It’s Monday night and I’m packing up for a weeklong work-cation—i.e., a trip consisting mostly of work, with feeble attempts at trying to enjoy an environment that isn’t home. From Los Angeles, a flight to San Francisco never breaks an hour and a half, and while it’s a trip I used to take every two weeks, I’m a total wreck. I’ve spent all day stressing out about it, double, triple checking if I have enough clothes, if I packed enough underwear (does anyone else always pack extra, just in case?), and whether I packed too many tops with stripes on them (I did). It’s the first time I’ve hopped on a plane in almost three years. I’m nervous. I’m nervous about COVID. And for the first time in a long while, I’m nervous about being away from home.
I’ve never been nervous about being away from home. Well, not since we left the Philippines for good. After that move, we moved every year for several years, and home eventually took on an abstract concept rather than a physical space. In short, I grew up detached—mostly out of necessity but also out of fear. It becomes hard to yearn for something when history shows you it will not stay.
This home I am in now is the first home I’ve ever created for myself, and I put it together as I was making my way out of incredible heartbreak. In essence, it is my metaphorical and literal safe space. Is that why I’m afraid to leave it, even for a short while? Am I afraid that it won’t be as I remembered when I come back?
I’d been in a funk for several weeks. I was grateful for the success I’ve experienced with work, yet on the other side, overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility paired with a profound unknowingness. I felt paralyzed, both emotionally and physically, often straining to get out of bed. I woke up with the news today that there may be another Zika outbreak, which was followed by the impending doom to follow if we don’t figure out the climate crisis, which was then followed by economists weighing in on why my generation is financially screwed. I clicked off and decided I’d spend my energy on only one crisis today.
I’d forced myself back into a routine the last couple of weeks. I cut out junk and forced my body to move. I told friends I wouldn’t be available, as I needed space to process what I was feeling. They understood, of course. They are full of love in that way.
I went back into my garden, tending to my rose bush that bloomed with an even greater abundance after I’d pruned it liberally in an attempt to rid it of aphids. My dwarf banana tree sprouted a pup, which I repotted. My baby avocado tree stood up proudly. My sampaguita are taking to their ladder, two vines climbing up in parallel in a double helix. The heirloom tomato seeds I planted months ago have grown tall and are in need of a new trellis.
As I worked in my garden, the neighborhood toddlers would pay me a visit. They would come to see George, my cat, who they’d grown fond of. Months ago, it was just one. Now I have three toddlers playing in my yard. They came every day, and soon, my afternoons and early evenings at home were spent laughing with them, playing pretend, about Everything and Everywhere All At Once.
I saw that film this evening. I walked out after the credits, tears streaming down my cheeks. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was exactly what I needed. “Don’t look at me!” I scowled at my friend as we left the theater. “I look ugly.” We laughed and parted with a hearty embrace.