My boyfriend and I traveled to Chicago last weekend with two other friends for some time away from our little town of Muncie. I turned 24 on Monday, March 10th. I have always celebrated my birthday in another city because it conveniently falls during Spring Break. It’s a great practice for my nomadic soul - to be fed by the energy of a city to fuel another year of life.
I told my boyfriend that turning 24 was significant because I have spent about 12 years of my life away from my parents in different ways. I went to boarding school in another state in India since I was 13. I moved to the USA for college when I was 18. It has made me an independent, curious, adventurous and adaptable person but there are some disadvantages that come with distance.
My family spends our time in two or three different time zones depending on the time of the year. Right now, my brother is in India, my parents are in Israel, and I am in the USA. I am so accustomed to this transitory lifestyle that the idea of picking one home, culture and language seems foreign to me.
My boyfriend and I have been dating for 3 years now. Throughout our relationship, we have learned how difficult it is to date across borders since my immediate family still lives in India. We just recently started Skyping with my parents but it is a learning experience for him.
Many of my personal relationships have developed into virtual ones because my family and friends are spread out across the world. While a majority of my boyfriend’s family and friends are concentrated in the surrounding states or at the very least, in the same country.
Staying in touch with people via Viber, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Google Hangouts and Twitter seems natural and seamless to me. It isn’t as easy for him to relax and converse when on camera.
When we get married, we have to decide which country we will live on. If we decide to stay in the USA, my parents and friends will continue to live on the other side of the world. Although I have spent half of my life away from my family, I miss them dearly every day.
Sometimes I tell my boyfriend that we need to hang out with more of my friends instead of only his but it’s a complex task since we have to coordinate virtual dates with different time zones.
I could provide you with more examples to illustrate the challenges and beauty of our biracial and inter-national but take my word for it, it’s not easy but it is absolutely beautiful.
Love is a wonderful thing to talk about it, and it’s often easier to talk about how distance affects amorous relationships because it’s positive. You can say all the hardship is worth it because you have a happy ending with your Love.
I do need to talk about another aspect about living away from my immediate family. A few hours ago, I learned that my grandmother in Kerala passed away. I was supposed to write a paper but I decided I needed to spend some time writing instead.
I cannot describe how I feel right now. I do feel the loss however, I feel more distant.
I feel distant because I did not interact with my grandmother much because we lived so far away from each other. I feel distant because I cannot attend the funeral. I feel distant because the more time I spend in the USA, the less connected I feel to daily customs back home. I feel distant because I have always concealed my emotions from family members because I do not want them to worry when I am abroad.
I feel distant because I do not know her full name. I have always called her ammachi, which means “grandmother” in Malayalam. I feel distant because my parents are not in the country, and I am uncertain of how her funeral rites will be conducted without them. I feel distant because she died alone.
I have missed many engagements, weddings, birthdays but I have also missed many funerals. I do not know how to grief without the rest of them. Do I go to church during the funeral in Kerala? Do I cry in my room alone? Do I talk to the only member of my family in Muncie, my boyfriend, about her life? Do I simply continue with my life knowing that I chose this distance and I must now embrace it’s side effects?
Our trip to Chicago reminded me why my boyfriend and I are great for each other. We both have adventurous and resilient spirits. In times of stress, we are calm and composed. We have had various ups and downs over the years, and our ability to comfort the other is so valuable to me.
I am extremely grateful for his patient ears when I tell long stories. I am also incredibly grateful to have found someone who will learn to love and grief loss from a distance.
I do not know how to say goodbye to a loved one without a funeral. It offers a closure that I must some how find without being family that suffered the same loss.
This is the hardest part of living away from my family. I spend so little time with them, and I do not even get to be a part of their last day. C’est la vie et la mort.