Two concepts I struggle with most in life are time and money. What am I supposed to do when the two come crashing together?
I’m here, living in Austria, having the time of my life. I just wish they could be here experiencing it with me. Everything I do nowadays, I see myself doing with them. I went to a Heuriger with my business of wine class and bought a bottle of Weissburgunder that I intended on opening when my parents came and visited. I would take them to Billa and show them the place where I’ve been shopping for my own groceries for the past two months. I would let them cook dinner for us in my apartment, like they always have. Now, thinking about someone cooking all of my meals for me sounds like a foreign concept, a luxury. We would drink the wine that I bought for us, together. That plan changed when dad couldn’t make it happen, when life got in the way like it always does. I wish they could both visit, but at least mom was still in. I was gonna take her to the easter markets, to my favorite café, to my favorite ramen place in the second district, the one that holds such a special memory for me because it was the first meal I had with the friends I’d made in Vienna, and the ramen was also incredible. I was gonna pick them up at the airport. I was gonna pick mom up at the airport, dad wouldn’t be there. I’ve always wanted to exit the airport and have someone behind the gate waiting for me, ready to hug me, to have something finally feel familiar—now I get to be that someone. Or I would have, if everything didn’t go as horribly wrong as it did.
I always do this to myself. I make up scenarios or plans in my head about how things are going to go. Once those plans get into my mind, they are ingrained and there’s no hope of letting them go. Part of this is my fault. I do it to myself. And every time I get my hopes up.
Why do good things not work out for good people? Everyone’s parents can afford to come visit them. Everyone’s whole family can afford to come visit them—brothers, sisters, parents. All I’m asking for is two people.
For one, it’s a matter of time. Dad can’t get the time off work. So much is happening at dad’s work and it’s not fair. He works harder than anyone I know, they both do, so why is this happening? Mom has the week off because it’s April vacation at school, where she works. Mom doesn’t want to fly alone. Mom wishes dad could go with her, I also wish that.
The other part is money. It’s always money. I offered to pay for their flights. I was actually begging them to let me pay for their flights. Please, please please, I pleaded on the phone as my voice was breaking and tears wouldn’t stop streaming. They said they didn’t feel right about it. Actually, mom was okay with it from the beginning, but dad couldn’t be persuaded. I said they could pay me back, or not, I really didn’t care. Money comes back, time doesn’t. But now we waited too long and all have to suffer because of it.
Mom kept saying, “we’re not poor, but we can’t afford to do that. We live within our means.”
I know she feels bad, she probably feels the worst I can possibly make someone feel. They are adults. They have to pay the bills. They have responsibilities. I’m in my 20s and have no responsibilities and nothing better to spend my money on. It’s my money. They can’t tell me what to do with it. I should’ve just not listened to them and booked it when I wanted to, when it was $2,000 cheaper. But I didn’t. I didn’t do it because as much as I value my ability to do whatever I want because I’m an adult, I still wanted their approval. Look where that got me. What started as a $1,000 flight ended up costing me $3,000 for a five day visit, and of course that doesn't include accommodation, food, experiences, or seats on the flight. I'm truly grateful I have a job that I love because that is what my summer is going to look like. I value experiences over money any day, I just hate that you need money for some of these experiences.
I’m not a parent, so I can’t truly understand. I can only try to understand. I can imagine the devastation of not being able to give your child, your only child, the entire world. I can only try to imagine the heartache that comes from not being able to give her everything she wants in life. I know they feel that deeper than I can even begin to fathom.
I don’t want to keep making them feel bad because I know they already do. At the same time, they’re the ones that made this situation worse than it needed to be. I told them over a month ago to look at flights. I called every Tuesday. Every time, the answer was always the same.
“I still don’t have an answer for you”
“It’s not a definite no”
“I’m not sure it’s gonna happen” “Dad’s not completely out”
“I will look more into it this week”
Hearing these phrases feels like my head is about to explode. I genuinely don’t want them to feel so tormented, but at the same time f* them for not letting me make this happen earlier.
I’m making them feel even worse about the fact that they can’t come. Meanwhile, I’m in Austria living the dream, traveling every weekend, being educated so I can get a degree that will hopefully afford me opportunities that they could never get. Yet, I’m still not happy. Why is nothing ever good enough for me?
A part of me aches every time I hear someone casually say, “when my parents visit…” Like it’s such a normal thing for them. I’ve realized how much I want my parents to be here after seeing everyone around me get to be with theirs. Some people would give anything to have what comes so naturally to others.
How am I supposed to say that my parents aren’t coming to visit me because they can’t afford it? Because dad can’t get the time off. How does mom tell her friends that they’re not visiting me because they can’t afford it? You simply don’t. We talk about the iceberg effect so much in literature, but often forget that it exists in every corner of real life. No one can ever really understand or know what is going on in anyone’s life.
I love literature and what it can do, how it can make you feel, but it can never replace real life and the joy of experiencing something for oneself. Reading can take you places and make you feel like you’re there, but you will never truly understand unless you’re there. I want these images of me and my family, happy, together, in Austria, to become a reality and knowing that it won’t is killing me.
The days of family vacations are gone, when mom and dad would plan everything and all I had to do was go along and enjoy it. Going to sleep just to wake up a few hours later in the middle of the night to drive to the airport was one of my favorite things in the world. I would go back to sleep in the backseat of the car while dad drove us to Boston to catch our plane. Mom would pack my suitcase for me because I couldn’t do it for myself. I didn’t care what outfits I had or how “good” I looked, it was all about the experience and how I felt when I was there, not how other people perceived me. I want to go back to that—I always want to go back to that. But you can’t go back. You can only exist right now and focus on moving forward. Some part of me believes that having them visit me now would create one of those memories that I wish I could go back to.
Now I plan trips for myself and I pack my own bags. I’m in charge of making sure I have my passport, because dad’s not here to carry it for me anymore. I used to be the person who called their parents at midnight to come pick me up from a sleepover. Now I’m living 4,000 miles away and am finally able to call this place, Vienna, some version of home. School in Virginia is not home, nothing except the arm that extends 65 miles into the Atlantic will ever be home. Somehow, for whatever reason, I am okay with calling this city home. I let myself say I’m going home when I really mean I’m going back to my apartment in the second district.
I say I don’t care, that I am willing to spend whatever sum of money to make the dream of them coming to see me in Vienna a reality. I say that I don’t care, so why do I care so much? Why do I need them to come here and see me so badly? I’ll see them three weeks after they visit anyway. It’s not a matter of homesickness, per se. The difference is, that in three weeks I’ll be home, and they will still be in the same place they’ve always been. Yes, we’ll all be together, but it’s not the same. Even when I’m so beyond angry at them—angry for not having it together sooner—why does every part of me so deeply want them to be here?
Because of time. The fact that this opportunity is so rare and once in a lifetime is what makes it so difficult to let go of. Fleeting, ephemeral moments that we can never get back or recreate are priceless. I was screaming on the phone to her one Tuesday night, you’re gonna regret this. It’s not the end of the world and obviously life is going to keep going on and I will be fine. I’m just heartbroken because what other time in my life will I be living in Austria? When will my parents ever have the opportunity to come see the place I’ve grown to call home, the place where I’m genuinely happy? There’s nothing I hate more in life than looking back and having regret. Once I have my mind set on something, I intend on making it happen.
Like Chris McCandless said, happiness is only real when shared. What’s the point of any of this if I don’t have someone to be happy with? I want to give them the experience of taking the U-Bahn, of walking down Kärtnerstraße on a beautiful spring day, of life in Vienna.
Time is money. Every hour and every passing day the flights get more and more expensive. I told them over a month ago to book the flights. Or at least a flight for mom. $800 is too much they said. Next week, $1,200 is too much. It’s always going to be too much.
Dad says we can do a cruise next year, so we should save our money. He says let’s not come visit this year and do that instead next year. What if we don’t make it to next year? What if another global pandemic happened? There’s so many what ifs, so we should focus on what we can do now. We shouldn’t put something off or exchange it for something that may or may not happen in the future.
I’ve read the stories of Nick Adams in Hemingway’s Indian Camp, Carson McCullers’ A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud, Sherwood Anderson’s I Want to Know Why, and on some surface level I understood. As we grow up we lose our innocence. Children simply cannot understand what adults must, but which am I?
Time is precious and priceless. I’ll never get this opportunity for mom to come visit me in Vienna ever again. Time is required to earn money, but money cannot buy back time which has passed. We all get a limited amount of time in our lives, and once that time is lost it can never be regained. They say money can’t buy happiness, but for me it seems to be the only thing that brings both joy and misery. You can lose all your money and get it back again, but you can’t use the money to purchase more time. Don’t wait. Buy the flight.
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Hi! I'm Lily and I'm from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I currently attend Washington and Lee University in Virginia. I'm always down for spontaneous adventures, catching sunrise/sunset, and taking pictures of food:) When I graduate college I want to renovate a van and travel the country, visiting every U.S. National Park as I go. Hopefully I'll have a golden retriever with me too. I love meeting new people and gaining new experiences, so I am extremely excited for this term in Vienna!