“…the nature of human longing and how an individual’s life is shaped by such dreams.”
The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
I have always been jealous of my brother, for he has experienced my parents’ true happiness in his lifetime.
I have always been jealous of my brother, for he has met all of the family that I didn’t get to.
I have always been jealous of my brother, for he was simply able to feel fully at home at all times of the day.
My brother and I have a twelve year age gap, and yes, it immediately sounds like a significant number, but you do not understand the true weight that those years hold unless you’ve experienced it first hand. My mother was 36, I believe, when she has given birth to me. Not only that, but I was born in Canada, the first in my family’s history to be born so far away from Ukraine. As much as I am thankful for the trouble that my family went through, to immigrate to Canada and provide my brother and I a better future, I cannot help but long, and dream for the past I wasn’t even in.
My brother was able to experience all of the ups and downs that my family has been through. It always blew my mind that he knew my parents when they were young, and did not have to hear the excuse of: “I’m too old to be playing around with you like this, calm down.” He was there when my parents were newly-wed, naive, and happy. He was there when my parents were rich and successful back in Ukraine.
He lived in Ukraine.
I never knew how much I needed family up until I went to Ukraine one winter. I never knew how warm it felt to be surrounded by so many people with the same blood as me on Christmas and New Years Eve. That visit was eye-opening for me because I constantly felt like I was loved – and I know that I am loved in Canada, but sometimes, the numbers outway the meaning.
This constant feeling of: I have family, is truly refreshing every single time I go there.
But I absolutely hate going there at the exact same time.
Ukraine is not my home, it never was and it never will be; that is not where I feel the most comfortable, and that is the most frustrating thing one could experience. I am constantly lost there. I was never a part of the Ukrainian lifestyle, and was always called spoiled for being Canadian. Even as a joke, that is the most painful thing to hear for no one understands that I don’t truly feel comfortable anywhere in this world.
I constantly dream about myself belonging where my family does, but my family doesn’t belong where I should, so where do I belong?
The woman from the short story is longing for the past, she dreams of seeing the people she has lost and wants to be with them. She wants to go back and be where she was most comfortable. The difference between us though, is that she was a part of the past that she longs for, and I was not.
Whenever someone asks: what year/s would you go back to if you had a time machine, I always say the mid-90s. When asked why, I simply reply: I want to be there when everyone was truly happy. I just want to be a part of that happiness
Being born in a different place from your family is like an inside joke that you are not a part of. You constantly feel stupid and fake laugh it off to not seem weak.
My parents are also lost. They always long for Ukraine. It’s been 16 years and they still constantly reminisce on their past, and I don’t blame them. I actually feel bad for them because they have lost more than I ever will; but I can’t hide that it still hurts whenever I am constantly reminded of how amazing it was in Ukraine by them. My parents always find themselves thinking about their past, about the people they lost.
I also think about the people they lost, and about how I lost my parents. But, I didn’t lose the parents that my brother had, they are gone, simply gone, and I cannot seem to fathom that.
As the woman, I want to take this trunk. This trunk of memories that I was never a part of. This trunk of experiences I will never experience. I want to take my family’s trunk of the past, and keep it. They don’t want that trunk anyways, as the woman’s son, they don’t see the significance that it holds. They just want to throw it out as if it is trash. But it’s not trash to me, I want to keep it. I will look through it once now, and one more time a bit later. They don’t understand, and I don’t blame them. I just have the younger-child syndrome that I cannot help.
I have always been jealous of my brother, for he has experienced the life that I have never got the chance to experience. I don’t share my feelings about this with my western friends, for they do not understand the true weight that twelve years holds.
“You cannot long for a time you were never a part of.”
And I hear them, so I just smile and nod, and keep dreaming.
Americans can be so naive.