An Open Letter to the Parents I Left Behind
Dear Mum and Dad,
Let me begin this by being profound: this is not an apology. In a bid to try and live my life as unapologetically as possible and in my true narcissistic style, this is an airing of my grievances.
Before you begin to panic, drawing conclusions as to what this could be about, I’m okay. In fact, I’m great. I am writing this from an office in Shinjuku, overlooking mobs of little black heads scrambling into ramen restaurants to avoid the snow that is starting to lightly ice this city. Later, I will walk out into that same snow and wonder how I found myself here. My contentment ends here where I find this excruciating guilt eating at me. That is, the guilt of having left you behind.
I don’t need to stress my independence because you have seen it first-hand. Five-year-old Chloe and her entrepreneurial ways should be proof enough of how capable I am of standing on these two feet of mine. I ran that cordial stand with poise and professionalism and I’ve become savvy enough to get me through. You know this. But despite your well wishes and love heart emojis, the guilt that I have for leaving you behind on my travels is harrowing.
I understand what being the only child living at home brings with it. I understand your need to fret, to know what I’m doing, if I’ve eaten. So every time I leave for another overseas trip I am reminded, time and time again, how “quiet” the house is (and I know what you mean is how lonely it is without me). I am constantly reminded of said loneliness too, though. While I am gallivanting across the globe, hopefully leaving my heart wherever I visit, you’re both left here working your 9-to-5 jobs.
Describing you to people who ask always starts off with, “They’ve always worked their asses off to give me everything they didn’t have as kids.” I tell of how my mother has always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower at night, and my father, the country of much of his Italian identity. Two things I have done. So maybe this is a plausible birthplace for my resounding guilt; how my lust for these experiences very quickly materialised while I left you both at home wishing it was you instead.
I’ve learned that there are different kinds of guilt, and this particular one strays very, very far from that of others. This is not the same guilt I feel when my boss rolls her eyes at the mention of me taking more time off, when the mums at work complain that they “never get the time off for silly things like that” or even when my friends whine that they’re not coming with me. This is the kind of guilt that makes my heart ache.
Watching my father cry at the boarding gates, holding me and telling me to be careful is one of the most terrifying things I have ever experienced. What could I say that was going to convince you that I would be fine? As I sat in my seat on that China Southern flight bound for Guangzhou and finally had the time to gather my thoughts, it occurred to me how much you really do love me. Know that, Dad. Not that I ever doubted it. Here we are again, the guilt comes crashing over me like a great wave.
Perhaps this is a feeling that may never cease to exist and that every time I stand at the international boarding gate at Brisbane Airport, I will shed tears for you both. This city of neon and noise has taught me something quite subtle. There is so much left in this world to inspire me and there is so much left unread and unwritten for me to explore. There are Greek isles left for me to hop and northern lights left for me to see though. So I will continue to travel, because I have turned from a girl afraid to leave her room to a girl with extremely itchy feet.
All of this aside, I’m left with the same question every time: How do I overcome this guilt? I still haven’t found a foolproof way of leaving behind my life of mediocrity in Brisbane, sans remorse. I would like to think that the smile on both of your faces is your permission for me to roam, and maybe it is. I know that in your hearts you’re proud, and you should be. I took the initiative to serve myself and I’ve made the most of the privileges and opportunities your hard work has granted me. Is that not what you’ve always wanted for me? Albeit, it doesn’t make it any easier for me to leave you.
I’m not entirely ready to come home. I’ve learnt to be at peace with things unbeknownst to me: what each sign says, what I’ll be doing tomorrow, who I’ll meet. Once upon a time, and you’re both witness to this, I would have panicked at the thought of the aforementioned. Now, I pine for it.
Instead of living out the nonchalant, nomadic life I so desire I am paying my dues and putting the myriads of cities I am yet to touch on hold. I’ll see you in two weeks.
With all my love,
Cover by Alex Suprun