Yesterday afternoon I took Dad out for an ice-kacang date – I’m a true blue Malaysian, after all – and while discussing about our upcoming trip to London and Edinburgh in September, we also spoke about our respective 6-8 years in America.
He spoke of the scenic drive when recalling the bus ride he took to visit Oxford from London in the late 2000s during his first visit to the city. “Reminded me of those long road trips across the Midwest,” he said. “But weren’t those just… mostly cornfields?” I countered with a puzzled expression. “Yeah, but it was unlike anything I’d ever seen then, you know? Especially during winters when the fields would blanketed white… a sight unlike anything I’d glimpsed before,” he recalled with a sigh. I nodded my head in understanding. “I spent more years in the States, double, than in Indonesia. Both are special, but…” Another pause. “…I think I will always reek of nostalgia at the sight and thought of those years in America.”
My heart, I thought to myself, is so much like his.
A confession: this year, I have been telling myself for the umpteenth time, Let the past go.
Let the past go.
Because I understand that the present is here, back on this side of the world where myself and my stories are rooted, and I also know this – I am happier here. My present life, for all the voids that continue to be agape, is one I dearly love and appreciate. I am at ease, internally and in general. Fulfilled. My life now is small, but extremely valuable.
Those years in America were valuable too – but they reek of constant unease. They were six defining years, but they were also six restless years. Whenever I look back at those years – they were, in retrospect, years of being in constant mindless search as part of the process of becoming. Lonely, difficult ones. They were borrowed and I knew that – yet I grasped desperately at them. I lost them, I knew that too. I was happy, but always uneasy.
When I look back the last two years of my time there in Stanford, California – my heart and head would hurt worse than whenever memories of Philly would pop up. Those were lonely, difficult and drowning years. They were two long years which were necessary and I appreciated them from a distance, literally and spatially, but any attempts to relive still hurt. California in my memory is a wispy kind of beautiful; I would look back and wish I was more mentally mature to enjoy it.
Still, even so.
“…I think I will always reek of nostalgia at the sight and thought of those years in America.”