By Katherine Wong
I have never lived in the same city consecutively for more than six years, and have occupied 15 different houses. My first spoken language is different from my first written language. Because I move so often, the place where I reside has become something irrelevant. Day in and day out; work, eat, sleep. The routine is the same in any city. The people around me are the only element that defines the difference.
However, between countries, on the plane, time seems to stop momentarily. I love plane rides. The longer the better. There is no connection to the outside world, I am free of all responsibilities. It is a moment of temporary inaction, where I can linger and reflect on myself. Only when I’m on a plane do I really feel that I am leaving to go somewhere foreign. The plane is a temporary home, full of strangers, where people speak different languages. Even though I am surrounded by people, I feel isolated and detached. When I’m flying, I can hide from all my responsibilities and truly feel reality.
“Why am I going to live in a foreign place?” This question is something I ask myself everyday. I think each new destination is a catalyst for me to discover different things about myself, and to learn about others. The different people I am with, the culture and the food allows me to discover and experience more. When I am too stable in anything, I become so comfortable that I learn and see less in a way. Always seeing things that are not familiar makes life much more interesting.
I left home for college eager to learn. After five years I realized that if I had studied at home, I would not have become who I am today. The place made me more independent. Without the protection and care of my biological family, I found new families of peers. During holidays we would gather for our “Orphan dinners.”
I only graduated from college a year ago and I recently revisited the city I lived in for five years. I went to the café I used to go to, the building I spent most of my time in, and the old homes I lived in, but they all felt so empty. The city is no longer the city I lived in. The people I knew are no longer there. Those places live in my memory now, existing as happy thoughts.
I am still living abroad and I don’t know where I am going next. I cannot make up my mind whether I am happy or sad, it changes by the day. But I am happy that I have done this. I have learnt and seen so much. Hopefully on my next long plane ride, I’ll have time to reflect, and discover what I want to do next. Until then…