“In life, a person will come and go from many homes. We may leave a house, a town, a room, but that does not mean those places leave us. Once entered, we never entirely depart the homes we make for ourselves in the world. They follow us, like shadows, until we come upon them again, waiting for us in the mist.” 

 Ari Berk

i have never felt so sad to leave a place in my life. my heart seriously implodes if i let my mind think about it long enough, and the tears well up.

living here over the past year and a half, i have fallen in love. taipei has become my home. i knew it the first time i arrived from a weekend trip to hong kong, walking off the plane and into the taoyuan international airport. it's the weirdest feeling then...deciding to leave home, to return home. asking me to choose between taipei and cupertino is like asking a mother to choose between her two children. i can't do it.

my mom told me she supposes the reason it's so hard for me to let go of my time in taipei is it's just been so much fun. it was easy, cheap, convenient, a big party, a loving, supportive extended family, so many good eats and drinks. friends coming in, and out. always celebrating something. a dream. not. real. life.

there's some truth to that. much of the time, i felt like i did when i studied abroad in london. it's been far more fun and leisurely than it's been challenging or routine. who wants to end a chapter of sO muCh fuN?!

.. but it's so much more than that...

i arrived with no idea. i arrived with no real friends. ok, two. alan and jan. both started as friends of friends, but over the course of a few months, became people i shared things with i hadn't maybe even shared with my friends from back home. there are two conversations i recall that brought us closer and they could have only happened in a town far from home because the closeness you feel to these people, is because, they get you. they're lonely and fulfilled by being away from home in the same way you are. i won't break off into a short story, but for my own future self, one was at a dou jiang place at 3 AM. and another at a teahouse at 9 PM. 

there's a warmth to the people here, the language, to the moving lights, the chinese characters, the colors and storefronts, uneven roof tops, passing me by when i close my eyes and think of taipei. it's what i see sitting in the back of a cab, on the bus, walking through a night market, sitting down and ordering late night food, walking through rain puddles on the asphalt, turning to avoid a speeding scooter, walking into a KTV room not knowing what faces will greet me, excited for the night ahead, walking into a 7-11, waiting in line at myst passing around a bottle of whisky, sitting on warren's sofa taking drinks as the same three or four songs (usually david guetta or flo rida or that song with the black guys who ride horses through town) on YouTube play in the background on full blast, the beeping sound of my yo yo card registering, the song the trash collecting trucks play, the taste of so many foods, and so many other thousands of memories, nuances, split second feelings, glimpses, energies, it's everything, together. i don't know how to write it all. and i'm not going to even try to explain how much my family here has meant to be. in particular, my mom's older sister, my err ahyi and how she has been there for me this entire time. from buying me fruit every week to twice taking me to the ER. she is the single most selfless person i have ever come to know so well. i love her so much and need to find a way before i leave to thank her.

“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart. Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.” 

 Henri J.M. Nouwen

i'm not really at all ready to say goodbye. my heart is defiant. the novelty has not worn off. i am still falling in love every day and discovering places that are beautiful or cool and that "dont feel like taipei" but somehow, are. and then they become taipei to me. i am still meeting people who i'm drawn to, who inspire me. i'm still making deeper connections with the people i'm already friends with. i am still learning new words, facts, pieces of culture, history, and trends in asian markets. this isn't blind love. i've seen its flaws. i'm well aware of the hot summer days. the cockroaches. mosquitoes. cab drivers. other stuff i can't think of right now. oh, the body odor. but when a place becomes your home, when you fall in love with someone, you take the good with the bad, you take it all.

i'm not ready, but i have to be. what awaits me in the bay area is something that taipei just can't give me, in conceptual terms, it's the urgency to grow up and the environment in which i can. i always kept the possibility that i could have a fruitful career here, but i think i always knew, more likely it'd just be a stepping stone. the bay area is still my best shot at finding my voice as a writer, it's where my professional network is, it's where i believe the most creative and ambitious people live and work, it's where i ultimately want to make a life for myself.

“I would have stayed a hundred times and I would have left one time only - still, I left.” 
 Mihail Drumeş

at least that's what i'm telling myself to make this easier. i'm going to be honest. i can count on one hand the number of times i've felt truly homesick this past year, and they all somehow seem to coincide with being really hungover. i missed you guys, of course. i missed my mom, my brother, my dad, my dog, chipotle, television, driving, fresh california air. so many things, but not in a way that ever made me want to leave taipei. just maybe get away for a couple weeks. i guess because i always knew that i'd be back. that when i go home, everything will be as i left it, i never felt like i was missing out on anything. fine, i'll admit i was jealous a little seeing all your pics from coachella. would have liked to be in ny for linsanity. or sf for the giants world series win. but for real, i have never been happier in a place this long before.

'growing up' is learning how to let go and say goodbye when you don't want to. with each walk away, you grow a little bit stronger so the next time stings just a little bit less. i'm getting pretty good at it. but not so good that i am confident i'm going to be ok once i get home. this will definitely test me. to all my friends i'm coming back to, please bear with me. i might be in a daze, a complete wreck for about a month or two. or three. to all my friends and family i'm leaving behind, it's been real. you know how to reach me. and i'm sure i'll be seeing you again soon!

until then,


Authorjustine lee