I sit on the staircase just outside my room listening to the soft rumble of the washing machine of someone doing their laundry late at night. Inside the room, my mum is sleeping soundly under the dim glow of the heart-shaped fairy lights that I had bought just a few weeks ago to accompany the new photo wall that keeps me company on late night assignments.
I came home tonight after my university fellowship telling her about the great relationships I’ve had and the good conversations from church. What she doesn’t know is that on the bus ride there, I had started tearing up at the thought of her leaving on the coming Sunday.
It’s weird. Leaving home.
I grew up mostly living under the comfort and protection of my family. Yes, I could say that I have had experiences being independent, venturing off on my own into a new country searching for new stories to share, and because of that I thought i’d never have to say that I would ever be homesick. I have had many summer spent abroad learning this and that, even two years of boarding school just 2 hours flight away. Just as we were much braver to get onto the monkey bars when we were little, but grow slightly more cautious of the dangers when we grow up, I became aware of what it really meant to be independent. I never understood that those experiences wouldn’t really prepare me for what lies ahead in university.
University is different because the responsibility no longer lies on someone else making sure you stay on track. Instead of spoon feeding you the information, telling you to do this and that; the information lies in front of you like a great big bowl of vegetables. They’re good for you, but it’s up to you if you want to eat it or not. If you do, well, good for you. If not, well, you suffer the consequences.
University is different because the burden of searching for friends isn’t lightened by the fact that you’re forced to work with people whom you dislike, or are stuck in a classroom with others for at least 7 hours a day. You have to make the effort to contact those that drift away, and have the courage to speak to those that you disagree with.
University is different because the understanding of growing up slowly seeps into your mind. Knowing that each year I spend abroad is only a year spent away from home, farther away from my family as they continue with their own lives, closer to ‘independence’. I see my father enjoying a trip to Hong Kong through the whatsapp messages of old baby photos; I hear about my sister’s chinese new year celebrations through the elaborately elegant dress she wears; I watch my brother grow up through occasional skype messages; and I feel the comfort from my mother spread through occasional bible verses on my phone. Feeling homesick, is like looking through a fogged up window. You see the good life behind the window pane, wanting to participate, but knowing that you’re supposed to be on the other side, looking for yourself, growing up. You wipe away the condensation to get a clear glimpse of what’s happening, only to see that the window has fogged up again.
It’s scary to think that, slowly, I’m going to be searching for my own way. Graduating. Getting a job. Starting a relationship. Building my family. It’s frightening to wonder what lies ahead in the future.
Maybe I’m just overthinking.
But I know that for now, I will find comfort in knowing that even if friends may not last a lifetime, family will. I can’t get rid of them even if I wanted to. Though who would want to push away a mother giddy with joy simply after spending 2 hours at Tesco’s shopping for food; who would want to ignore a father so protective that he gave a boy on my school bus the ‘glare’ when he tried to bully me; who would want to forget a brother so silly and weird that you can’t help but spam your ‘pictures’ folder with screenshot of his face during skype chats; and who would want to leave a sister that inspires you with dreams to become a CEO owning a building with a whole floor dedicated to worship.
I know that my family will stay by my side no matter what.
One day, I will have to leave and start my own life. But I will always know that they are just around the corner. Or maybe just sleeping safe and soundly in the room next door.
Dear Mother, (and the rest of my family)
I don’t know why I don’t want to say this directly at you, or even post onto our crazy family whatsapp group. Maybe it’s some ‘older-sister’ syndrome where I feel the responsibility of being the one to venture out into the world, without placing the burden of ‘homesickness’ on an already-busy-with-overachieving-in-everything family.
Since I’m only posting this after you leave so that I can avoid breaking down in front of you. Though as you read this, I just want you to know that you don’t need to worry about me. It was wonderful to have you around as the representative of the Lee Corporation to make sure this audit of this part of the family went smoothly. Although the department of academics has room for improvement, I hope the other categories of health and lifestyle would pass the test.
Just wandering around on the SouthBank, overanalysing houses and their respective security measures, giggling at absolutely nothing, and sleeping in had made this reading week extremely unproductive but enjoyable. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
The years to come will only get harder. As expected. But I hope that I would continue to grow as a person, and in God.
Don’t worry for me. (and please, there is no need to message me to make sure I’m okay. I can guarantee you that I am, and even if I’m not temporarily. I have to learn to get over it 🙂 eventually…)
Simply know that I love and miss you all. In the past. Now. and always in the future.