We were both silent. Robyn read a book, and I thought about our visit to Sarawak. During our stay I had a familiar sensation in my stomach, the one we all get when we return to a familiar and loved place. I felt as though I had “come home.” If a two-week visit was so full of wonderfully strange events, what would it be like to live in Sarawak? I wanted to find out and made the decision to return. I didn’t know when, but I knew I would come back to search for that highland valley.
— Eric Hansen, Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo
Someone hold me. I think my heart is bursting with feelings revived and spilling over from one man’s words, written in 1988. Could he ever have guessed? In the summer of 2012, one girl echoed his sentiments about this same place – even if the Sarawak brought to life through his words and that in my memories are strikingly different.
Two and half years ago, when I parted ways with the place for the first time after ten eventful and defining weeks, I made a promise to myself: I’d return there eventually. A year and a half ago, when I made the decision to continue to grad school, I told myself: remember, keep your earlier promise. Now here I am in early 2015, five months shy from leaving Stateside and schooling life for good – at least five years, if my near-term goal stays intact – and… so close now, to doing right by that.
I was sitting in a café this afternoon – a rare, lazy Monday afternoon – sipping a delicious cup of velvety almond iced tea with a book in hand when it occurred to me, plain as day, I’m going to miss this someday. I had another thought as I stood on the sidewalk waiting to cross the street, paying close attention to that split second when the light turned from red to green; I’m really going to miss this someday.
This independence I’ve come to enjoy, this freedom to be by myself doing whatever that I want and live however, any which way, that I want to. I dropped by the bakery that I usually frequent and on a whim, purchased a cheesecake – a treat, because today’s just one of those days. As I tucked my hands deep into the pockets of my dark blue trench coat and paid attention to the soft thud of my boots with each step that I took, I thought, one day in the distant future when I am tired, spent, and frustrated at my lot in life, I’m going to miss my time here – I might even wish to have it back.
Humans beings are fickle; that’s just the way we are.
But for now I’ve done enough running. I’ve done enough sights and seeing. I’ve received enough respite from colorful sunsets and comforted myself plenty from the gentle breezes of the four seasons. I’ve experienced my desired share of youthful fun and childhood dreams. Two years ago, where I was perpetually hungry for the world and thirsty for the secrets that it kept hidden from me unless I made the effort to unravel them, now I’m impatient for a new deep; to return. Build a life properly somewhere, learn to settle in one place for longer than a couple of years. Try.
Goodbye to coming-of-age; it’s about damn time I do some growing up.
I know it’s a big bad world out there and someday in the distant future I’m going to have many days where I’ll yearn for the clock to rewind, possibly even pleading, to have this moment of carefree and contentment back. When that someday comes I hope I’ll retrieve this day from my heart’s compartment and hold it close to my chest, reminiscing a time and place no longer within my reach in memory and distance. I hope I’ll be gentle and kind to myself on days when it’s harder to move forward. Most of all, I hope that even if I’ll look back with longing, I’ll still face forward with acceptance.
Even the most beautiful flower in the world wilt, likewise even the best times of our lives meet their endings. I can’t say I’m ready, but it’s about damn time, simple as that.
Why do you go away?
So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.
— Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
…the girl who went away is ready to return. I want to grant that promise I made with myself years ago. I might have forgotten that once, but I haven’t forgotten since. I’m going to miss this place someday, but funny, today it’s a different one that I yearn for.