On March 20 at 2am, when I descended upon LA driving down the 405, I felt joy for the first time in ten months. It burst forth, welling up from within, and I almost literally shed tears of happiness. Homesickness has always been a foreign concept to me. This was the first time I’ve ever thought, “Ah, I’m home.”
I spent the first eighteen years of my life in beautiful Hawaii, with summers in Taiwan. In Hawaii, I was the children of Taiwanese immigrants who were always too intense for the locals. “Da loco kine” island life is all about being relaxed, “overachievers” were frowned upon. In Taiwan, I was too American; too tan, too “athletic,” and too accented. I was an outcast, neither a Hawaii local nor Taiwanese.
I then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area for college, and spent the next 8 years there. Again, I didn’t fit in. At Stanford, my lack of respect for social norms made me a weirdo. Beyond Stanford, I often felt a suffocating lack of diversity, whether it was socioeconomic diversity, ethnic diversity, industry diversity, or diversity of thought. Luckily, I made a few life-long friends, despite my social awkwardness.
Los Angeles was different. Here, I had friends who accepted me for who I was, tons of family nearby, beautiful weather, and cheap yet delicious food. There was diversity in all ways, every passion hobby imaginable, amazing arts — a true metropolitan city. I could lose myself amongst the crowds. I was no longer in a small town, with a narrow, small town mentality.
Now, I’m based in Brooklyn, New York. We’ll see if this will be another “home” or just another stop in my life journey.
At this point, I’ve moved 24 times since turning 18, and 12 of those times were post-graduation. My heart remains in the city of angels — home.
I end with a poem, which I saw on the metro the other day:
A Map of the World
by Ted Kooser
One of the ancient maps of the world
is heart-shaped, carefully drawn
and once washed with bright colors,
though the colors have faded
as you might expect feelings to fade
from a fragile old heart, the brown map
of a life. But feeling is indelible,
and longing infinite, a starburst compass
pointing in all the directions
two lovers might go, a fresh breeze
swelling their sails, the future uncharted,
still far from the edge
where the sea pours into the stars.