I’ve lived away from home in foreign countries for the better part of the last 8 years. The most common question I receive is, “Do you miss your family?” or “Do you regret not spending more time with your family?”. Especially in the context of missing my parents.
The truth is, no, I don’t miss my parents. I don’t miss my family.
I don’t miss them because living away from home has improved my relationship with my parents. It’s made me closer to them than ever.
It really is true that “absence only makes the heart grow fonder.” Because I live so far away from home, I talk to my parents more frequently than when I am home. We regularly schedule time to talk, and I frequently text them back and forth as I take new adventures and have pictures and photos to share.
It has made me MORE aware of needing to speak with them and keep them updated on my life. By sharing my stories and memories, they feel included in my experience. They can live vicariously through me.
While they might wish that I were home in their presence, they also love that I am pursuing a life that makes me happy. When we talk on the phone, we have positive conversations and share happy emotions, rather than quibbling over the petty problems that arose throughout the day.
When something does go wrong and I need someone to talk to, they’re always just a phone call away. With technologies such as Skype and whatsapp, it’s never been easier to get in touch with them. To know that you have a helping hand nearby, ready and eager to talk to you at the drop of a pin (pending time zones allow it to happen :P), makes a world of difference in the lonely life of a traveler.
When I DO go home, I cherish the time I can spend with my parents. I relish in the fact that I am sitting with them, in person, and realize the impermanence of my time with them. Instead of looking at it as another mundane interaction with my parents, I look at it as an opportunity to create memories together.
I am more grateful for my parents because I have spent so much time away from them. I don’t take the time that I have with them for granted. I don’t allow my geographical proximity determine the quality of our relationship.
When we live close to our family at home, we take for granted how close they are to us. Because your parents might only be an hour away, or a few states away, we don’t put as much emphasis on talking to them as frequently. It’s ok if we go weeks on end without talking to our parents, because we’re just right around the corner.
When we do hang out with them, it’s nothing special. Just another visit to our parent’s house. Just another dinner with the family, with no special importance or significance. We take for granted our interactions with our parents because it’s just another day.
The fact is, one day your parents might not be with you any longer. They could be gone in the flash of an eye. It’s a reality of life.
If this happens, do you want to look back on those mundane dinners and ask yourself if you could have appreciated them more? Do you want to look back on those dinners and wish you spent less time checking your phone? Wish you were more grateful for the time that you spent with them? Tell them that you love them more? Hug them like you haven’t seen them in a year?
I know I don’t. I love my parents too much to waste a moment with them. Easier said than done (not always easy dealing with parents!) – but whenever I lose sight of this my appreciation for the impermanence of my time with them remains my anchor to bring me back to the present moment of appreciation and gratitude.
When I return from traveling I am always reminded of how lucky I am to have both of my parents alive and well. That I have two wonderful parents who shower me with love, support, and encouragement in all of my crazy endeavors.
I am reminded to hug them with all of the energy in my body because I haven’t seen them physically in a year. I am reminded to cherish the opportunity I have in front of me. To be grateful, present, and appreciative of my amazingly wonderful parents.
Don’t be like that dude from the episode of Black Mirror who avoids calling his mom while traveling, only to die as a video game test subject, with his last words being “MOM!”
Pick up the phone and call your parents right now. Tell them you love them. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Every day is an opportunity to be grateful to those who brought you into existence 😃
Also published on Medium.