Do I miss my family, friends and home?
If there is one kind of question that I get asked often by everyone, it’s basically: Do you miss your life in the states? It’s sort of a tricky question. It assumes that my family and friend structure is the same as everyone else’s. It also assumes that I have a “home” to go back to.
Many people who move abroad in their 20s have a fall back plan. I did the first time I moved abroad. Don’t get me wrong, my family would absolutely support me if I moved home and let me crash in their homes while I got back on my feet even now. But I know at this point, that would be a lot more of an inconvenience on my family than it was in 2014 when I moved to Colombia.
When I moved home from Colombia, I stayed with my wonderful grandma for about a week before going to my sister’s house for about a month. My grandma didn’t have internet at that time so it was extremely difficult to search for jobs and apartments. Staying with my sister was wonderful – my cat lived there. My nephew was at such a good age for hanging out and cuddling. Plus my sister was pregnant with her second child so I tried to help out around the house a little bit.
Now, my sister has two boisterous little boys in the best part of childhood. While I could crash with her for a bit, it’s complicated by the remoteness of her house and life. My grandma is about to be 91. I hate to inconvenience her too much. Plus, my uncle has moved in with her for extra help in the spare bedroom. I have friends who could let me borrow a guest room for a bit but they are starting to come into their own – getting married and thinking about kids. It’s not as easy as crashing on someone’s couch when I was 24.
My childhood home is long gone. We sold it about a year after my parents died. Sometimes, when I’m in town, I drive by it – just to make sure the door is still that classic yellow. It’s not the easiest thing to do. Home isn’t really a place, it’s a feeling. That’s long gone in some ways too.
Losing a big chunk of your family brings a lot of things into clarity. My mother and father were amazing and wonderful humans. They surrounded themselves by wonderful people. They created a community of people who I love as my extended family. In that way, I know I’m really lucky.
There’s another way that I’m really lucky – I live in the present. It’s not the 1950s when moving across seas basically meant receiving one or two letters a year. It’s so much easier. I can see my friends and talk to my family whenever I want to. It makes its much easier. One of my best friends always tells me that a talent I have is keeping in touch with people. I sort of have to. Even if I did live in my hometown, so many of my good friends don’t.
I have around 6 really good friends who live in Buffalo. When I’m home, it is absolutely amazing to spend time with them. Seriously – I am so lucky to have so many of my people still living in and around Buffalo. I also have lots of my parents’ friends who live in town so I can catch up with them. That being said, a lot of my really good friends don’t live in Buffalo. From New York to Syracuse to Florida to Texas to Kansas – my friends are spread from sea to shining sea and have been for years. So, I am still able to keep in touch with them in the same way I did when I live in the states, just with a bit of a time difference.
What I do miss are the tangibles. The hugs from my nephews. The Paneras lunch (her word) with my grandma. Holding the beautiful babies that my friends have had. Stopping into my favorite places and seeing the people I’ve known for years – from my former works to my uncle’s office to my favorite bra store to my soccer bar to my car repair shop. I love these people. Being around them makes me smile. I am so lucky to have cultivated a variety of relationships with such diverse people.
I can’t help but smile from ear to ear when I think of beers during Bayern games with Paul and Kim. I laugh whenever I think of wandering into my boss’s office to find a GIANT container of peanut butter for no reason. I grin thinking of all the housekeepers’ reactions when they saw me over the summer. Because of the diverse nature of our relationships – I may not keep in touch day to day but that doesn’t lessen the value I have in these friendships.
I stand by it – I don’t miss home. But, sometimes I get cravings. One day, I may want to help my grandma do her shopping or play my favorite game with my nephews (for the record, it’s flipping through a magazine or catalogue and saying what thing on each page is our favorite). Another day, I want to get margaritas with my buddies. There are some particularly thoughtful days when I want to drive by my childhood home, just to see the yellow door.
All that being said, I wouldn’t trade my life that I have now. I’m the sum of all these people and experiences. I think being away from my people just makes me appreciate each individual more. Just because I don’t miss people doesn’t mean I don’t love all of them. I just embrace all the ways they have helped me and look forward to the next time seeing them.