Tonight I drove home from my parents’ house in my brother-in-law’s 1999 Honda Accord which has a tape player. I found a crate of mix tapes in the back seat and popped in a mix I made for my sister in the 90s, featuring some excellent tunes I had completely forgotten about but still knew all the words to: All I Want Is You by U2, Stay by Lisa Loeb, There She Goes by the Las, featured in one of my sister’s favorite films So I Married an Axe Murderer.
The opening song was “To Sir with Love,” as sung by Natalie Merchant and Michael Stipe. Although this song is from an old movie that I haven’t even seen, it always reminds me of my sister because her initials spell SIR. And it’s a lovely song about growing up and moving on.
The reason I was driving my brother-in-law’s Honda home is that he and my sister are moving to Taiwan less than eight hours from now. Aaron will be a professor at a university in Hsinchu, about an hour outside Taipei. They will be living in Taiwan until December when they come home for Christmas vacation. They’ll go back in February and finish out the school year in June and then travel in Asia.
This is an adventure for sure, but one about which my sister is rather apprehensive. After five years of reporting for the Los Angeles Times, she was laid off this spring (after 364 other employees were laid off over the course of a couple years). She and Aaron spent the summer criss crossing the country to visit friends and relatives and attend and participate in weddings. They spent last week at the beach with us. And now they’re off, but my sister has no idea what she’s going to do with herself for the next year. She’s going to blog. She’s going to try to freelance from Asia. She’s going to travel. But she has no office to go to, no paycheck to expect, no official responsibilities. So she is nervous. Despite the encouragement and reassurance of me, our parents, and all her friends that she can and should relax and have fun and not worry so much about her career for the next several months, she seems more like someone sentenced to hard time in Siberia than several months in a highly developed Asian nation where she doesn’t have to work.
I’m sure I would be nervous too. I was nervous before I studied abroad in England for a semester during college. But Susannah is much more adventurous than me. She studied in England too, and Spain, and has traveled all over the country and the world with remarkable flexibility, curiosity, and agreeableness. And she writes excellent travel narratives. Still, venturing into the unknown would make anyone nervous. Aaron does not seem nervous at all, but I don’t know him as well and it’s quite possible that he doesn’t demonstrate his nervousness as such. And Aaron has a mission–to be a professor–so perhaps he’s focusing all his energy on that and doesn’t have time to worry about anything else.
I hope Susannah will be ok. I trust that she will. Once she gets there and settles in she will find things to do. She will make friends. She will explore the city and write funny things about strange edible animals for sale in the open market. I hope some good things happen for her. I hope she makes some good things happen too. I will miss her a lot. I’m going to buy a webcam tomorrow so we can Skype. I’m going to show Zoe where Taiwan is on a map. And I’ll listen to the mix tape I made her as I drive Aaron’s car. That will keep her close.