How I Learnt How To Live With Distance
In March of this year, I took a trip to see my family in America. What I didn’t expect were the type discussions I’d be having with some relatives while on this trip. I usually have a detailed itinerary of what I plan to do, even when I’d take a rest. My itinerary was so detailed that it left room for any obstacle I’d come across.
While visiting one relative in Orlando, the first time we’d been alone in a while, we were “forced” to confront issues related to the family. We started off by reminiscing on the good ol’ days, growing up and how close-knit we were. We talked about how we had each other’s backs no matter how many times we fought or cut each other down with our words. It was then that I expressed how, for the first time 28 years, I felt a sense of peace. Peace, with not being around them so much. Peace, with not hearing the arguments, the judgment, the hypocrisy, the fights, the disappointment. Just, P E A C E. My relative seemed perplexed and slightly offended by what I said. They went on to say they couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth and even said “it sounds like you don’t love your family”.
As a young boy, growing in a single parent household with a yard filled with relatives and friends, who are like family, I always was the odd one out. I loved going to to school. I loved learning. When my cousins would find any excuse to miss school, I would cry if I didn’t have money to go. Damn, those were rough times. I cried because at school I felt like I could have meaningful talks about pertinent issues affecting me during my teen years. At home, I had to be somewhat of a grown up because I understood my role in the family. I didn’t mind one bit because these were the people I lived with. The people I saw every morning when I was awoken from my slumber and every evening when I’d return home from school. The people I laughed and argued with over the tv. The people I knew how to love with all their flaws. However, I saw somethings happening around me that didn’t feel right. I saw decisions being made about certain things which made me realise that some of these flaws can’t be overlooked. I knew then, that I could still love but from afar.
They still couldn’t understand it. I then broached a topic we knew too well and things started to make sense for them. For years I didn’t speak to a particular relative. Didn’t care about his well-being. You know what? I was quite fine. He, from time to time, would make some measly effort to reach out through aunts, uncles and my grandmother (RIP) but I wasn’t phased by it. The physical distance made not giving a damn extremely easy. This relative taught me, without them knowing, that learning to accept one’s standing in your life is paramount to how you choose to live; distancing yourself from people (friend or family) who contribute nothing of value toward your upward mobility or keep them around and wallow in the whatever chaos they may or may not bring.
“…but I still can’t believe you would say that, after how close we all are,” they continued. It made me look at a culture we see ever so often through the television screen, whether fact or fiction. America. American families do not live together. They sometimes gather for family functions and special events and go about their separate ways. In fact, many times siblings themselves don’t have any relationships which can be carried on for many years. I used to think how monstrous could one be to avoid their blood? However, there comes a time when you have to recognise that you have no obligation to have a relationship with siblings or relatives, especially those who knowingly bring toxicity around.
It’s not that I wish to disengage the relatives I grew up with. I’m an adult, with my own life which doesn’t include me waking up and seeing the same people I saw for years. Our upbringing was unique and worked for us when we were younger. Even then I didn’t have much dialogue beyond “the family”, so not speaking to those I never shared hopes and dreams with, really isn’t a bother. I know there’s no malice on my part (for some), so I told them, I’d have dialogue if and when the need arose.
Being pushed to be analytical of situations around me at an early age, I learnt how to adapt quickly to things I couldn’t change. In those types of scenarios, I chose my well-being over all others. I must confess, it made me apathetic to a lot of things and I developed the skillful art of masking and mirroring.
Who knows, maybe I’m doing these people a favour by taking myself out of their lives because I may easily be the toxic one.