Though I complain about the relaxed Southern California life constantly (partially because I just feel that it’s my duty as an uptight and proud New Englander), I love where I live. I honestly never thought moving far away would be hard for me. I am close to my family, but they are relatively spread out, and most of them travel a lot for work. So, it’s not as though I’d miss seeing everyone at Sunday dinner by moving away. However, as many people who move more than a six-hour plane ride away from their family can tell you, there is a “what if?” gap that comes with not being able to get home at a moment’s notice. One of the most calming things about living close to your family is that you could get home if you ever needed to. Giving up that security is harder than I thought it would be.
Part of my family runs a business, and within the last few months, they have reached a crossroads and had an incredible amount of stress on them. They’re working around the clock and faced challenges that have shaken everyone. And while there’s nothing I can do financially, or even around their office (for the most part), what they need is support, help around the house, and someone to talk through things with and help do the dishes. The only way I can help, other than answering a few late-night phone calls, is to be there in the flesh.
Fortunately, I was able to spend a lot of time back home recently, and lend a hand. Because I work remotely, I have the option of going back home for a while without missing a day of work, which is a privilege. Over the last two years, I’ve been pulled between the obligation to go back home, the desire to move away and make a home in an entirely new place, and the guilt that comes with choosing.
Whenever I meet people who moved abroad, or chose to take a job across the country, I can’t help wonder how their family reacted to the news. Were their parents supportive of the fact that they’re fulfilling their dream of living in Thailand? Or are they constantly chiding them to come home?
For example, my close friend has an amazing job that involves working internationally. If she had grown up in my family, her decision to take this gig would have been praised. She’s getting paid to travel and develop her career simultaneously— that’s the dream, right? But she comes from a tight-knit family who is supportive, but doesn’t fully understand her decision to travel. They worry that she won’t put down roots in one place, and will miss the family events she’s expected to be at.
Moving across countries, oceans, continents, etc., is a sacrifice in as much as it is a joy. There is a nagging worry that comes from not being able to get home in an emergency, the risk that the flights home will be too expensive to make it to a cousin’s wedding, or the thought that you will be the only one not home at Thanksgiving. Even if you’re like me, and your family is spread out, and wouldn’t necessarily gather for the holidays, it’s easy to feel like you’re letting people down by not being an hour’s train ride away.
Such a big part of ~adulthood~ (in as much of adulthood as I’ve experienced thus far) is deciding where exactly your priorities are, and then realizing who that disappoints. It’s learning that you cannot please everyone with every decision, and that, at some point, you will have to be honest about what you want, and choose for yourself. There are always times when you’re going to make a decision based on yourself, your job, your significant other, or spouse, and feel like it’s the decision your family wouldn’t make. And I think that’s more challenging than any of us care to admit, because we still have a tiny instinct that reminds us to listen to the people who raised us.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t. My family is 3,000 miles away and still has a huge influence on me. Making your own decisions doesn’t have to be incompatible with respecting your family’s wishes. And regardless, your family ends up being proud of you for making a definitive decision, and carving out your own path, because they want to see you take advantage of life in every way they did, and far beyond.
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