Today is my not-so-little brother’s twenty-second birthday.
It’s the first time in quite a while that I haven’t been able to celebrate with him in person. He lives in Phoenix, in the same complex where I occupied an apartment until March of this year. For his 19th, 20th and 21st birthdays I was able to treat him to dinner and attend his parties. It was one of the greatest joys of having my brother around, and something I tried not to take for granted.
Today, I’m plugging away in my Manhattan office. Tonight, I’ll be at worship, not dinner. I don’t even know if Steve’s having a party. I popped a gift in the mail last week, a stark contrast to showing up at his door on Oct. 29 in years past. (Which reminds me, Steve- check your mail.)
Although this is the first time in ages I’ve missed Steve’s birthday, not being a part of milestones and holidays is something I’ve gotten used to. As someone who thrives on adventure and consciously chose to work in a field that operates 24/7/365 – it comes with the territory. I knew this from the time I was young, that this lifestyle wasn’t compatible with huge amounts of commitment and family time. It’s one of the biggest sacrifices I make and I struggle with it every time a day like this rolls around.
I haven’t seen my mom on her birthday since 2008, because being in February it always conflicted with classes. I’ve been “home” to Dallas for Christmas exactly once in the last five years. I’ve never returned for Thanksgiving or Easter, although this will be the first year I’ve not had any family (siblings, grandparents, cousins) around for those holidays.
People always ask me how I do it, how I make these choices. How do I justify living so far away from everyone and still spending my money on vacations to Europe and Canada instead of to Dallas and Phoenix? How do I justify talking to my dad for an hour on Father’s Day this year, but my mom for only five minutes on Mother’s Day because I was on vacation in Spain and the bill was astronomical? How do I justify missing my sister’s high school graduation in June, especially knowing I’ll be at my brother’s college graduation in December?
The truth is, I don’t justify these things. Every time I make a decision like this I struggle with it. Life would certainly be easier if I lived in the South or the Southwest, if I didn’t take such delight in exploring the world and could afford to visit family more than once a year. I surround myself with friends on holidays, call family members on their birthdays. My parents are awesome and supportive and happy to open Christmas gifts whenever the family is together – whether it’s in Dallas, in Phoenix, or on Skype, whether it’s on December 25 or December 14 or January 2.
I can’t explain these choices except to say that this life is worth it. Missing things is worth it to live in New York City, to do what I love, to live the life of my dreams. Maybe someday I’ll realistically be able to fit all the pieces together – to be around for milestones and also have my dream life. Maybe priorities will shift and I’ll move back. But for now, for today, I’m wishing Steve a happy birthday from afar and promising to see him in December.
Happy birthday, Steve. Thanks for supporting me always, for responding to “I’m moving clear across the country” with “That’s so cool! Can I have your couch?” and for always explaining sports things that I just do not understand. I hope this is your best year yet.