Home > Family > I don’t want to be an alien.

I don’t want to be an alien.

At 8:15 this morning, my cousin, Noah, sent me a text message. Since Noah moved back up to Philadelphia from Miami, he has sent me a couple pre-9AM messages. These early morning communication exchanges are both comforting and foreign to me. Noah and I started becoming close when I was about 17 and he was 20. For years, I don’t think either of us would dare attempt to contact the other before one in the afternoon. Now, however, we’re in our 30s and are adult-ish type people (him more so than I am, since he’s a husband and a father) so I guess 8:15 text messages are a normal thing that grown-ups do.

When he texted me this morning, Noah asked if I could proof-read a short assignment of his that was due later in the day. I was all too happy to help as 1) I love writing and editing, 2) he’s my cousin whom I also happen to like, and 3) I’m unemployed, so I need tasks to complete throughout the day to keep me from daytime drinking and throwing water balloons at people from the window of my fourth floor apartment. Noah emailed me his document.  I checked it over for grammar and general cohesiveness.  We exchanged a brief conversation about his work and Noah felt ready to submit his first grad school assignment ever, and his first academic assignment in about 10 years. Since I took seven years between my undergraduate and graduate degree, I empathized with his paranoid insecurity. I remember imagining that my MSW classmates had spent their post-undergrad years delivering babies  in war-torn countries while simultaneously counseling AIDS patients and implementing literacy programs. Like Noah, I was pretty freaked out when I started grad school.

A few hours later, I got a call from Mr. Latimer. He was calling to encourage me to reach out to Noah and offer to proof-read his work for school. My dad hung out with Noah the night before and Noah talked about his program’s coursework. My dad grew worried about Noah feeling inadequate regarding his academic writing and he wanted to make sure I supported my big cousin. I hadn’t heard Mr. Latimer speak with such concern in a long time. I assured him that Noah and I already talked and we had the situation sorted out. Mr. Latimer was relieved. I thought all of this was both kind of my father as well as hilarious–it was as though Noah and I were little kids and my dad wanted us to understand the importance of sharing and caring. I told Noah about my exchange with my dad immediately.

All day, I’ve been trying to sort out why having these two unremarkable with my family seem remarkable to me. I realize that it’s because up until the last two years or so, I haven’t kept regular contact with anyone in my family. Of course, I lived with my parents and my brother until I left for college. I saw those guys all the time. But my brother and I spent most of our time beating each other up and my parents spent most of their time talking about boring things, like work and dental insurance. (Isn’t it funny how dental insurance is super fascinating to me now? I mean, there are people out there that can go to the dentist for a reasonable cost. What if I was one of those people?) My immediate family didn’t spend much time with our extended family outside of my grandmothers. When we did visit with our various cousins and aunts, my young, undeveloped mind saw them either as too old (aka boring) or too young (aka annoying).  Then I lived far away for 10 years so even my contact with my parents was limited.

Part of the reason I wanted to come back to Philadelphia was because I grew tired of feeling like a little alien, hatched from an egg, roaming around with no real connections on this planet. All I wanted in my teens and twenties was to be on my own. For me, that meant I had to go several hundred miles from anyone who had anything to do with my upbringing. Now, however, I feel at ease being 20 minutes from family. I think it’s fun. I don’t want to be a little alien again. I just hope the sake of the family, the novelty of 8:15 AM text messages  doesn’t lose its appeal.


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