I was looking at Google Maps the other day while trying to find directions for an errand for work. While staring at the destination point on the map, something compelled me to zoom out, and out, and keep zooming out until the point was barely visible. I saw first Montgomery County, then nearby D.C., then the state of Maryland, the entire U.S., North America, the western hemisphere.
Then I saw it – the Atlantic. The vast blue stretch of ocean that separated the point from Europe. Six hours, I thought. That’s how long it would take to fly from Maryland to Europe. That’s it. From California, it would have taken twice as long.
Once I saw it, I couldn’t stop seeing it. London, Madrid, Paris, Berlin. London, Madrid, Paris, Berlin. LONDON, MADRID, PARIS, BERLIN! Insatiable, this girl. I wonder what it’s called when you can’t ever be satisfied with where you are. Is there medication for that? Ritalin, probably.
It doesn’t help that in this whole week, I saw Paris, Je T’aime, Amelie, Coco Avant Chanel, Before Sunrise/Sunset, Julie & Julia, and other movies starring my favorite European cities.
Not too long ago, I thought, “The world can wait.” Get your gig together, stay on track. Write down your plans, divide them into steps like you usually do. Find a stable career and you’ll find time for the fun stuff later. Well, let me tell you something. Nothing stirs my insides like knowing that there is still so much world out there to see.
For the first time, I let myself admit that I want to put things off.
London, Madrid, Paris, Berlin.
At a loss for anywhere else to go with this information, I called my mom. For the first time since I got here, I let myself admit everything. In the middle of a Barnes & Noble, with a W.H. Auden poetry book in hand, I confessed my insecurities. I want to end up practicing law eventually, but there is something in between now and law school that’s calling to me, and I can’t deny it. I feel good about the work I’m doing here in D.C., and I’m not going to stop doing it, but when this year comes to a close, I had been dreading having to buckle down. I want to sing, act, travel, dance, learn as many languages as I can, write. Oh, how I long to write. My mother listened on the other line as I poured my confused little heart out. Then, to my biggest surprise, she answered with great ease and in a tone devoid of any judgment, “Okay.”
In the pregnant pause that followed, I let my eyes wander to a line in the poem I had been reading. W.H. Auden’s wisdom seeped through the silence:
Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.
Suppose all the lions get up and go,
And all the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
She told me to do it. Do all those things. Be yourself. Go sing if you feel like it. Pick up another language because you’ve got a knack for it. Do what makes you feel alive. Make a short film. Audition for a play. Write some poetry. Start a book. And if you want to travel the world, I’ll come with you!
All this time, I’m thinking – what happened to the typical Asian parent response? All my life, I felt I’d been rebelling against the pressure to find structure in my life. I felt so…relieved, for lack of a better word. The fact that my mother supported me meant the world. I could have cried right then and there, and W.H. Auden’s stanzas would have been blurred beyond recognition.
After that conversation with my mom, I’ve felt so at peace. I’m excited to wake up in the morning. I can’t stop smiling. Life feels so wonderful now that there’s no rush. In a way, I’ve renewed my citizenship of the world and I again feel connected to everyone around me in a strange, metaphysical way. My friends think I’m crazy, but my mind is clear. That’s all I can ask for.
A few months ago, I told myself, “The world can wait.” But the truth is that’s it’s me. I’m the one who can’t wait.
(my newest recording, and appropriately, it’s in French)