Vancouver - It's Been a Long Time

Can't sleep. There haven't been many jobs lately and now my brain is understimulated and revolting against further repose.

Brain: I did nothing all day and now you want me to rest?!

Foremost in my restless thoughts tonight: this February, I'm going back to Vancouver. It's been ten years.

Of course, for the most part, I'm very glad because I'll be attending one of my oldest friend's wedding as--ugh--matron of honor (isn't it past time "matron" became politically incorrect or simply deemed an offensive term only to be used as an insult?).

But there's the other little part of me that quite honestly is filled with dread. Thomas Wolfe wrote, "You can't go home again;" I always thought, "Who wants to?"

I knew a girl who was an army brat--you know, a different town every year growing up. My childhood was never that extreme. But I've done my fair share of moving in 27 years: so far, five countries, eight cities, sixteen homes, and eleven schools. I knew another girl who, at the age of 16, was still living in the same house she'd been born in and who had never left the country. It was hard for me to comprehend.

When I was young, my parents were restless, energetic people--they still are--who couldn't seem to bear staying in one place for long. I can't even count the number of different church pews that have been polished by my fidgeting butt. We were always moving forward; we never went back.

When I was 17 and trying to decide between UBC and McGill University, my parents and brothers had already left Vancouver years before, and I knew that if I left too, I would never return; there would be nothing left in Vancouver for me to return to. Truthfully, I couldn't wait to get out, go somewhere new. At the time, I thought I had inherited the same restless bug that seemed to plague my parents. I didn't feel anything but impatience when I said good-bye to Vancouver, while the prospect of a new life in Montreal was thoroughly exhilarating.

The main thing this life has taught me is how to let go, how to forget. I'm so good at these things. I never got homesick when I was a child, going on a camping trip, staying over at a friend's house. When I was 15 and my parents moved back to Singapore, leaving me in Vancouver to finish high school, I never felt sad or missed them. Each time we moved, each time I left people and places behind, it was easy--well, maybe being the new kid in school wasn't so easy. But moving on and never looking back, that was a snap. Pieces of my life have a scary way of slipping smoothly out of my head in no time at all, so that I can't remember them even if I try: the street I lived on in Brooklyn, my dorm at McGill, the name of the big park right before Lion's Gate Bridge. These days, I can't seem to hear peoples' names as they introduce themselves, as if my brain is thinking, "What's the point? They won't be around for long."

And suddenly, instead of moving on, I'm going back. Back to Vancouver and everything that slipped out of my brain a long time ago. I feel like I should be recalling all the places I used to go and making plans to visit them, for "old time's sake." But when I think of Vancouver, a place I spent almost ten years of my life, it's all a big white fog. I know there must be people I should meet up with, but they all feel like strangers, or characters in a book I read a long time ago. Even my closest friends--after all these years, there are undoubtedly others in their lives now who know them far better than I. What would we talk about? We won't even be able to fall back on the "Remember when...?" game if I can't remember.

Ah well, maybe the people I once knew will be kind enough to remind me.

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Woah. Up until 3 and a half years ago, I was still living in the same house I was born in. You are quite a rolling stone. Doesn't having to start all over again tire you out? The thought of moving to yet another city (not Singapore) after Tokyo makes me shiver. 

- Hsin

12/10/2004 12:37:00 AM  

I know what you mean, the first couple of times I went back to Vancouver to visit my family I felt this guilty weight which forced me to visit old friends and rehash old traditions. By visit three though the guilty weight was off-set by such a violent opposition to 'hanging-out' with the old gang that I gave up. I mean all we had to talk about was what everone from highschool was up to...like I care!

I do know people though, who go back to their childhood home every year specifically to see their old friends. As far as I'm concerned, the ones worth keeping are the ones I'm still in touch with (with a couple of exceptions that can be attributed to disorganization) 

- Jaime

12/10/2004 04:02:00 AM  

Hsin-Li, I think you're lucky--to grow up and live in one place long enough to build real ties and strong relationships. Was moving to Tokyo very tough at first? It was really brave of you to come here!

I think it *is* tiring to start over, if you are the type of person who tries hard to start over--you know, by immersing oneself in the new city/country, building a new network of friends and acquaintances, even making large purchases that quite literally tie you down, like furniture (before I got married, I was always very careful about ensuring that everything I owned could fit into two large suitcases).

Jaime, I guess it must be wonderful for those people you know who go home specifically to reunite with old friends. To be that confident that those old friends even care to see you!

- Rachel

12/13/2004 04:55:00 PM  

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