Life Lessons Learned Abroad

I never wanted to be a mom. I always said, “All I need are nieces and nephews. Make me an Auntie and I’ll be happy!” Well, in 2008 I finally got my wish when my older sister made me the aunt of a beautiful baby girl, and in 2012 we welcomed my second niece into the world. I always wanted to be the coolest aunt ever – the one they asked for and wanted to hang out with, and as they got older, I wanted to be the one they called when their mom was making them crazy. Being away from them is my single biggest regret. I regret not being able to watch them grow, and it always stings when their mom announces that they’ve been asking for my little sister.

They know not to ask for me because now I’m just the aunt that’s never there.

No matter how great my life is – and it IS great – no amount of greatness is enough to cover the pain of being away from your family, and this horrible little fact has led me to understand two big life lessons…

#1. You can’t have it all.

There. I said it. I apologize to all the kids who grew up hearing their mom and dad saying that they could have anything or be anyone. It’s just not true. I can’t have my fabulous European life AND be with my nieces at the same time. And when I say I don’t want kids, I mean that about 40% of me wants kids while the other 60% doesn’t. But the fact of the matter is that I can’t both be a mom and not be a mom, so if I have to choose, I choose to follow the 60% of me who prefers living my life with only my husband.

Acknowledging the inability to have it all is difficult but also freeing. It forces you to stop searching for happiness in every little corner, and to only look for the things that make you truly happy.

#2. Sometimes, you just have to be a little selfish.

I know for some of you, this may be hard to hear. Believe me, it’s not an easy thing to type. I grew up in the Bible Belt of the U.S. and week after week I was in church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. I heard over and over and over again that love leaves no room for selfishness. It’s something we should avoid at all costs and seek only to be selfless in every single aspect of life. Well, I’m here to say that this is not always true. Choosing my husband and Germany and our life together away from my friends and family is about as selfish as it gets. Knowing that every little girl needs a good Auntie on her side and still choosing to leave the U.S. … selfish. selfish. selfish.

But you know what? I can’t live for my family. My nieces will grow up someday. If I’d turned my back on love to stay behind for them, where would that leave me when they get married and start a life of their own?

I couldn’t put my life on hold in order to stick around for my family. I wouldn’t. And I would make the same choice a million times over if need be. Because the truth is… sometimes you just have to live for yourself. Sometimes you have to choose YOU. Sometimes, it’s really okay to just be a little bit selfish.

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