I’ve already received a message that my departure flight is delayed, but in a matter of hours (perhaps 7, but possibly 16, 24, or 40) I’ll be on my way to Europe to meet up with my brother who is studying in London for the semester. I haven’t seen him since July and can’t wait to give him a hug, buy him a good dark beer for a reasonable price, and hear all about his adventures. I’m also excited to travel with him because we haven’t done that before. My sister and I hadn’t traveled together, either, until she came to visit in December and we played tourist in Singapore, drank many a coffee in Hanoi, trekked in Sapa, and basked in the myriad vegetarian food options of Chiang Mai.
To their chagrin, my parents are fully responsible for the restless exploring of their children. We first went overseas as a family when I was fourteen and we haven’t looked back since. On the unfortunately rare occasions when all five of us are together, “Hey, remember that time when we . . . ” segues into a travel story more often than not.
Since we’re only two years apart, my sister and I mostly grew up together and shared many experiences and activities in similar ways. On the other hand, my brother is seven years younger than me and I left home for university when he was in middle school. I had returned home and started teaching when he was in high school, allowing me to watch him come into his own, play a lot of hockey, and begin to make decisions about who to spend time with and where to direct his interests. My brother and a couple of his friends helped me move into my first apartment (I paid them in gift cards to their favorite plate shop) and I’ve run around town with him to pick up essentials on his weekends home from camp or college. As we’ve both gotten older, we’ve had some pretty serious discussions on impromptu trips to the grocery store or when one of us volunteered chauffeur the other around town. He was awed and curious when I took him to dinner in Hell’s Kitchen when he visited me in New York City and excited to share his college life with me when I returned the visit to him just outside Washington, DC.
It’ll be great to be somewhere new to both of us and have a unique shared experience. It’s really important to me to keep my family close and this year has been particularly special for that.
My sister and I said goodbye today after a visit lasting almost three weeks. We explored Singapore, northern Vietnam, and northern Thailand before returning to Singapore for the weekend. (Blog posts in progress!) She left mere hours ago and I miss her.
Whenever I leave my family after any length of time at home, I experience a sense of restlessness, an inability to focus, loneliness, and a hint of anxiety. I recognize those emotions in that order every time. I felt the same way as soon as I hugged my sister goodbye. And I laughed inwardly because I hadn’t expected that at all.
We don’t talk much when we’re apart and we have a history of becoming very easily frustrated with each other. We’re stubborn in different ways, readers of usually different works from different schools of thought, and very different in our habits and preferences. But we’re both independent, open-minded, and flexible. We often have similar goals but very different approaches to achieving them.
So while we traveled, explored, and experienced three different places, I felt like I was doing the same with our relationship. I learned a lot about my sister, about who she is and who she is to me. I learned about myself, too, which is what happens whenever I begin to really see other people. We had some conversations that have made me think and question and others that have added new layers to already complicated ideas.
She’s always been my sister, but we made the choice a long time ago to be friends. The nature of all friendships and relationships change over time and ours is no exception.
Yesterday I got a text from my sister asking if I were free to chat. We played phone tag a couple weeks ago and the game faded before we actually connected. I called my sister immediately after receiving her message and she picked up the phone, laughing. “You didn’t need to call right away,” she said.
Actually, I did. I love my sister to death, but she doesn’t know that because her communication with our family has been so erratic since she started college, we have an unspoken policy of dropping everything to talk to her when she decides it’s a good time. My mother, who normally goes to bed by 11:30, has been on the phone with my sister well past midnight if that’s when my sister calls. My father, who normally rushes around from meeting to meeting, will postpone everything related to work to call her back. So even though I’d just walked into the house and was halfway upstairs to say hi to my roommate who was working from home, I paused my hello, went back down the stairs, and called my sister.
We had a long, lovely chat and I was glad that we did. It was good to catch up with her, and to learn that she’ll be home for a week at the beginning of June. She’s preparing to spend a year in Spain and I’m preparing to spend two in Malaysia, so we commiserated about the difficulties of getting paperwork in order and applying for visas. Now that she’s done with college, we also talked about her studying for the GREs, summer research with a professor, and her first date with someone outside her peer group. Life really does start to happen in a totally different way after college, and it was refreshing to talk about that with my sister. I do enjoy living vicariously through her tales of concerts, parties, and get-togethers (she is a much cooler, bolder, more exciting person that I ever was) but interacting with her as an adult is a nice change. We’re both getting ready for adventures abroad and I’m glad to share that experience with her.
As they say, “I smile because you’re my sister and I laugh because there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Photos, travels, musings, and ideas on education by a twenty-something teacher trying to make the world a better and more peaceful place