I am back in my parents’ house, a place where I spent my adolescent years. This place is as close to home as it gets for me. A part of being a globetrotter is you move, a lot. I am going on my 14th move in 8 years. Luckily, my parents’ home serves as an excellent storage space. True to form, I went through my stuff to decide what precious items will again make it into two 50-lb bags (side note: if you ever need help with packing, I am your person).
And then, I found boxes of cards, letters, pictures from a part of my life that I have for the most part forgotten. No one wants to remember their adolescent years, and mine was made more awkward by the fact I was trying so desperately to be “white” as to fit in. It was truly incredible to see what a different person I have become over the past 10 years. I cringed a lot as I went through the pictures, but I smiled a great deal when I came across letters from friends in Taiwan.
Many of my friends have told me that I am great at keeping in touch. Come to think of it, I’ve had a lot of practice. When my peers were folding up notes to pass to each other in middle school, I was writing letters to my friends in Taiwan. This was the time before email, Facebook, iMessenger, WhatsApp (god, I sound ancient). Email has made letter writing much more rare, but I still try to do it when I can. Who doesn’t love getting snail mail?
As I globe-trot around the world, it’s so easy for each amazing experience to feel like a dream. All the moving around also makes me feel awfully rootless. Keeping in touch with friends is my way of holding onto each experience, and I set roots through these friendships. This quote from Harvard Business Review’s piece titled, “Moving Around Without Losing Your Roots” sums it up aptly:
Yet home need not always be a place. It can be a territory, a relationship, a craft, a way of expression. Home is an experience of belonging, a feeling of being whole and known, sometimes too close for comfort. It’s those attachments that liberate us more than they constrain. As the expression suggests, home is where we are from — the place where we begin to be.
I take great care of my relationships because each opportunity to meet a person is a chance encounter. In Chinese, we call this 缘分 (yuan fen). For two people to meet is for these two individual to have 缘分 with one another. With 7 billion people in this world, to encounter the people that we do is extremely precious. Of the people that we encounter, those with whom we feel a great connection is truly the crème de la crème.
When I feel rootless, the relationships that I’ve built is my home. I turn to my family and friends to refuel, to be reminded of where I’ve been and where I come from. That box of letters and cards sent to me regardless whether I was in Cameroon, London or New York, is evidence of my home that continues to grow as I roam around the world.