When I moved back to the United States 17 years ago, I thought there would be a time when saying goodbye to my family in Chile would get easier. Turns out, I was terribly wrong. Despite the fact that I’ve lost count of the amount of trips I have taken to Chile to visit my family since I moved back to the U.S. over 17 years ago, tears constantly threaten to run down my cheeks at the airport.
This time I had a harder time than usual because my daughter was crying her eyes out while refusing to let go of my mom. To be honest, she was doing what I really wanted to do, but I’m not 8 anymore. I put on a brave face in front of my kids, and I swallowed my tears. I guess I saved them for when I was writing this post.
Don’t get me wrong. I do love my life in Miami with my husband, children, and the friends I have found here. So many of my dreams have come true in my adopted city. However, there’s a part of me that’s still in Chile. A part that came to life with every glance I took of the mountains, every gorgeous sunset I witnessed in Santiago, every bite I took of the freshly baked breads called marraquetas. Most especially, a hole seemed to fill up with every single friend I saw and laughed with.
The part of me that remains in Chile is my past, though. A comforting past, yes, that makes me feel right at home when I relive my memories and hug people I adore, but it is not my present. I cannot help but realize how different my life is from that of my friends, for better or for worse. And you cannot get stuck in your memories, because it stops you from enjoying the moment and the people that are with you right now.
No matter how hard I try to establish new roots in Miami, the ones in Santiago run deeper in many ways. They are older and go back to my childhood, but that doesn’t make them superior or more cherished.
There was a time that I thought that I needed to simply let go to start a new life, but that didn’t make it easier. So I’ve chosen to not let go of my roots, but rather let the old mingle with the new, since they are all part of me and of my life. The past and the present add up to the person I am today, even if parts of them don’t know each other, don’t understand their jokes, or can’t grasp the differences.
Every time I say goodbye at the airport, I tell myself that leaving was my choice, but life has a way of reminding me that every decision I’ve made has a price. My new life has been absolutely worth the cost of living far away from my parents, brother and loved ones, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss them. No matter how old I am or how wonderful my life is away from them, I still need them. Love and friendship transcends distance but it’s not the same when you are far away.
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