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I called ABC and told him the news, and said I just didn’t know what was next for me, but I couldn’t expect him to just stick around while I figured it out. He said he wanted to help, and that he could be there for me, but I didn’t think I’d be able to forgive myself if I told him to give up his dream, and to move home with me – a girl with no ideas and no maps.
I took a short breath and told him I had to let him go. I hung up the phone and sobbed for a while, but I knew what I did was better for both of us. Timing was not on our side, despite all fate had done to draw us together.
It seemed like a waste. I felt like the universe was saying something by having us run into each other, twice – both times complete products of happenstance. How could this not work out? We both loved Dave Chapelle! We were both globetrotters hailing from California! He understood me!
However, such is life, isn’t it?
I tied up some loose ends and prepared to return home. At the airport, I had to pay a fine and received a stamp in my passport, stating that I could not return without a visa for the following year – whereas normally a visitor from the US can stay visa-free for 30 days, I believe. I came to refer to this as my passport’s scarlet letter.
So, I admitted defeat, and boarded the plane back home.
I touched down at LAX just as the sun was setting. Everyone else decided to land at the same time, so there were hordes of people trying to make it through customs at the same time as I.
Still in my groggy state from my less-than-relaxing plane sleep, I accidentally left my passport in the bathroom outside of the customs queue. realizing my mistake, I rushed back in and started pushing stall doors open, praying it would still be there. I accidentally opened a door of an occupied stall and heard “Hey! You’re supposed to knock first!” to which I automatically fired back “And YOU’RE supposed to lock the f**king door!”
It was clear right then and there, we are not in Taiwan anymore, Toto.
I found my passport and scurried out, waited in the line, and answered the usual questions:
“Do you have any items with you that you acquired abroad?”
“Of course not” (it was a lie, such a lie!)
“About 8 months,”
“….And you acquired nothing abroad? Nothing at all?”
I got the thank you very much and got the heck out of there before anyone could ask me to pay any taxes.
During the drive home one thing became exceedingly odd to me: I could see the horizon. I had spent so long living in a city, I hadn’t seen it in ages. Also, California was dry. Not that I minded leaving the humidity behind, but my skin felt instantly chapped.
When I finally made it home, and walked into my room…
I just have to tangent real quick. My mom had done her best to clean up my room and make it nice for me, though I could still detect that my brother had been using it as his storage room. His toys were everywhere, along with scattered papers and a multitude of blankets. I think he built a fort…or something. Also, she gave my old cell phone to him while I was gone. I can only imagine the texts this 11-year old kid got, meant for his 21-year-old sister who just graduated from a “party school.” I cringe.
Ahem, walked into my room and felt an extremely odd mixture of familiarity and distance. It had been years since I’d actually lived here, given that I moved out when I was 18 to go to school. I’m sure most recent grads feel this way when they move back home, but this was odd on a new level. My walls weren’t concrete anymore like they were in Taipei; they were dry wall. My floor was carpet now rather than raised wood. I no longer had a wall-unit AC and my windows had screens on them. Of course, this was an upgrade from my last digs (which, I might add, were only $300 monthly), but it just felt odd.
I didn’t know what to do with myself. Do I call people to tell them I’m back? Will they care? I had kept contact well enough and I knew that really, nothing changed while I was gone, as I had originally feared. It appeared that everything carried on without me, and now that I was back, I would just hop right back in.
After I got a phone. And a job. And an apartment. And stuff.
Fast forward to present day: I now work in a cubicle farm where I daydream about travel writing, pretend I’ve achieved this dream by writing blogs about the subject (because everyone knows how big of a deal bloggers are), and reminisce about my days in Asia. Every time I run into a rude, self-centered individual (it happens constantly, I live in LA for crying out loud!), bite into a severely under-ripened mango, or long for some decent public transportation, I think of Taipei. Sometimes, I even yearn for it.
It’s been said before on the interwebs by a whole lot of folks besides me, that living abroad changes a person forever .
I went to Taipei a scared girl with no plans, and discovered that I was not only capable of being independent, but also capable of being a citizen of the world. So many people fear leaving home, and I don’t blame them. But the fact is, there’s more out there for us than we can ever find in our own backyard.
My journey helped me discover who I am and what I can be. Even now, I look back on my 20-something years on this earth and I can say I’ve lived. I made the most of it so far, and there’s no stopping me now. Every time I come up with a crazy new idea or just want to take off again, I remind myself that there are no safe harbors, there are always naysayers, and in the end, I traveled farther mentally than I ever did physically, and I want to keep going.
I suspect anyone who has lived abroad will say the same thing.
So what am I getting at with this? Well I believe it’s high time for my final realization…
Self Realization from Living Abroad: I am changed for the better.