“JESS!!!” My heart melts a little when my 3-year-old niece answers my call on FaceTime. She’s sitting at the kitchen counter eating a grilled cheese sandwich and telling me all about her day between bites—how her newest “ouchie” is on her elbow and that she learned to draw circles and squares at school.
After dinner, she runs upstairs to change into her pajamas and get tucked into bed. All comfy under the covers and propped up on her pillow, she opens up The Rainbow Fish and recites her own version of the story. Twice. She starts flipping the pages backward for round three, but my sister tells her it’s time to say good night. Like me, she hates goodbyes, so she usually refuses to say it—because maybe, if we don’t, it won’t be true. So I try to comfort her, and myself, with the promise of another call tomorrow.
I get the same warm and fuzzy feelings when I talk to my younger niece and she proudly shows me the block tower she built. I depend on my dad’s advice for all my grown-up questions, like car problems or insurance and 401(k)s. And I talk to my mom every day after work on my commute, to catch up on big things, little things and everything in between.
Everybody who knows me knows I love my family, so much so that missing them physically hurts sometimes. I moved away from home nine years ago to go to college, and as a self-proclaimed homebody, I always just assumed that when I graduated, I’d go back. But then I moved away again, this time for a job, and this time across state lines, telling myself that nothing’s permanent.
I started building a life and a career 900 miles from home, not meaning for the things I once considered temporary to grow roots. But maybe it’s OK if they do; I left because I wanted to see who and what I could become, and that’s something I’m still figuring out.
I feel lucky. Because the distance doesn’t feel so far when I get to do things like play and read bedtime stories with my favorite little humans. I don’t know what my next move will be, but I do know that wherever I go, home will always be home.
Related: 14 Loving Quotes About Family
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.