Today my younger sister Shannon turns 21. While she is off celebrating in Rhode Island where she goes to college I am thousands of miles away in Costa Rica.
I'm not really sure why this birthday has hit me as hard as it has. Throughout the years I've missed countless birthdays and holidays. They are all difficult, but this one has swept me up in a different way.
I always planned to be there for her 21st. I wanted to fly to Miami and meet up there or do something else crazy, but that's not happening. I guess that's why this one is more difficult. I had actually thought about this day throughout the years the way other people think about weddings. It's not like we've never drunk together before, but I still wanted to make today special for her.
When I moved abroad I was so swept up in all of it that I didn't think about how it would effect things with her and the rest of my family, and I'm kind of happy I didn't think about it, because if I had I never would have left.
Shannon is 7 years younger than me. That means I've missed out on a lot of the big moments of her life because I was away at college, living in another state, and now living in other countries. Despite all of that she's still my favorite person and the only person I will literally talk to about EVERYTHING.
It's so difficult to only see her once or twice a year, but the tradeoff of that is we get to have amazing times together when we are actually together. We make the most of it and try to make great memories when we can.
My point in all of this is, when you move abroad you can expect to miss your family a lot. It's the number one thing I struggle with while living in another country.
I find it comes in waves. Sometimes I'm fine, but certain events like a 21st birthday, graduations, and Thanksgiving always put me over the edge. It is times like this that I feel so selfish for the lifestyle I have chosen and wish I was there to be part of my family.
I wish I could say it gets easier with time, but it doesn't. After four and a half years, I still miss my family constantly. The only upside is I've learned to appreciate them that much more.
The only advice I can give to all of you planning on moving abroad is to plan lots of trips for your family to visit you and you to visit them. I think when these moments are few and far between they become so much more memorable. Also, invest in a good wifi connection for lots of Skype sessions.
I'm so fortunate that my family loves to travel and looks at me living in different countries as a way for them to experience new cultures. I've gotten to travel around northern Germany with my sister. I've been to Amsterdam and Berlin with my dad. And my mom and I took a two-week road trip through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Last month she came to visit me in Costa Rica.
It's not always easy, but we make it work.
So, Happy Birthday Shanny! Go crazy! (but not too crazy because I worry about you) Love you girl and I'm so so sorry I can't be there. We'll obviously have to make up for it with some crazy memories when I come visit this summer.