One thing I have long envied from other people is the feeling of having a hometown. There comes a point in high school as graduation approaches when students and teachers take the time to give sentimental speeches to the graduating seniors. Many of these consist of tales about how they’ve known the person since kindergarten, or reminiscing about the time they first became best friends during their freshman year.
I, on the other hand, have never stayed at one school for longer than two years.
I scroll through my news feed these days and see those same five girls from the fifth grade still regularly in touch and best friends. I see that girl who was a senior when I was a sophomore who is about to have a baby, with her high school friends still at her side throwing her a baby shower. I see that squad of boys & girls I knew as a child who have practically been friends since they were in the womb. My high school friends still going out to the same places I used to love going to.
Even here, in my present school, I listen to my classmates tell me about their hometowns and classmates and childhood friends and how excited they are to go home for vacation to see them.
Don’t get me wrong; I am looking forward to going home just as much. But not the same way they are.
They go home to mom, dad, brother, sister, grandma, grandpa, cousins, aunt, uncle, best friends, acquaintances, classmates, house they grew up in, favorite hang out spot, church, old school; all in one place.
I grew up in an apartment. When I was a child, the 3-story building felt to me like a palace. When my parents immigrated the family to the U.S., they also made the choice to raise my brother and I far from the comfort of having nearby relatives. At some point, I remember telling my mom, “Mommy, I wish that all our family in the Philippines and all over the world could own this whole apartment and we could all live here together!”
I remember really believing that my wish could come true. I can only imagine how much my innocent words broke my mother’s heart.
In college, it’s assumed in every new introduction for someone to ask you where you’re from. I struggled with this, at first.
“Taga asa ka?” (Where are you from?)
“Ah, uhm. Nidako ko sa States. Sa California. Pero, taga Zamboanga na ako karon. Heh.” (Ah, uhm. I grew up in the States, in California. But, I’m from Zamboanga now. Heh.”)
They find out I’m from someplace far away, so a dozen different questions ensue. I don’t mind, really. Of course they’re curious.
I do mind, however, when I notice that the way they treat me is significantly different when they find out where I’m from.
Now, I choose to be more present.
“Taga asa ka?”
No obscure questions asked. Just like that.
Yes, I grew up in America, but that is in the past. It’s still a part of who I am, but now I am from Zamboanga City. Because that is where my family is.
So, all the people all I love and all the places I cherish are scattered on different corners of the earth. The distance cultivates a longing that eventually leads to loneliness. That is why I envy people who can go to one place and have it all. However, my envy is eradicated when I put my situation into perspective.
I have no doubt that there is someone out there who would envy me, too. Because distance is beautiful, and being far from someone or something makes them more valuable and makes you appreciate life more. Also, having experienced living in different places and cultures and people, I like to believe I am becoming a more well-rounded individual.
I, truly am thankful for the distance, and the way everything is, because I know that it’s just one of God’s ways of molding me into woman after His heart.