2,797. That’s the number of miles between where I currently live and where my parents live. 6. That’s the number of hours it takes to fly from coast to coast to visit, not counting the 2+ hours on either end to get to and from the airport. $350. That’s the average cost of a RT ticket between each destination, on a non-holiday travel schedule.
On holidays, my family, including my parents, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents tend to gather together and spend the day talking and enjoying each others company. Even though I didn’t have a very close relationship with my family, I cherished the time spent together, the conversations had, and laughter shared between my relatives.
Then, 10 years ago I moved away from home. First, for college, I moved 814 miles away from home, and then, when I graduated, moved even further away.
In that time, my parents, cousins, grandparents, have all aged. I see them at most two or three times per year. Three years ago my father was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and told he had two years to live. My grandfather, over the last ten years, has lost his sharpness due to Parkinson’s disease. I can barely recognize my mother, as she looks more and more like a “grandmother” every time I see her. My cousins have gone from elementary students to taller than me, and I missed everything in between. My sister is now a junior in college — I left home when she was seven.
10 years ago, I wanted nothing more than to run away from my childhood, to start a new life for myself, to prove that I could make it on my own. Had I stayed in New Jersey I might have maintained a more consistent relationship with my family, but I never would have grown up. I needed to get away. But looking back, I do feel a bit of regret. Of missing the time with my family.
On the other hand, seeing my family less frequently makes those times shared more valuable and appreciated. My parents drive me absolutely crazy, with their fighting and complaining about everything, so living at or very near home would probably be a poor decision. Still, I’m contemplating a move back east, maybe not in the very near future, but in the coming years — I still have more good friends in New Jersey and on the east coast than I do in California, and whenever I envision having a family (ie kids) I see myself raising them back on the east coast. California, as much as I love it, will never feel like “home” to me. That’s not a terrible thing — home can be boring, California, for what it’s worth, still makes me feel like I live on constant vacation, as the weather is always relatively nice, and the landscape is beautiful. But I miss my family and friends. And I think I’m getting more and more ready to go back.
Yesterday, my boyfriend asked me if I’d ever want to live on the east coast. He rarely discusses the future — he hates to think long term beyond next week — so it was a conversation I was not prepared for. I didn’t have an answer then, really. Yes? No? Could I leave California — a place that, just by being outside here, makes me happy — to go back to a place that is depressing for half of the year during those dark, cold winters? Maybe. Maybe I have to, at some point. Maybe California has given me the opportunities I needed to kick start my career, and perhaps my experience here will open doors for me in New York. Who knows. I just think that as I approach 30, and as I approach my 5th anniversary with my boyfriend, and likely marriage and settling down in the next few years, deep down I feel like that has to be in New Jersey or New York. I can’t imagine raising my children away from my family. I want them to grow up with that. But I’m not sure I’m ready to make the move just yet.
But one thing I’ve learned lately is that money doesn’t make me happy, relationships make me happy. It’s extremely hard for me to make friends, and I generally have trouble relating to people (esp people outside of the tri-state area) — my family will always be my family, but if I never see them, I’m throwing out the most priceless item in my life’s possession. The more pictures I see on Facebook of family gatherings, the more smiles of my family posing for a large group photo and I’m not there, the more I realize it’s time to rethink the whole “I don’t need family” thing. I mean, right now no one is dead, thank goodness, but I can’t imagine the guilt I’d feel if one day I get a call that anyone in my family has passed… or is in the hospital with only hours to live, and I missed the opportunity to see them, and to be there when they were healthy, and when they were ill. I think in that sense I need to move back, the question just is when.