I just accepted an international teaching position. A black boy from the East Side of 7 mile in Detroit, Michigan is packing his bags and going to teach elementary school in the Middle East. I’m the first in my family to attend and graduate a four year University. I was the first in my family to pack my bags and enter in a career outside of the state of Michigan. And now, I am soon to be the first in my family to live internationally.
I felt guilty in 2015 when I packed my bags and left them to live my own life. My youngest siblings were in critical stages of their development. One of my brothers was just finishing middle school and my my two youngest siblings were just entering middle school. My oldest, younger brother had completed high school and was plotting his next steps. I wanted a hand in their development. I wanted to be able to show them the way step by step. But, it was tough doing this several hundred miles away.
I came home a handful of times a year during my tenure in Washington, D.C. But, it was clear that while I’d been gone my siblings were changing. Physically, they’d gotten taller and their voices had gone deeper. My youngest brother had learned to type without looking and shown that his autism wouldn’t be a barrier in his life. My sister had gotten taller and earned even more accolades in competitive dance. My other brother’s’ voice could probably hit a bass note and he’s taken on a fatherly demeanor. They’d grown up without me. They’d make mistakes without me. They’d succeeded without me.
In D.C., I constantly went back and forth about things I could’ve done differently to be more than a distant example. And ultimately many times in two bedroom home, I had to sit in prayer and forgive myself. I’d had to forgive myself for making myself feel guilty for living my own life. For holding my self accountable for being absent during times that trouble that showed up at home.
While many family and friends know I accepted a teaching position in Qatar, I knew that I had to do one thing before I truly committed going. I had to ask my siblings, particularly my youngest three, those who are still in grade school, for permission to leave. If they truly needed me home, after being gone for three years, to help them and watch over them, then I’d decline the international teaching position and invest in my local school district.
Each of them, told me to live my (best) life. They gave me permission to go. They shared concern over my safety and more so that they’d miss me. Overall, I think that they have an understanding of the importance of dream chasing. It was more of the weight I put on my own shoulders than they put on me. I carried unnecessary baggage being first-generation everything. And I’m giving myself permission to let that go. My siblings have given me permission to let that go.
And now, I am preparing to spend another holiday season at home. But this time, after the New Year celebrations, an eight hour time difference will separate us. I’m committed now more than ever to erase the geographical barriers to make myself present in the lives of my siblings. All four of them. Most important, I am forgiving myself for living my own life. For making decisions that I know will improve the quality of life for not just me but my entire family.