It has been about a month since I returned to my normal life in California — a month since the excitement of first embraces and holidays have passed, a month since the initial rush of seeing old freeways and street-signs. The walk from my apartment to campus is now a familiar one — the smooth pavement, the sky’s shade of blue, and impatience of traffic signals are all part of a routine.
There is an uncanny sensation in returning home and seeing that everything is the same, just how you left it. It’s almost devastating. You expect everything to be different. You expect the worlds you have built within yourself to change the world you temporarily left behind. You expect to return to saturated colours and louder sounds and a bolder setting. (You wait to finish this travel blog project for the same reason someone delays last words — to utter words of parting is to admit defeat over time, to understand that this thing you love is a part of the past)
But home is, as it always was, home. As it existed in your memories.The same eucalyptus trees sprawl across the sky. The fountain continues to hint towards infinity; it lies in the corner a park unaware of the microcosm that surround it, in a park with trees that grow and grow and grow.
If I close my eyes, I can see Edinburgh. I see every corner, every close, every serpentine curve of the old medieval streets. If I close my eyes, I can still remember what it looked like to go into the city every day. I still remember which bus to keep an eye out for, how they always seems to arrive in bunches; if you missed the #7, you probably missed the you missed the the #8, the #37, and the #49 too. I recall the musicality of voices I would hear on the bus — the cadences in the dialogues I would overhear, the tension in the stories and jokes. (A small regret I harbour—listening to my own music too much. I wish I listened to the sounds around me more). I remember weaving in between crowds on narrow sidewalks and the grey that the sky would wear most days. I remember the cobbled paths leading to the library; an unevenness that was, at times, frustrating. At other times, it was reminder to my feet that I was in unfamiliar terrain, I was living in a city older than anything I have ever loved or known in my home country, a city whose bustling energy and teeming brilliance precedes me and will continue after me.
Rather than leaving parts of myself in Edinburgh, I think I brought parts of Edinburgh back home. We imagine that when we leave a city, we leave ourselves behind. I don’t think that is the case anymore. I believe we keep those cities with us. We keep small details that we pack in the heavy suitcases of our mind, tucked in between the postcards and the dog-eared books. I did this and carried all memories and possessions in several overweight luggage back to California, only brought back successfully by miracle.
When we leave behind what we know and love, these are the outcomes we hope to find. We hope to find something great and let it change us. We hope to return with castles and history and music built into the foundation of our hearts.
The painful thing about my life abroad is my vivid realisation that I can never be in two places at once. Living in Edinburgh brought out this inner conflict within myself -- a conflict I believe I will spend the rest of my days fighting. It is a battle between the two lives -- one of adventure, writing, and traveling and another of comfort, laughter, love.I was going to be incomplete either way. It is painful and terrifying, but I find comfort in one thought.
Maybe no one is in one place at a singular time. I don't think I can be anymore. When I look up, I sometime don’t see blue — I am instead reminded that the sky looked the same in Greece when I had the opportunity to be there. I don’t feel the humid wind or summer rain — I instead return to Malaysia at the age of six years old, standing outside with the clothes lines, letting the wind blow through hanging sheets and being my supplement for wings. Sometimes when I make tea, I get it right. Sometimes, it tastes like how it did on cold mornings in Scotland when my tea was the most consistent detail of amy life. Sometimes, even in California, the winter sneaks up on me. Sometimes, the sun will shine directly into my window and hit me in the face — urging me out of bed. In those early mornings when I wake up in disheveled fog, I will forget where I am. The sun will awaken me personally, forcing me to begin living this blessed and cursed life -- a life which lacks compass but is rich with open road.
I wrote the majority of this in January, but never wanted to finish it. For whatever reason, this godforsaken hour (1:36 AM) in early March was the right time. This writing project was a scary task for me, but thanks for reading along if you did at all. I don't know what I will put my writing out there again, but I hope it is sometime soon, and I hope it will be read. Regardless, someday, there will be more.