There is a special place in the 626 where you can stand on a pinnacle of a suburban island and gaze around you an ocean of glimmering city lights. Listen to the static hum and lose yourself in your thoughts. Here, someone not much older than I committed suicide. I won’t go into the details of the suicide, but I’ve often felt the presence of his ghost. And I felt his pain too, for it was my pain.
I left home in search of something better. I’m not entirely certain how I became conscious that home was a bubble. I think it was because I always felt that I didn’t belong. This might partly be due to my parents’ and my generational, ideological differences. But there was also a cultural difference: one American, and one Taiwanese. These cultures were like great forces pulling me in different directions, and I think much of my life was misspent trying to choose a direction. There was this great riff between expectations and reality. Granted, I think that’s something every child experiences. However, my being raised in an Asian culture particularly put me and my parents at odds. You feel your parent’s expectation. They shape you. They become the ideal of what you should be. Simultaneously, you have your own ideas, your own personality, and your own dreams. In my case, they were extremely polarizing. I was nothing like my parent’s expectations. This was something I didn’t come in terms with. Instead, I walked the road of compromises, and it led me to hell. Monsters and shadows followed me. They whispered terrible ideas into my ears, and before long, I found myself on the ledge of a 30 floor building with one foot over the edge. I was a ghost as I walked through hell. I don’t know why I didn’t take the second step. Maybe I was a coward. Maybe I was hoping something better was waiting for me.
So I left home, knowing that I was an outsider. I could feel my world shifting. Things were falling apart. People I’ve known were being pulled in different directions. I was becoming someone different, someone I thought incompatible with the 626. I became a wanderer for some time. I packed my backpack so I could stay out late every night. I walked, I skateboarded, I took a plane across the ocean and briefly lived in Spain, I came back, I drove along the coast, and I saw some other states. And from my experience, I never found a place like the 626. It’s a cliché, but the 626 became this unchanging, endearing place. It was a place that I could never call my own, but I could no longer deny that it was very much a part of me.
Thinking back, I probably hoped for some sort of rebirth. I wanted change, the ultimate change, in which I would be freed from my pains. I thought of myself as a ghost that drifted from place to place, hoping that a place could restore me to some sort of whole. I did this with my relationships. I needed to be fulfilled by something, someone. That longing sent me spiraling into hell. I wanted some form of paradise so I could never hurt again. This was naïve.
I am a ghost. I accept that there is a deep sadness to me. I accept that I constitute polarizing forces and ideas sometimes, but so do many people.