You are probably at IKEA in Portland right now — yes, I’m infinitely jealous of you — looking for a futon bed or something equally functional for your studio apartment, and I’m still in disbelief that you’re not fast asleep at our parents’ house while Mom is washing your clothes. (It IS Monday, after all.)
You are in Oregon. And you’re not coming back — at least for a year, as your lease would indicate.
You’re going to miss Thanksgiving and Christmas with the family for the first time in your 28 years. And I can’t just barge into your bedroom, you sitting at your computer wearing the kind of headphones we used to rock in the ’80s — when did they make a comeback? — and show you photos of my dogs.
No, you’re literally 2,603 miles away now, living in a state where you can die with dignity and legally smoke weed. You will be shopping at stores like Fred Meyer and WinCo and wearing turtlenecks and rain jackets. (Speaking of which, you better pick those up this week.)
It’s all too surreal.
It was only the other day that you were this little baby, wrapped like Jesus in the manger on Christmas Day. I would cradle you in my arms and walk up and down the hallway, wondering what kind of person you would turn into. Would you be reserved like our brother or creative like our sister or, God forbid, loud and obnoxious like me?
Then you got older and soon you were running, not walking, down that hallway — you ran everywhere! — singing and smiling and saying something that made us laugh. Like sunshine streaming into our home.
Soon enough, you were old enough to go to preschool, then kindergarten. And that’s when I started to see you — and the uniqueness that would always be part of your identity. It was at your school’s open house. Your teacher had everyone in your class draw pictures of what you wanted to be when you grew up. Amid the colorful depictions of firefighters and teachers, there was yours, a well-drawn illustration of a scientist studying insects. You wrote — and it was spelling correctly, I might add — “entomologist.” I think even your teacher was taken aback.
Even as a kid, you did your own thing. You shunned trends and forged your own path, opting to watch anime instead of Disney movies — though you did have a thing for “Cinderella” early on and we must’ve watched it 124 times with you — and wore whatever felt comfortable, down to your toed socks.
It was entirely my fault that you got into video games. I remember your complete fascination as you watched me destroy the bosses in “Super Mario Bros.,” barely escape the guillotines in “Prince of Persia,” and navigate the courses in “Battle Bull” on the original Game Boy. I could tell you were hooked — and there was no chance you would continue playing soccer anymore. (I was right.)
You survived high school, got a biology degree, and even worked as a plant inspector for the state, checking produce at Costco and playing poker at lunch. Collecting a paycheck and bitching about life — you were officially an adult.
But you had always wanted to move away. You wanted to try living on your own, without any help from us — particularly me, who had suddenly transformed from the cool big sister into an overbearing, lecturing adult to whom you were unfortunately related. I don’t blame you for wanting your distance. I left, too, when I was 23, heading off to graduate school in Chicago. Before then, I had never been east of Las Vegas and, worst yet, never seen snow in my life. Our brother and I landed at O’Hare along with the second-worst blizzard in the city’s history. Yay for me.
And now you’re in Oregon — with that same brother who, hopefully, has better weather karma this time — shopping for household goods and boxes of instant ramen.
I’ll miss you, even though we didn’t see each all that often. And you know our parents won’t know what to do with themselves now that you’re gone.
But it’s good. It’s really good. You need to get away and breathe and live on your own. You need to complain about the cost of electricity and discover the irritation of coin-operated washers and dryers. You need to be able to shop at will at a grocery store and watch whatever you want on YouTube until you fall asleep at your computer surrounded by open bags of Doritos and empty Diet Coke cans. (Wait, we’re not talking about me…)
It will be hard, I won’t lie. You’ll sit on your futon couch from IKEA, alone, listening to a strange silence you’ve probably never heard before — yes, silence has a sound! — and wish you could just walk into the kitchen and see Mom kneading bread while watching the Golf Channel. I felt that way when I moved into a small, one-bedroom cottage in Kaimukī at 25. That first night, when Mom had left to go home and I was all alone in the house, was the worst. I kept the lights on and climbed into bed, surrounded by boxes I still hadn’t unpacked, and cried. I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life.
Turns out, it was the best decision I had made — and one, despite the thousands of dollars I’ve paid to landlords and property managers, I have never regretted.
So take it from me — the overbearing older sister who has lived through this before — you’ll be fine. You are on a great adventure. You’ll meet new people, eat new foods, see new things. Your entire life will open up — something that couldn’t have happened if you had stayed here — and you’ll grow into the person you want to be.
And who knows. Maybe you’ll love it and stay there forever. Maybe you’ll pack up and move to Paris. Or heck, you might even come home after a year. Whatever happens, just know, we love you, we admire you, we believe in you, we are rooting for you.
Just don’t forget to call every once in a while.
Love no matter what,