Emergency Contact

Friday, December 30, 2016 / 9:15 PM

Out of habit when I moved to the East Coast, I continued to list my mother as my emergency contact – on doctor's forms, travel itineraries, HR files. It was impractical, I realized, because the very nature of an "emergency contact" requires that person to be able to respond immediately during an emergency. Being 3,000 miles away put my mother at a disadvantage, should something happen.

When I first moved to New York, the habit kicked in as I was filling out paperwork for my internship – but I caught myself, and decided to ask the HR coordinator if it would be OK to list my mother first, and then switch it later. It was January of 2012 and I knew nobody in the city. I had figured I'd wait until I met more people, and then go from there. The coordinator suggested I pick someone more local – a roommate or landlord, perhaps?

So I listed my roommate, who I'd known for a total of 48 hours at that point, and didn't even tell her about it. And as the years have passed, I never changed it; at some point, I forgot about it. Between 2012 and now, I've worked in the same building and lived in the same apartment with that same roommate, and somewhere along the way, I settled into a routine of "going through the motions." Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with New York the way a person "falls in love" for the first time at 16: infatuation mixed in with excuses for the moments that don't feel quite right.

And then, slowly, over time, I fell out of "love." And then, suddenly: a break-up.

Yesterday while I was filling out an apartment application in Los Angeles, I was asked to list an emergency contact. Without hesitation, I listed my sister, who would finally be sharing a city with me once again. The realization that I will finally be sharing an entire state (an entire coast!) again with my family has brought an insane amount of joy to my life in a way I didn't think it would.

Over the past year, watching my mother and her side of the family come together for my aunt during her illness made me realize that it was no longer enough for me to float in and out of this life. If I didn't learn how to really be a part of this family now, I was afraid I would spend the following decades trying to avoid it – and that's not how I want to live my life. The void that's been left by my aunt is much larger than I think any of us could've imagined, and we already knew it would leave a crater that could never be filled again. While I was debating this personal decision, my former manager who helped me come to this conclusion (and who helped work out a transfer back to California) brought up a point that summed it all up for me: "You have your entire life to work. You only have right now to be there for the people who need you the most."

I don't know what's going to happen in 2017. I'm not walking into it with any major expectations (though, I won't lie, there are definite anxieties). All I can do is move forward with every bit of momentum I have left in me – back to a place I've always called home.

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  1. Bravo, Traci. This is such a great reason to move back to the west coast.