Story by Emmy Gyori
I grew up in Kansas. No, I did not grow up on a farm. Yes, I am aware that I am not “in Kansas anymore.”
In many ways I had the typical American childhood. Suburbia, small-ish town, cliché high school, the family with 2.5 kids and a dog (ok, three kids and two dogs….and my hamster named Stew). But, I was never really happy with it. Much to my awkward adolescent dismay, I always stuck out like a sore thumb.
Whether it was my two year “goth” phase, (meaning I wore slipknot shirts and listened to music other than Nicki Minaj…) my obsession with California and New York, the ‘promise lands’, or the time I decided to join the high school dance team and hated it so much that I threw a tantrum in front of the entire school and band team and will probably live with that shame for years to come —I could not (and had zero desire to) fit into this life.
That being said, I have no issue with people that choose it, in fact I have an immense amount of respect for my parents and the place they chose to bring us up in, it’s just simply not for me. I started plotting my escape at the age of 14- saving up money and working in school like a madman so I could leave as soon as possible.
But that isn’t the point of this column and I apologize for my mini tangent. Though I wanted to leave, I didn’t take into account what being separated- and frankly really disconnected- from my family and home life would do to me and my relationships with them. Being away from home and starting to finally become the person I wanted to be improved my disposition with my parents immensely, we became friends.
My dad and I- who had a whole array of issues- are now total homies. Which is something that could never happen if I lived with them. Though that part has been nice, not being able to go home when I’m having a really rough week or snuggle with my dogs whenever I feel like it will always make my heart ache a bit. There are moments in time I’ve missed- my brother leaving for college, my dad starting a new business-but these were sacrifices I had grown to accept and was ok with making.
However, a sacrifice that I never anticipated was being away from home in the midst of a very bad crisis. Nothing could have prepared me for what has been happening in my family for the past year. My sister did the unthinkable, and it peeled back the layers of my seemingly blissful family in a way I never expected.
I am not going to go into details because it’s private- but everything that was happening to my sister started to be revealed to me while I was studying abroad in London- so even farther and more disconnected from home. I sometimes feel like a failure as a big sister or that I’m not doing enough to ease my parents pain. I used to call my mom a few times a week and update her about my life. Now, we talk once every few weeks and it’s always about mundane things like my car or bills, because I don’t want to overwhelm her.
Within a year my entire family and the way I view them has changed. My parents are now fully formed people to me, not just mom and dad. They will sometimes call me to vent or ask me for advice on my sister and I never know what to tell them. I can’t help but wonder if I’d know what to do if I was there. When a friend of mine asked about everything that’s happening, in a monotone voice and very matter-of-fact, he had a concerned look on his face. “You don’t seem that upset…are you letting yourself process this?”
The truth is, I can’t let myself really process it all. Even writing this column, I feel overwhelmed by the sadness. Frankly, I can’t stand thinking about it for too long and I’m relieved to not be living it at home every day. Does that make me a terrible person? Am I selfish for focusing on my own life and career out here?
I know that if I was living at home and spending every day with my sister, all of this still would have happened. I know that. But sometimes the guilt hangs over my head and leaves me with a splitting headache. It’s a crazy thing, to love someone so destructive to themselves and the people around them. Someone so beautiful and bright but battling a constant, giant demon. To love them helplessly, knowing that all you can do is try to be there for them. Even from 2,500 miles away.