In three weeks, we will be leaving the city we’ve called home since 2006. It feels like a permanent move, although in this day and age, I’m not sure how long permanent really is.
I’ve picked up and moved far, far away twice in my life. The first time was in the summer of 1995, from a place where I spoke the language and grew up surrounded by family and friends, to a foreign land where I barely understood my teacher’s heavy Australian accent and had zero friends. Even though it was a long time ago, I remember that day in July when I hugged my grandmother goodbye in her big front yard. I remember pulling away in my uncle’s car, turning around to wave, and feeling a mixture of excitement, sadness, and anxiety, but not really understanding what it all meant. As a kid, it was unfathomable to me that my life was going to be tremendously different, and that there were going to be challenges I never knew ahead of me. It really is true that we are much more adaptable creatures when we are young. My mom tells me that I cried a few times in the first few months we spent in Canada, but I think I’ve blocked it out. I didn’t have any friends when school started, so I used to sit on my own in the bathroom stalls during recess to hide from the duty teachers and the groups of girls huddled on the playground. When finally one of the girls took pity on me and invited me to her birthday party, it was December. However, when I think back, I think of happy things like eventually understanding my teacher and her Australian accent. I think of moving at the end of our first year in Canada to a new school where I had a fresh start: people here didn’t know that I didn’t understand English only ten months ago! I think of my last year of elementary school as a year where I made lots of friends and got life back on track just like the way it used to feel in Taiwan – and it felt fantastic.
The last time I said goodbye, it didn’t feel permanent – partly because I didn’t want it to be. Unbeknownst to all of us then, it will be another nine years before I even have a chance to slow down and consider Vancouver as a synonym to “home” again. That morning, we all woke up in the dark, and I’m still touched (and surprised) that many of my friends rose with me. We shuffled around silently in my old house, and with my two suitcases crammed with bare necessities, set off for the airport at dawn in three separate cars. I was moving away for school, it wasn’t going to be long before I came home for Christmas. This was still home, where I would return every time I had a break. Except, it didn’t really turn out that way. As time wore on I stopped coming back, because tickets were expensive, breaks were short, and I wanted to see the world. I’ve made a point to try to visit at least twice a year, but it hasn’t always happened according to plan. I became a unit of “we”, then jobs came along and vacation days became a prized rarity, and “we” began planning vacations around all the different corners of the world where our families are. So very quietly, without anyone really noticing or pinpointing an exact date, it turned into a permanent move.
And now, officially, a third one on its way.
Something’s different this time. This time, I’m completely in charge, and it frightens me. The first time, I wasn’t a decision maker, although my sister and I were huge factors in the decision. The second time, it was my decision, influenced heavily by incentives ahead, and what felt like a very limited number of options given the criteria I had set for myself. It didn’t feel like a decision; it felt like a natural progression in my life. This time, this time the world’s wide open ahead of me, and I can just as easily stay here as I can move, yet I’ve insisted, and encouraged, and rallied for this day since 2006.
So here we are. Me, feeling exactly like I did in 1995: excited, sad, and anxious. And probably still very naive of what the consequences of this move will be in the years to come. Nevertheless, plunging ahead.
Wish us luck.