Home and distance

At Kuala Lumpur International Airport, I said my goodbyes to my parents, my 2 sisters plus the adorable boy toddler version of me. The genuine tears were shed for my siblings, for the hilarious moments we shared doing silly things. I was eager to go back to Ann Arbor. Being home was okay but I needed to go back to my other home. After 2 months of catching up with friends and family, I was ready to return to Ann Arbor to be left alone. I knew my family would miss me, terribly so, but I needed the distance for me to process everything that happened over summer break. No more nosy questions from nosy relatives, no more ‘so when are you going to find a partner’, no more ‘you need to do abcdefg before you graduate’.  No more unsolicited opinions from relatives who dispense it like they have the whole picture. Farewell nosy questions and unsolicited opinions. Farewell, indeed.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss eating superbly delicious food (cooked by those very same nosy family members, such irony) whilst trying to come up with creative ways to answer those questions. Most of the time I just pretended to be rather oblivious, to their amusement. I’m glad I fairly amused them because it was an otherwise experience for me.

Touch down. Caught up with my local friends. Conversations ensued and time flew by. We are now approaching winter break. A lot of my local friends here miss home a lot yet they only need to travel an hour away to get to home. If I wanted to fly back home, I needed to spend at least $1000 and spend 30 hours in between airports and aeroplanes (notice the British spelling) so I only go home when absolutely essential. I am most amused by the question “Oh no poor you, you can’t go home!?”, gasped my local friends. In fact, I do miss home but for now, this distance is necessary, necessary for me to question my place in the larger picture of my entire family. Do I want to live with them after graduating?  To what degree am I responsible for my siblings? These are all important questions, with no direct answer. They don’t need answers. But I need time.

The power of distance is underestimated. Most of the time, distance in movies is portrayed in negative connotations. Little do we know distance can give us the space we need to breathe, to consider our place within our circles. I needed to physically remove myself from the discomfort I sensed. There were too many things going on at home, too many luggages unloaded upon me at once, and I wasn’t given time to unpack it slowly. Being in Ann Arbor studying gave me the chance to resume my anonymity from family and friends in Malaysia. Anonymity; central to healing, untangling complicated problems without being in the problematic space itself. No one to ask you why you’re doing what you’re doing, no one keeping tabs. Distance and time (hopefully) are on my side.

Relevant song: “Save Myself” by Ed Sheeran

I gave all my oxygen to people that could breathe
I gave away my money and now we don’t even speak
I drove miles and miles, but would you do the same for me?
Oh, honestly?
Offered off my shoulder just for you to cry upon
Gave you constant shelter and a bed to keep you warm
They gave me the heartache and in return I gave a song
It goes on and on

(Image credits: Google Images)


senior studying economics + psychology. occasional writer, ambivert, and can be found in coffee shops

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1 Comment on "Home and distance"

1 year 5 months ago

Really enjoyed this reflection on your experience. It’s a funny balance between needing closeness and needing space, and I’m always interested in hearing how people find that balance.