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  • Writer's pictureAva Marie LaMonica

What I Realized After Growing Up 2,000 Miles Away From My Extended Family

Photo by oxana v on Unsplash

I've lived most of my life in Staten Island, New York.

However, from the time I was young, my happiness lied in the scorching, mountainous, cacti-infested, breathtaking place where I was born and where most of my close family resides… Phoenix, Arizona.

I can go on all day about how much I love Arizona, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

My family moved back and forth a couple of times from Phoenix to New York when I was little and officially settled here after my father found work.

I have various family members living across the United States, but mainly the West Coast, including my older brother.

Although I have family nearby who I used to be very close with years and years ago, distance oddly intruded despite living in such close vicinity to them. To this day I’ll always wonder why, but I’ve moved on from that now.

However, I do have family in the vicinity of New Jersey and New York, who I love and am very grateful to have in my life.

Living apart from my Arizona family has always been one of the greatest voids in my life.

I consider my Nana’s house in Phoenix my home away from home. Almost every year my family and I make summer frequent trips out there, sometimes staying as long as six weeks.

Every trip is nothing short of genuine happiness and contentment.

Growing up, the more and more we visited the harder and harder it became to leave my family in Phoenix.


Being a Visitor

Being a visitor is bittersweet.

Although it’s exciting to reunite with family, you can’t help but feel like an outsider at times.

Of course, the bond is present and strong, but at the same time, you feel sort of melancholy from all the time apart.

And eventually, the hard part will come…

Saying goodbye.

As life goes on and I observe others who have such close relationships with family and cousins who are close in age, I can’t help but feel a sense of envy and sadness that I never personally experienced that apart from when I was young.

Even more unfortunate is that some family members I have, even some who aren’t halfway across the country, barely know who I am.

That being said, I am beyond grateful for the close bond I do have with many of my far-away family members and the wonderful reconnections I have made. The sad part is that distance has caused us to lose many precious years to make so many memories together and build an even closer relationship.

What I realized while living apart from my extended family is that so many people take their family for granted.

Many people will see their grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews nearly every single day and treat it as a causality, sometimes even an annoyance.

Being a visitor has taught me to appreciate the value of family and to never take that special gift for granted.

It has also given me hope, passion, and ambition to once again have that closeness in the place I call home.


But…You Can Reunite

So, if you’re in a situation where you long to be closer to your family whether they’re near or distant, here is my advice:

Reach out to the family you wish to be closer with, even if you haven’t spoken in years. As hard as that may be, you’ll be happy you did. You may not get anything in return, or you may even be unfollowed/unfriended or ignored on social media for no apparent reason. However hurtful it may be, at least you will know that you did everything you possibly could, and you will always live with that on your conscience.

Also stay in contact with family through phone calls, video chat, text messaging, or even take a different route and send a good old-fashion letter. Of course, it doesn’t compare to face-to-face contact, but it helps.

Life is far too short to miss out on so much precious time with family and although distance can restrict you, never let it win.

And if you are one of those people who are lucky enough to see their extended family often, always be grateful.

Some people would give anything to have that.


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