Taipei City

10 Aug 2018

Dear Home,

I’m sorry to have denied your rightful title for so long. I don’t think I’ve ever loved you till recently: how comfortable you have grown. You were this disgusting humid prison that I felt stuck on for the last seventeen years of my life. I hated your sauna-like summers, rainy days that made umbrellas obsolete, and snowless winters. What’s worse was, all the friends I grew up with never seemed to want to stay with me on your uneventful land. Summers have always been the most bitter times of fake freedom.

Still, I know you like the back of my hand. I’ve lived in ten different houses just within the city—one time I had no clue where our new place was coming back from the dorms in Taichung. Despite all the moves, my favorite corners of you never seemed to change. I also began to realize that your alleys are more numerous than I can ever walk around.

So when I first realized I would be stuck with you for university, I was in so much denial. Then I gave myself a slap in the face and asked myself to really learn you better. What was supposed to be four-ish years turned to five. I still can’t write a smooth essay in Mandarin or handwrite anything more than a self-introduction.I never went on that exchange that I dreamed of since freshman year because I decided that roots take time to grow. I’d like to think the years leading up to university was the time my seed was being sown, the roots took a while but it took the shape of the people I have grown to love.

I was so ready to be out of here. Seventeen years, too long—I’ve muttered for ages—but even the most hated home is still a home. Now that I know that you’re going to be officially kicking me out by the end of the coming December, I’m just bitter. I’m angry that I’m not allowed to live a cushy life where I get to grow old in the same old city. I’m angry at the thought of the person described in the last sentence. I cannot imagine a life where I don’t move around but, all at the same time, I dream of a scenario where I can just stay, have three cats, build a little house with a pool. My friend and I were discussing the definition of a “normal” life. We both agreed that we’d hate it.

So as much as I think I hate you, I probably don’t. It’s kind of like Lady Bird. Sometimes I love a film for all the stupid reasons but this one isn’t one of those. She reminds me of the time I cried over the cost of universities overseas. She reminds me of the time I was very adamant about people spelling my name with a -ie, not a -y (I still am). She reminds me of every little interactions I had with umma over the last few years. She reminds me that I want to uproot everything and move away. She reminds me that I’ll miss you infinitely when I’m gone.

“Don’t you think maybe they’re the same thing? Love and attention?” Sister Sarah Jones asked Lady Bird.

I guess I do pay attention to you, Taipei. I know you’ll most definitely rain on that one day I forgot to bring an umbrella out. I know the metro will squish me into a panini 9-10 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. I know that you never send me 251 at the right time but if a 236 passes then 251 is just on its way. I know all the good deals the fabric market. I know that Google maps doesn’t know you better than I do, sometimes. I know that there are three 7-11s on that street within walking distance from each other. I know all the shortcuts around the streets of Gongguan, Shida, and Ximen. I know the best food stands at the oldest night market. I know that you keep changing that sometimes it’s hard for me to keep track.

In paradoxes, there are paradigms. My whole life has been a kind of a paradox surrounded by this paradigm called love. I know I’m called to be a steward to the relationships in this place I still don’t want to admit as home. It’s hard to grasp that a place could be a home. I also know that I’m called to be a pioneer, to explore. Both of these identities are clashing into something I don’t know how to deal with. I’m ready to leave yet I don’t want to let go. I want to stay angry and bitter so I can just up and leave but I can’t hold a grudge against the place I first grew roots.

If I were to make a list of things I don’t understand right now, I wouldn’t even know where to start. Life doesn’t seem to be about making lists but I keep constructing this endless spiral then I have to tell myself to stop—breathe. Then I see Taipei 101, it wasn’t even there when I first came here. It gives me just a little comfort that homes are many, and I’m proud to call you the city I grew up in.