Dear Auntie J,
Yes now I understand.
Now I get it, the things you had to go through, which my mother (your sister) thought so little of:
… the confusion, the feeling of being lost in a sea of strangers …
… the language barriers, a wall so vast and deep because it is not only about words but more about history, culture and things left unsaid …
… adjusting to a different climate whether too hot or too cold, looking for your Goldilocks-zone and never quite finding it …
… having plenty of material stuff but not having enough, because “enough” meant having someone you love share all that plenty-ness with; unfortunately the ones you love are oceans of miles away …
… worrying and wondering about a distant land you left behind and dealing with the constant question “Did I do the right thing?” Leaving was a matter of survival, but still you have your doubts …
…. the feeling that your life is on hold. Because you are neither here nor there. You are not a tourist, but you are not a “resident” either.
I get it now. I get the allure of wanting to acquire citizenship in a foreign country to get a sense of belonging. Because eventually you feel that your own will not welcome you with open arms. Or the open arms are a sham, was only extended to demand something from you.
I get it now. Why you felt I was wasting my life back home. You see: I still think of it as home. I wonder, after all these years, how you think of it.
I get it now. The balikbayan boxes, the infrequent calls, the seemingly superficial mails (because it really is hard to put into words this feeling of displacement, of having betrayed something or having been let down, of not knowing who to talk to or how to talk about the deepest fears of your heart, of crying and feeling stupid because, hey, you have all this money, so why the tears?)
I get it now. And I am wondering whether to feel happy for us. Or sorry.
It is masochism, I know … but loving something frequently is.
And I know I love the land of my birth. Leaving was a pain. The pain was (is) palpable, and mostly felt in the wee silences of the morning or before sleeping when the routines of work are over.
It effing hurts to have left.
But I know … it would have hurt so much more to have stayed.