Tag Archives: Moving

Back to the Beginning

I left Singapore's Changi Airport this morning after 32.5 hours of travel. Half an hour later, I arrived at the hotel where I'll be staying for a couple days and took a shower in the pool locker room because my room wasn't ready. My primary objective for the afternoon was to stay outside as much as possible in order to keep myself awake and to let natural melatonin do its thing.

Immediately upon leaving the airport, I realized a year away means a lot in terms of memory. For example, I'd forgotten that they drive on the left side of the road here, a legacy of British colonialism. I forgot that no one knows how to walk in a straight line, that people actually wait for the crosswalk light to change before crossing the street, and that escalators are for standing (strictly on the left, of course). Additionally, I forgot that you tap your subway card on the way in and on the way out to calculate the fare and I forgot the subway map altogether.

So many people smoke cigarettes, which I'd also forgotten, and it's gross. And yet, I knew exactly where to find the closest money changer and where to get a new SIM card. I remembered the location of certain stores in a mall I used to frequent and was able to recognize new ones.

It's weird that I was gone for a year . . . and it's weird that I was gone for only a year.

I felt somewhat similarly in Rochester this summer. There were certain things about driving around town that I'd just forgotten. I'd forgotten how certain neighborhoods blend into each other and the names of different streets that I used to know. It's unsettling that after spending so much of my life in that one place, a lot of it was gone, replaced by new pertinent information like all the local and express stops on the 4, 5, 6 trains in New York.

I expect that it's going to be the same in Singapore for a little while. There's definitely some adjusting to do, but it feels good to back.

Thank You Note

Eleven months ago, I wrote a note to a crying stranger in a café, assuring her that her troubles would pass and that she was not alone. You can do it, I wrote.

A week later, I needed a kind stranger to write me a note, promising me that I was not alone, that my troubles would pass, that everything would be okay.

More than a few kind strangers entered my life this year; they grew into kind friends.

I’m at my parents’ house in Rochester, enveloped by a quiet joy, a delight at having my family all together. There’s a warm bubble somewhere just above my heart, noticeable despite a slight constriction in my chest. In a few days, I’ll be getting on a plane with my two checked bags, a carry-on bag, and a backpack to move back to Singapore, a place that I love and still call home. I’m not sleeping well, which must mean I’m nervous.

And just like last time and the time before, it’s bittersweet. I think it always will be.

Before I go, I want to thank everyone who has supported me through a year fraught with personal challenges. With their support, I learned a lot about myself, confronted some demons I didn’t know I had, and gained a sense of what I want and what I’m looking for.

So, I want to say thank you.

To the friend who sat with me for hours to find an apartment, figure out the next steps, and forced me to literally get up, get dressed, and get out;

to the friend who let me be sad and supplied me with wine and cheese to help the sadness go down a little easier;

to the friend who held me when “New York City” by The Chainsmokers filled the LA Convention Center;

to everyone who told me to talk to a therapist and to my roommate who gave me the last push in that direction;

to the therapist who let me talk and assured me that that I’m doing okay at this thing called life and that I’m allowed to listen to myself;

to the friends who called on Skype and over the phone to remind me that they may be far away, but they’re here;

to the colleagues who put a smile on my face every single day, made me look forward to coming to work, became my friends and confidants, taught me about resilience and overcoming adversity, and gave me the safest, most nurturing place to be when I had nowhere else to go;

to the students whose questions pushed me to rethink schools, education, and my plans for the future;

to the UES carpool squad who became my reason for getting out of bed nearly every day for the first few months of school and for friendship, political solidarity, and Starbucks Fridays;

to my sister and brother who checked in on me, came to visit, and reminded me that my “built-in friends” are really never going anywhere;

to my parents who showed me the world;

thank you.

Thank you all so much.

Love,

Rebecca Michelle

 

(Dis)connection

I’ve been at a loss for words lately. I’ve been doing a lot of writing but abandoning drafts half formed, a lot of thinking but letting the thoughts go before uncovering them, playing with them, sharing them. I finished three (or was it four?) books this week, hoping their words would color the ideas I can’t seem to articulate.

A total sense of detachment from my own thoughts is strange. It’s like I’m watching myself try to figure out what I want to say and how I want to say it, staring out the windows of this café, half-noticing the people walking across the street. My own thoughts float lazily back to me, reminders that they’re there if I want to find them, introduce them to each other, engage with whatever is tugging at the back of my mind.

I’m an observer to my own mind. I’m lucid dreaming while awake.

On the surface, I’m preoccupied with a field trip, modified school schedules, papers to grade, end-of-year projects to implement. I can’t stop reading about healthcare and I can’t shake a deep sense of insecurity that I can’t quite place.

Oddly, however, discounting the healthcare travesty for the moment, it’s been a truly wonderful week. School was busy and productive and I laughed a lot. There was also a lot of socializing, which, while typical of my life in general, has not been typical of my life in New York. As usual when things happen, everything is happening all at once.

And that leaves me nostalgic.

I’m moving again over the summer (details on that after three more pieces of paper are finalized and signed) and that means starting over. When I know I’m about to say goodbye, I grow reluctant to do it. I grow more forgiving of the irritations and inconveniences I encounter, and begin to see them as endearing idiosyncrasies rather than sources of frustrations. I become aware of opportunities I haven’t taken, people I haven’t truly gotten to know, foods I haven’t tried, neighborhoods I haven’t explored, music I haven’t heard, sights I haven’t seen. As I make preparations to move for the fourth time in as many years, I begin to drag my feet, making mental (and sometimes physical) notes of what I’ll miss.

It’s never easy to leave.

And sometimes, it’s equally difficult to go.

I’ve learned that there’s a difference between leaving and going. The former means packing a life into boxes, hugging the people who have gone from being strangers to being friends, leaving the keys on the table, and waving goodbye. It’s a deliberate decision to stop turning back. It’s an exhale, a sigh, a conclusion. The latter is the first step forward, checking the time and setting the GPS, or handing over a passport to gate agents. It’s about deciding to take a chance, a gamble, a deep inhale. In going somewhere new, you’re supposed to be ready for anything. Otherwise, why go?

I didn’t do any of that when I moved to New York. I turned around in Singapore’s Changi Airport one more time after clearing passport control, and that was when I knew I was heading down a road leading to a very different future than the one I hadn’t admitted I was hoping for.

My mind has been spinning at night, which is apparent when I wake up before my alarm, when I look at my watch at the end of a run, when my dreams are fragments of conversations not had. I’m floating in between a life I might have had and a life I hope to have. Maybe you just weren’t ready, a friend suggested yesterday. I think she’s right.

What if I’m never ready? What if, now that I know what I’m looking for (including, not limited to, and largely involving authentic connection and collaboration with those around me) and what I want to do (change the world), none of it ever comes to fruition?

That’s the big step forward I mentioned earlier. It’s admitting what I’m looking for and want to do and committing to that. It’s dedicating my actions, relationships, and career to those things rather than trying to figure out what those things are. And it’s daunting because failure, readjustment, modification, and heartbreak are all likely along the road ahead.

But so are success, achievement, happiness, and love.

Because that’s what living means. As it has been. As it will be.

There’s no stopping in place because places don’t stop. There’s no turning back time because time can’t turn. There are no crystal balls, nothing foretold, foreknown, or predetermined. There are roads, as Dante and Frost said, and some roads are less traveled.

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