I had a moment of realization the other day:
When I’m back in Malaysia for good in five months’ time, the one thing I’ll undoubtedly miss about my six years in the US is the international breadth of my friendship circle. We aren’t representative of all things about our homes but even so, it’s like I’ve cracked open a large sliver of the world that mostly exists in my mind through countless conversations that I have accumulated over the years. In each, I’ve found myself as a speaker, listener, oftentimes both, but always – storyteller.
Through their lenses, limited though theirs may be just like mine is, I’ve been able to glimpse into an otherwise mentally untouched world from various perspectives and viewpoints. That’s undoubtedly priceless because in getting to know them, I’ve also gotten to know just how these places that they call home have intrinsically shaped them and outwardly influenced them. By painting an image of themselves, they’ve unconsciously unwrapped and presented images of their homes to me. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been given the opportunity to not just put on my thinking and curious hat but also that of a traveler; I am an explorer in the nooks and corners of instances and moments which are permanently etched in other people’s minds.
The other day though, this realization hit me with a pang of sadness.
There’s a lot of things to be grateful about home – I chose to return, after all – but I’ll be honest that lately I wonder, worried and panic-stricken, if I’ll eventually, maybe even quickly, grow tired and frustrated of the largely homogenous society. I’ll miss this diversity for sure, you know? But on second thought, in order to continue to get to know the greater world — we’ve got to first know ours and to know it best; you’ve got to go home and become an explorer of your own backyard in order to be able to set off into the sunset again with a travel pack full of stories.
But I’ll miss this (global) diversity, no doubt. Most of these conversations – six years’ worth from dozens of individuals with colorful, unique stories of their own! – have been mentally stimulating and contextually rich that some nights I lay awake in bed, my mind so saturated with details of a place I’ve never physically traveled to, people I’ve no way to connect with through their mother tongue, and yet feel so much for.
How would I have turned out, had the past six years not happen? Can I confidently say that I would still turn out this way?
I don’t believe that one needs to physically be away in order to view the world differently because I’ve met just as many people who have traveled far and wide, have an impressive laundry list of experiences acquired from different world cultures …and yet they remain the same, exactly the same individuals even after all those traveling miles collected. When I talk to them or scroll through their Facebook feed, they sound exactly like when I last met them – two, three, sometimes even more years ago. It makes me think, all this richness and miles and then what? So what?
So no, I don’t actually believe that one needs to physically travel the world in order to obtain a modified pair of lenses in which to see the greater world, but I admit that if you allow yourself to see the world with not just your God-given pair of eyes but also God-gifted heart and soul, wherever that you are and whoever you’re with — it’s enriching. It’s humbling. You are all the better for it. I understand this now, which is why I don’t think I can say I’d still turn out this way if the past six years didn’t happen.
My window of perspectives… I can’t say that it’s wider or deeper now, not necessarily and not yet, but the horizon — it looks different from here.
How far we all come. How far we all come away from ourselves. So far, so much between, you can never go home again. You can go home, it’s good to go home, but you never really get all the way home again in your life. And what’s it all for? All I tried to be, all I ever wanted and went away for, what’s it all for?
— James Agee, A Death in the Family
Disclaimer: As usual, all Incidental Comics featured here are Grant Snider’s work.