Forgive my nonsensical ramblings. It’s Saturday, I had just woken up from a blissful sleep, and outside its cold and drizzly. I wanted to put my empty balikbayan box in the garage but I decided to make hot green tea instead. Like I said before, I’ve acquired a liking to all things Japanese lately, including green tea. I’ve also gotten used to the solitude of early morning air, when my thoughts can wander off anywhere I want them to be.
So what did I really want to write about? Ah, I remember now. I was trying to organize some of my books and journals last night and I found this quote, from Nabokov’s A Letter that Never Reached Russia, which I think is a most fitting description of how I feel right now:
“My happiness is a kind of challenge. As I wander along the streets and the squares and the paths by the canal, absently sensing the lips of dampness through my worn soles, I carry profoundly my ineffable happiness. The centuries will roll by, and schoolboys will yawn over the history of our upheavals; everything will pass, but my happiness, dear, my happiness will remain, in the moist reflection of a streetlamp, in the cautious bend of stone steps that descend into the canal’s black waters, in the smiles of a dancing couple, in everything with which God so generously surrounds you in loneliness.”
Nobokov wrote this when he was in exile. And there are times when I feel like I am in exile too. Yet even during those times when I feel this way, I can still say that I am happy here, just a difficult sort of happiness. I say difficult because there’s always this unspoken yearning for the life I left behind (or the memories of it) and coming to terms with the reality that even if I do go back, it will never be the same again.
When I first came here, I had no idea what I wanted, only that I had to leave. I needed to understand myself better and I felt like the only way to do that was to move away from everything familiar and comfortable. And this is true. I learned more about myself in the past years that I’ve been here than the rest of my life before it. Yes, there’s a lot of confusion and some terrible winter nights in between, when all I wanted was to bask in the tropical sun with the people I love the most, but I’d rather go through all that again if only to arrive to a certain degree of clarity. At least now I already know what I want, or some of it anyways. The rest, I hope, I’ll figure out as I go along the way.