Written by Riri Goei
Today, I thought about how much I miss Seattle.
I thought about how much I miss that city of green and blue, with its evergreen trees and gloomy skies. I miss the cold, the fog, and the continuous patter of rain. I miss the eternal smell of coffee that wafts through every corner of the busy, tourist-filled streets. I miss the feeling of being minuscule as I walked around downtown and had the tall office buildings tower over me. I miss the smell of fresh-cut flowers and the bellows of enthusiastic fishmongers as I trudged down the streets to Pike Place Market. I miss the noise of the tourists, the sound of a thousand footsteps on the pavement, and the laughter that seems to echo all around you. I miss leaning against the pier and feasting my eyes on the waterfront. The glittering ocean; the pale, immobile boats; the seaside restaurants; and the majestic Ferris wheel.
Yes, I miss all that. I miss the bustling city, and though it’s hard to believe, I miss the weather. Another thing that I do miss is the people that I left behind.
There are friends. There are best friends. And then there are friends who deserve to be called family. That’s exactly what the friends I left behind at Seattle are – family. This array of people, this odd group of boys and girls, this mix-and-match of personalities, is my family a thousand miles away from home.
How could they not be? They were the ones who were there when I first landed on this strange country, very much alone, half the globe away from familiarity. They were the ones who reached out and invited me into their warmth and comfort. They were the ones who put a smile on my face when I thought I had no one at my corner. They were the ones who held me and patted me on the back when tears streamed down my face. They were the ones who witnessed me crumbling to the ground and falling into a black hole of despair. The ones who had seen the shadow that hung over my bright smile, and the ones who knew the extent of my rage and grief.
They were also the ones who helped me pick up the pieces of my heart when they were scattered on the ground. They picked me up and dusted me off when I thought I would never get back on my feet again. They embraced me when I expected scorn and judgment. They saved me from myself when my head whispered to me I was never good enough. They praised me when all I knew was failure.
But most importantly, they showed me I was capable of being loved for who I am.
Yes, these odd mixture of people did all these for me in the short two years that my path crossed theirs. After everything we had been through, after everything we had shared, all those moments of beauty and ugliness and fury and terror and love, how could they possibly not be family to me?
These people have a special place in my heart. Maybe that is why it hurt terribly when I had to step on that plane and turn my back against them. Maybe that is why tears fell whenever I found myself alone that first few months in my new room in California. Whenever I recalled my old life in Seattle, I did so with such a profound fondness that my emotions turned my fate into bitter anger. Why did I have to move here, in this desolate, hot, and unfriendly city? Why wasn’t I surrounded by my friends, people who I knew genuinely loved me, and found myself in the acquaintance of strangers instead? Why was I taken away from those who knew me best, and instead found myself making small talk with people who did not know who I really was?
It was hard. It was a painful struggle. It was real dedication not to look back and compare every single detail of my new life with my old one. It was disheartening to say, “My friends back home in Seattle“, and stop and remind myself that Seattle is not home anymore; San Jose is home now. It was dispiriting to scroll through endless pictures of your old friends in social media, reminiscing the times you were seated next to them in that dinner table only a few months ago. It was painful to go from seeing someone’s face and hearing them talk every day, to being content with a few lines of text messages. It was difficult. It was frustrating.
But it was possible.
The transition was rough and troublesome, but in the end I did not even realize I had already slipped into a new comfort zone in California. I found new friends. They are a different sort of oddities, a rarer bunch of people gathered together. They are older, and I gained wisdom from our age gap. They are wiser, and they offer me new perspectives on my life as I step into the brink of adulthood. They are genuine, caring, and filled with incredible warmth and love. They, too, witnessed every possible side of me there is – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the terrifying. And just like my old friends, they, too, embrace me and teach me the meaning of self-worth. They hold my hand when it gets a little harder to breathe. They crawl with me when it’s hard for me to walk. They sit beside me when everything feels dark and cold.
They promised they would be there for me from the start. And so far, they have kept that promise. Slowly, carefully, I let them in. Shyly, I start calling them family. And family, they are. It seems I have grown a fresh, new pair of hearts for my Californian family. I have extended the scope of my love and my acceptance. I have come to realize that it is truly, entirely possible to belong to two places at the same time. To love two kinds of families at the same time, unfailingly and without difference.
And to be able to call two beautiful places, “home.”