Leaving home after college was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. During my first three months away (which was the longest I had ever been away from family), I was so homesick that I flew home in the middle of a business trip just to be with them for a weekend. It’s been ten years since, and though it’s gotten easier to be away, I still miss them all the time.
Two of my sisters are in high school. Missing their day-to-day lives is so hard—from basketball games to award ceremonies, to helping with homework and talking about boys. I’ve wonder if I’ll look back at my life and regret moving away from Texas. Will all the things I’ve missed be worth the things I’ve pursued?
And have you noticed that no one teaches us how to be an adult child or sibling?
What is normal?
What are healthy ways to grow as a family and individually?
What is a realistic expectation for how often to communicate?
How often should we visit each other?
I don’t know.
To get some perspective, I tried comparing my life to that of my parents when they were my age. Our lives couldn’t have been more different.
At 32 my parents were married with three children and homeowners in the suburbs. My dad was climbing the corporate ladder, while my mom was at home wrangling young children.
We lived out of state from extended family for most of my childhood. Visiting relatives happened once, maybe twice a year, and it was a quick turnaround: half a day at Grandma’s house. Quick visits to see aunts and uncles and cousins. They were whirlwind road trips.
In contrast, I am single, childless, and have never owned a home. My parents are now divorced, and remarried to other people. Between our mixed families I am one of 9 children, ranging from 15 to 34.
Comparing their norms to mine isn’t helpful because we’re in such different places in life. What worked for them doesn’t work for me. It’s new territory for everyone involved. My parents have never been parents to adult children, just as I’ve never been an adult child before.
I used to think life was either good or hard, black or white. But I’m starting to see it is full of grey, nuance, and mystery. Life can be beautiful, full of wonder and adventure, and it can also be painful and difficult — full of expectation and disappointment all at once. We hold that tension daily.
One of my aunts has lived overseas for over 30 years. She has made difficult, and at times painful judgement calls about when to come home. Years ago she told me the best thing for my family was for me to be living fully in the calling that God had placed on my life.
If God’s best for me is to be in New York City, then it’s also God’s best for my family—even though we miss each other terribly. His blessing for one person doesn’t short change another.
In the moments where I struggle with being away from home or navigating new family dynamics, I remember her words, and they comfort me.
Maybe part of learning to be a healthy adult is learning to hold the tension and be honest with each other when we feel it. It means having grace and understanding for not only myself but also for my family as we move into new spaces. It takes courage for anyone to step into the unknown, and there will be mistakes made, feelings hurt, disappointment felt.
For now I feel like I have more questions than answers. But I’m learning to be ok with the grey, and loving my family as we navigate new territory with each step we take.