and opportunity. Regardless of what they may have originally intended for their new life, they soon find themselves with a curse and a castle.
  • Mitsurugi of the Soul Series is forced to retire and become a farmer after 4 because the conflict between the two legendary swords has stopped for seventeen years. Of course, in 5, he throws it all right back the moment Algol returns.
  • In the beginning of Yakuza 5, Kazuma Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima, has settled in the town of Fukuoka as a taxi driver under the identity of Taichi Suzuki not only to get away from the drama of the Tojo Clan, but also to make sure his daughter Haruka's idol career isn't tainted by his past. Of course, it's never that simple.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Daughter for Dessert, the protagonist and Amanda do this in the "good" Amanda ending to avoid the consequences of Amanda's pregnancy from their taboo relationship.
  • During V's route in Mystic Messenger, Rika calls you on one of the last few days, trying to accept the fact that she doesn't have anywhere to go anymore; the RFA has rebuffed her with prejudice after learning that she and V staged her death so she could go start her cult Mint Eye, and Mint Eye is crumbling now that the RFA knows of its existence and is actively working to bring it down. She asks if you'd be willing to leave everything behind and run away together with her to start over, and says that it could just be you, her, and V together, forgetting all the fighting before and living happily together, taking pictures and baking cookies. You're only given the option to hang up on her, but she keeps talking to herself about it after you end the call.

    Web Original 
  • Wendy from Entirely Presenting You has to figure out how to live her new life as a gang leader now that she no longer has her old responsibilities as Alexis.
  • Rarity in Scootertrix the Abridged is revealed to be a changeling who ran away after her parents refused to indulge her artistic passions and was given asylum in Equestria, in exchange for being The Mole to the other changelings. Though by the time of the series, she has long since put that behind, this causes problems when Equestria and The Changeling Empire are on the brink of war.

    Western Animation 
  • In the penultimate episode of Amphibia, "All In", it's revealed what became of Andrias' old friend Leif. After stealing the music box and hiding it on Earth, she could not return to Newtopia, knowing she would be executed. She instead settled in (and possibly founded) a small community in Frog Valley, changing her name to Lily and becoming a farmer. While she never forgot Andrias or Barrel, she eventually learned to move on and even find love. The last time we see her she is old, surrounded by a large family. The town was Wartwood and the family was the Plantars, who still live in the house she built a thousand years later.
  • Prince Iroh and Prince Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender, exiled by the Fire Nation, flee to the Earth Kingdom and open up a tea shop, posing as Earth Kingdom refugees.
  • In the fifth season of Archer, ISIS gets raided by the FBI. The core team manages to escape jail, but all they have going for them is Cheryl's huge house and a large pile of cocaine.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Slice of Life", Bon Bon reveals that she used to be "Agent Sweetie Drops" in a No Such Agency and went to Ponyville to assume a new identity when the agency was shuttered and all evidence of it was destroyed under executive order. She appears perfectly content in this life, and even settles down with and marries Lyra.
  • The Simpsons: In the episode "At Long Last Leave", the Simpsons are kicked out of Springfield, find a community of people living "off the grid" and join them.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "No Free Rides", Mrs. Puff feels guilty for passing SpongeBob and giving him a boating license before he was ready. She mentions that she has to move to another town and live under an assumed name to start fresh. Then she says "No. Not again."


Video Example(s):


Leif's Letter

As Sprig reads the letter Leif had left for Andrias, his voice is soon replaced with a voice-over of Leif while a montage of her new life as Lily Plantar is shown.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / VoiceoverLetter

Media sources: