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?
Some of my favorite nights have been spent in the middle of nowhere, head tilted up with eyes glued to the night sky. As a kid, my most memorable field trips were to the planetarium, but growing up in various cities with lots of light pollution, I’d rarely see more than a handful of stars outdoors. Nevertheless, I often dreamt of swallowing the Milky Way with my hungry eyes.
My favorite memory of stargazing was when I was visiting family in Australia in 2018. We were driving from Sydney to Melbourne at night, with much of the road in a quiet darkness. I remember rolling the window down and sticking my head out. It was August, so the chill in the air stung my skin, but I couldn’t help but remain fixated. I’d never seen the Milky Way like that, with the Southern Cross boldly waving hello, beckoning for us to follow. Speeding down the highway, we chased the horizon of that sparkly path, hoping to meet it.
There’s no way I could, in total, capture what I’d experienced, other than the sheer awe in the vastness around me and the tininess of my humanity. I was perusing r/Astronomy when this photo captured me:
This photo was shot in Wyoming, so a bit far from the road of my memory and dreams but definitely a continuation of it. I hope it transports you to another time and place like it has for me.