I moved to a new city for college with an appetite to learn, thrive, and succeed. My mom had just passed away from cancer the month before, and when mortality unveils in your face, you learn quickly to cherish time. I was eager for change, and hopeful for kindness and warmth in a new chapter of life; San Diego awaited me with just that.
The city itself is colorful with humble tendencies. I loved to meander through the eclectic neighborhood of South Park, traverse the art and cultural sites of Balboa Park, dine for Ethiopian, Somali and Vietnamese in City Heights, or literally bake in the natural desert terrain. There were so much happening on the community level.
At school, I majored in art history and international studies, where local and international cultures were regular topics of discussion. I grabbed at every interesting I could find. By my last year of college, as much of my time was spent either flitting about the various San Diego communities, or buried in my honor’s thesis writing at Rebecca’s, I traveled thousands of miles through hundreds of pages of text and learned vicariously through new friends. My keenness to explore new places and my craving to submerge in new cultures abroad amplified.
My third and last year, I had an opportunity to move.
My first stop was Madrid where I spent a summer getting into a rhythm of café con leche for breakfast, and Spanish tortilla for lunch and dinner. After class, I purposefully ventured into neighborhoods where art, design, culture, and boutiques intersected with local culture. I steered away from main touristic attractions in exchange for local adventures. Many days, I would weave through labyrinthine streets without a plan, and discover spectacular findings at the end.
When I moved to China, this philosophy only deepened.
I explored with an open heart and open mind through new streets and inhaled for new types of experiences. I must say, not all of them were are peachy-keen, but I fell in love with the complex and dynamic society I studied in college.
On days where I want to scream, “Why am I still here!?!?” I seek those anchors of mine who imbue positivity, cheer and confidence. As Crystal says, “when you’re thousands of miles away from what’s familiar, you have to rely on the people who really get you.” When you let your guard down, keep your heart open, you’ll be surprised how people can drift into your life and do just that.
Being twenty-something and having spent the majority of my adult life traversing new terrains in outside lands, my propensity to drift into experiences allowed me to create a physical and emotional habitat that has turned numerous foreign places into incredibly meaningful homes. And in one’s memory, those places will always remain that way.