Living with Guilt

Background

I moved overseas ages ago, 12 years to be exact. Life wasn’t too bad at all back in the days, but then came the opportunity to move overseas with a job offer and relocation. Where to? Not just any place overseas, cause I wouldn’t go anywhere. It was the place of my dreams. AUSTRALIA. The land down under. So I obviously couldn’t say no, couldn’t turn down the offer. Yep, I’ll take that, thank you. Initially it was a two years contract, which got extended to four. But before we knew it, 4 years became 8, our young kids became completely Aussies and Sydney became our beloved second home. It felt like we’re getting closer and closer to the no-turning point.

Guilt is a terrible thing. When you live with it day in and day out it’s not really helping to get you going through the days. It’s holding you back from feeling happy about your life and the choices you have made. Why am I feeling this way? Because I left behind my parents, my brother, my sisters in-law and the rest of the family. But the guilt is really there because of my mum and dad, they are not getting any younger and their medical condition is worsening as the days go by. And so, I’m kicking myself for not being there for them, living close to them. Of course I’m flying out a few times a year to be there and help, but that’s not the same.

The Debate

Why am I here, in the land down under, so far away from the rest of the world including my family? Let’s try and analyse that. I’m here with my own core family, my wife who also left behind patents, sisters and nefues, and our 3 young children. For many years we’ve been debating between ourselves what should we do. Should we live in the lucky country Australia and raise our children here, giving them better opportunities and a much better and safe environment? Or should we go back and live next to the family in the conflicted Middle East. There is no doubt Australia is one of the best places in the western world to raise children. It’s safe, the people are friendly, there’s a sense of community, the weather is close to perfect, and the landscape is absolutely stunning, especially when you live in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We’re here because this is by far a better option for our children, and it’s hard to give it up. Looking back, these discussions had been going on for many years, and after we decided not to decide, we realised that living in this temporary state really affects our relationships, our planning, and worse than anything – our kids’ state of mind. They are confused, not knowing what lies ahead, and it didn’t feel like a stable environment for them whatsoever. The lack of commitment on the long term simply puts you in a very odd state, where you’re not completely neither here nor there.

So we decided to take that critical decision, probably the toughest decision we have ever made. Get rid of that temporary state, stop sitting on the fence, make it clear and commit. I was inclined to go back and live close to the family, that’s what my heart said back then though my head kept telling me it might be wrong. Every family visit turned out to be an opportunity to check out how we feel about going back and whether this what we feel we should do. At one point I was close to put my foot down and insist we go back for a few years and give it a go. We can always go back thanks to our dual citizenship, though the challenge now becomes what would be the impact on the kids now that they are at school age. I was so close to letting those Guilt feelings take over and make the decision for us.

But my wife kept the debate going, emphesising this decision is made for our children first, then for us, and then for the rest of the family. Should we put our children first and make sure they have a better future, or should I be closer to my aging parents? It’s hard to give up all the goodies that life in Australia has to offer, while on the other hand it’s hard to live 15,000 miles away from your parents. Then, one summer while we were visiting Israel and the conflict erupted and escalated to rockets and sirens, missle interceptions and another meaningless war between us and them, I realised this is not what I want my kids to go through. I rather keep them away from this mess.

When you got something so good it’s hard to give it up, let alone replace it with something you alrrady walked away from.

The Decision

Throughout the years of debating this critical decision of where do we want to live and raise our children, the question that kept coming up was “where do we feel at home”. At the first few years in Sydney I never really felt like I belong here, as much as I loved every bit of it, I always felt like a migrant and a foreigner. But that changed over the years. I think the turning point came when we travelled around Australia for a year. This is when we discovered the beauty of this country, its amazing landscapes, acknowledged the enormity of this land in size and spirit and absolutely fell in love in this country, from the famous Great Ocean Road to hidden gems like Fowlers Bay, Esperance and Ningaloo Reef, to the beating red heart of Uluru. Australia became home, at the same time we originally planned to go back right after the trip down under.

Eventually, after a very long time and endless number of conversations poking around this topic between us, the decision was finally made – we’re staying here, go with our heart, provide better opportunities for our children, and travel overseas more often, to spend time with the rest of the family. We always tried to go once a year, bearing the cost and giving up other holiday opportunities.

The Unexpected

But than, as life tends to surprise you, it got more complicated. Just a few months after we finally bought our own house and settled in, my mum got sick. It took us 10 years to finally come to terms and decide what we want to do with our lives, and now we have to deal with cancer in the family. The questions and doubts popped up all over again. If a few years ago it was “should we go back and live close to the family before our parents get old”, now it’s more like “my parents are sick and old and they need me”. I went back immediately to see what’s happening and thankfully with the advanced medical treatments (immunotherapy) the situation got quite stable. While I’ve made quite a few trips back and forth since then, the argument of whether to move back with my family was as valid as can be. And this is where we are at the moment. With aging and sick parents, it’s never going to be simple. I live with the guilt every single day – between going back and being close to mum and dad, moving my kids at now high school and primary school age to a different country, or maintaining the status-quo and going back a few times a year for a few weeks.

I know I’m not the only one facing these type of questions and concerns. Quite a few people in Australia and around the world face the same issue as they live away from their families, established in a new place with their own family and kids, work and school obligations, living in a different timezone, in a different location.

What would you do if you were in my shoes? Does this story appeals to you? Have you had to face this decision in the past, or might be facing a similar scenario in the present? Are you living with guilt as well, thinking whatever you do it cannot possibly make everyone happy? someone would always be hurt or neglected? Is there a right decision here at all?

Go easy on my concious
‘Cause it’s not my fault
I know I’ve been taught
To take the blame

Rest assured my angels
Will catch my tears
Walk me out of here
I’m in pain

As my soul heals the shame
I will grow through this pain
Lord I’m doing all I can
To be a better man

A Better Man – Robbie Williams

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