Island in the City: When Fire Flies

November 6, 2016

When I told people on Guam that I'd be leaving to Denver, CO in July 2016, they all looked at me like I was some kind of crazy, like how could I, of all people, want to leave home? I had a promising career in education, most my friends were still on island, and I was well established as a poet & rapper. But people didn't realize how all of that was inadvertently making me complacent with my position in life, how dangerous it was for my creativity to be comfortable, and how hollow it made me feel to be so far from broader artistic opportunities. It's not that I was yearning for "bigger" or "better" things. I just needed something different, new conflicts, new questions, new beginnings. You can't expect a flame to burn its brightest if you suffocate it. It needs to feed. It needs much more than sand and water.


Since the day I was born, I've lived with my parents. Two college degrees later, I was still living with my parents! That's the thing about Pinoys, they'll take care of you for forever if they could! They helped put me through college, never forced me to pay rent, and most nights still asked me what I wanted for dinner. It's a beautiful thing, having amazing parents who love you, but even they began to understand that I needed to brave the world and truly learn what it meant to be independent. I was their baby boy, the youngest child of three, their bunso, and it was time I went off and figured out what it meant to be my own man. They had taught me everything they could, and knew it was time to let the rest of the world educate me in things they couldn't. 


Naturally, I had so many mixed emotions on the day of my departure, so many questions in my head like are you ready for this? Can you really do your own laundry? What if you can't find a job? What if you burn down your apartment? What if white cops shoot you for no reason? Can you really survive all the loneliness ahead?  I told myself that this move would either be the best decision I've ever made, or the biggest mistake I'd ever regret.


I'm writing this now, sitting in my apartment with distant sirens blaring through the city streets. I've done laundry about 10 times, landed a job as a supervisor in training at a pretty serious clothing company, haven't set off any fire alarms, and haven't had a gun pointed in my direction yet. The question of surviving loneliness is one that won't be answered for a long time, I don't think, but so far, walking through my apartment door has felt less and less strange, and more and more like coming home.


Leaving Guam and settling here wasn't easy. I literally left everything I knew behind. Now I realize why so many people are afraid of moving. It's a painful thing, to say goodbye to everyone you love, everything you know, to start completely over in an unfamiliar place, to wake up in an empty house and know that you can't share intimate conversations with silence, to live in a place where nobody knows you. It all makes me miss certain things about my life on Guam sometimes.


I miss the salt in the rain. I miss how early the sun sets. I miss the clank of spoons in my parents' morning coffee. I miss the gas pedal of my car and the warmth its passenger seat found before I left. I miss spontaneous hangouts with my close friends, and the kiss between sea and shore, and the peace between breaking waves, and the texture of my puppies' fur, and the high pitched worry in mommy's voice, and the weight in pa's stern silence, and the simplicity, all of the simplicity, and being able to see where land ends and the rest of the world begins, and I miss looking at the slow crawl of people wishing we could all move just a little faster toward wherever it was we decided to go. I left, and went, and wonder sometimes if I did too quickly.


Despite all that though, I'm still hella excited to be here. I'm so nervous about what the future may or may not hold for me, but at the end of the day, I'm happy to be an island in the city. 







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