Home is where the heart is.
A brief spell back in Shanghai more than confirmed this typically-brushed-aside adage. Driving through the familiar roads, gazing at the brick-red buildings that was once my haven of learning – even gawping at the sprawled compound that Concordia since transformed into – I realized they meant next to nothing. They were nothing but empty symbols of a distant past, a past where my roots once held firmly and obstinately: but now, uprooted and thrust into the skies to float in terrifying abeyance.
What is a home?
What is a past?
What is one’s history, but an amalgamation of drips and drabs of wafting memories, memories that coagulate into one mass of non-existent, lonely, doomed-to-be-forgotten lump of human amnesia?
They escape so eagerly into nugatory abyss, and yet we cling so desperately to the thought of them!
Surprised, and more than shocked at the lack of emotion, the passive indifference that possessed – no, rather, that didn’t possess – me, tears began to flow from my eyes. Not for the happy times that have passed, or the memories abandoned in the Mandarin-speaking city that I love so dearly; not for the friends left behind – but rather more out of the obligatory scratching of already-healed-scars, out of fear that they would disappear and leave me free; free from care, and free from sentimentality.
There is something terrifying in feeling nothing.
No loss, no sadness, no sentimental attachment.
It leaves you empty; confused. Perhaps it’s for the better, you try to comfort yourself. Non-attachment to material things. No more than mere admiration for the bustling city and incredible lights of the Bund. No sense of loss, only respect for the driven Shanghainese, the culture that gave rise to millions of promising young students, bubbling over in both English and impeccable 普通话. No more nights spent tearing over the past.
The past only exists in our minds, it has since entered into the realms of non-existence.
And so what is left of us?
Memories serve to remind, to educate, to give that certain nostalgic longing that inexplicably strikes when one comes across a whiff of polluted smoke, or a small sense of deja vu. But no more.
We live in the present. And therefore, home is in the present. In the present, with the people we love and care for – Moms, Dads, Siblings, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, friends and family alike. We live for the people we love, because memories simply encapsulate moments we had with the people we loved.
The most beautiful thing is the present.
That’s what I failed to realize whilst floundering in the chasm of acute despondency in those few years of aching sadness after moving back. I think it’s something we all have to go through – some come to this realization much quicker than others, but it’s another one of those things that you can’t truly understand till you’ve experienced it.
Dwelling on the past only blinds you to the future. And so, real generosity towards the future; lies in the present.
[Andrew Boyd, Albert Camus]