It’s been a pretty consistent theme in my life that I don’t feel an intimate connection to a home, a place of belonging, nostalgia, and comfort. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve mostly settled on this feeling as an unavoidable part of me, but returning to America from 4 months of living alone abroad brings me back to the question of home. Weirdly, I’ve felt like I belong more in Singapore during my period of exchange than I have my entire time in America. And reflecting on this fact brings me to the very hard question of whether to attribute that on my situation (the actual hardship of living in America as a 1.5 generation Asian American) or on myself (my internalization of the narrative that I don’t fit in America). I’ve always brushed it off as “a bit of both,” but after my exchange, I’m beginning to allow myself to be more vulnerable so that I can explore that latter connection.
Because, honestly, I was more positive and outgoing during my exchange out of sheer will. I wanted to be a new and improved self in Singapore and I did just that – I took risks and became a different “me.” And I wish to carry this mindset back to America but it’s awfully hard, and I’m not sure whether that’s because it really is is for me or if that’s actually an excuse and I’m just being cynical of living in America.
Some of you probably also go through the kinds of identity crises that I do. And without discounting the structural factors that really do contribute to our discomfort of living in America, I want us to question whether our cynicism, which we may have developed in order to survive the harsher environments growing up, may be holding us back in the present. The answer may be a definitive no, which is valid, but if the question stumps you for a second, it may be good to practice being vulnerable in safe spaces to find your answer, which I myself will start doing.
Ultimately, my exchange to Singapore has made me confront the hard problems in my life, and inspired me to think about them in a new, critical light. I am very grateful that I had the privilege to have and share this experience.