Preface: My family was blessed with two beautiful baby boys, Jordan and Nate, in the latter half of 2015. Most of the time I am OK being away from my family. The occasional pang of homesickness does hit, sure, but it passes. I try not to dwell on the fact that I am currently 8,000 miles away. But every now and then, I see how much my nephews are growing and realize how much I am (or how much I feel I am) missing. Being away from them is one of the hardest parts about being away, period. So, when I do get sad, I imagine reading them this letter…
Dear Jordan and Nate,
You’re too young to notice, but I am not around right now. In a few months or a year, you’ll still be too young to remember my absence. But I will remember that I was not there.
Sometimes it is terribly difficult to be away from you. And the fact is, I do not know when I will be back or if I will even move home. You see, my sweet boys, before either of you were on your way, I chose to leave home for a while to live abroad and travel in another part of the world. One day when you’re older, I’ll tell you all about it…
I always knew that being your aunt would be one my life’s greatest joys. I love my siblings dearly, probably more than they know, and being a part of your lives was going to be hugely important to me.
Jordy, last January when your mommy and daddy told us that they were expecting you, I cried the sweetest tears of joy. I laughed and smiled and hugged your mommy, who immediately turned to me with a big grin and asked “So now you’re not going to Thailand, right?” While she meant it as a joke, she was half-serious too. Because you see, little man, I never planned to be away when you arrived, nor did she. I was always going to be the aunt who did everything I possibly could with you. I was going to feed you, change you, bathe you and babysit you.
We were going to be buds and have special alone time to bond and to give your mom and dad a rest. You were going to grow up with me right there with you from day one.
And luckily, I was there on day one, five months ago. I was at the hospital when you finally decided to make your appearance. And then there you were – teeny, tiny and pink.
I touched your little hands and belly and when you came home, I held you countless times over the next 5 weeks.
Your mom and I think you arrived a month early just to meet me and make the most of our limited time together. I am so happy I got to know you and hold you and kiss you. You got to hear my voice and feel my touch and we took many pictures together that I brought with me along my journey.
You were the first baby I really cared for. With you, I performed my first feeding, diaper change and swaddle. You were perfect. And part of me did not want to leave just so I did not have to say goodbye to you.
Nate, I was not there when you arrived three weeks ago. I went to bed on a Monday, woke up on a Tuesday and just like that, we added a family member – you.
Before you were born I missed you already. I didn’t know your name yet but I loved you like crazy. Last May when your mommy and daddy told us that you were coming, I again cried the sweetest tears of joy. We hugged and kissed and laughed a second time.
And then my tears of sadness came. It dawned on me in the most selfish way possible that I would miss out on your early days. I knew then that while I would almost certainly meet Jordan before my departure, I would not be home when you arrived. I realized I wouldn’t meet you for I-don’t-know how long.
I wouldn’t change your newborn diapers or hold you while you fell asleep. You would not know my scent, my touch or my voice except through the speakers of an iPhone and the voice recorded book I left behind for you. My solace is that I’ll likely come home before you’re too big and hopefully I will not be too much of a stranger to you.
Part of me really wants to be there with you both now, watching you grow by the day, doing all of the things I planned to do. But I can’t be. I am not with you beautiful boys and it hurts when I really stop to think about it.
One day, I will explain to you that I was not there in the beginning because I had an itch I could not help but scratch. This itch I tried to deny and avoid and pretend was not there but I couldn’t because it was always nagging at the back of my mind, begging for attention.
One day, I will tell you that this itch was to simply, go. I will explain that there is a big wide world out there and I wanted to see a piece of it for more than a two week stretch of vacation time.
I will describe how I was young and carefree and lucky in some of the best ways a person can be lucky. I had a strong desire to do something different and the privilege of opportunity. I wanted to take advantage of my youth while I had it and the freedom my American passport afforded me.
I will explain that while I had a good life in New York, I was not happy. I had to go so that in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years I would not be asking “what if?” wondering what would have happened had I had the guts to try. I needed to leave home to appreciate how wonderful it is. I needed to go in order to want to come back.
I will explain that it is important to learn about other cultures beside your own and to see how other people live. It will show you just how big and small your life can be.
I will describe to you the amazing friends I met and lived with along the way, the students I taught and the hospitality I received from perfect strangers and new friends. I will tell you about the sights I have seen, the steps I have taken and the many planes, trains, motorbikes and buses I have ridden.
I will teach you about the importance of adaptability and resilience, of not being in control and going with the flow and letting go. I will teach you about loneliness and fear. About how some days you will feel invincible and confident in every choice you make and other days you will feel crushed by your own self-doubt and anxiety. I will share how I learned again and again not to run from the inevitable challenges and accompanying negativity – hard times are to be expected, but they always pass.
I will explain how important it is to challenge yourself and test your limits, to prove to yourself how capable you are.
One day, I will tell you all about my adventures and I will encourage you to take your own.
But until then, know that I love and miss you. And as much as I want to see you again, Jordan, and meet you for the first time, Nate, we will have to wait a little longer. Because for now, I am eagerly accumulating a lifetime of stories to share with you.