Saturday, April 26, 2014

weekend thoughts.

When my parents moved back to Taipei after thirty years in the United States, back in 2003, I felt strangely abandoned. I was 23. I was living in my childhood home, which seemed huge and empty and echoing, and every noise terrified me. I had my dog for company and a job that occupied my days and I spent my evenings watching CSI and reading Television Without Pity. I had the safety net of my mom's friends, who would sometimes invite me to dinner, but I had no friends, except for J. who was still a student at UW. Once in a while we would go out to B&O Espresso and eat cake and talk about everything and nothing. I was so lonely, even as I pretended to myself that I wasn't. I didn't talk to my old friends from college; a crippling bout of what I later realized was depression had left me paranoid and increasingly isolated from everyone around me in my senior year. Everyone seemed to know where they were going and what they wanted to be doing, and I was floundering. Disappointment - my own and that of my parents - seemed to grab me by the ankles and weigh me down, but when they left for Taipei I was finally able to breathe again.

I turned 25. A guy introduced me to poetry and Charles Bukowski and I began to read a lot of poetry and Bukowski. I taught myself to drink whiskey. I went to the theatre occasionally, newly flush with a disposable income. I learned to cook for myself all the things we never ate when I was a child, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, steak and creamed spinach, pancakes for dinner. I started blogging every day, five hundred words, more or less. I bought a condo and moved out of my childhood home, which my parents later sold. I learned to dine alone in restaurants, striking up conversations with Kelly, one of the owners of Lark, which quickly became my favorite restaurant. It was the first restaurant that became totally mine, not someplace I only went with my parents, like Rover’s or Lampreia. While reading the comments on Nancy Leson’s Seattle Times food blog, I became aware of a Flickr user who went by the name “Suomynona.” I couldn’t know then that two of the women I followed via his Flickr stream - one had blue hair, one seemed to take a lot of photos of her shoes - would later become my friends Rachel and Kate. All of this was still in the future.

C. and I were talking this morning about how it takes time to build a new life, both in a new city and in the city of your childhood. I've known her for almost a decade, and it’s hard to remember that the life I have now is not quite five years old, although its roots stretch farther back. The overlapping circles of friends I talk to nearly every day sprang up almost overnight, and at the same time developed slowly. Life is like that; everything happens very quickly, except when it doesn’t. The loneliness I felt at 23 faded so gradually that I almost forget it ever existed, except that it left me with two reminders: I would never feel that way again, and being alone is very different from being lonely. I seldom think about that time, that big empty house, the tick-tick-tick of the gas cooktop as I made dinner every night, the creaking tree branches scraping against my windows when it was windy out. I miss the gas cooktop but not the uncertainty of being young.