Rediscovering the Meaning of Being
There is beauty in minimal design—of keeping only what’s important
I’ve never been afraid of leaving, in fact, I’ve always felt the opposite; constantly looking at what’s ahead of me—exploring the unknown, seeking answers to unspoken questions, and discovering the things that make life more interesting.
Two bags—no more, no less. There they were, standing in front of me: my entire life packed in a medium grey luggage and a sturdy backpack. After hours of carefully choosing what to bring and what to leave behind, I was ready to go.
I looked at the remaining books on the table. It’s a shame I couldn’t bring them all with me. If I was going to start over, I had to be assertive. I had to know what was worth taking and what wasn’t. In the end, I ended up with these books:
- Shaun Tan’s Tales from Outer Suburbia
- Sjón’s The Whispering Muse
- Karen Joy Fowler’s We are all Completely Beside Ourselves
- and Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science-Fictional Universe
One of the books I wanted to bring was Shaun Tan’s The Arrival but it refused to get inside my luggage, so with a heavy heart, I left it behind.
I imprinted the wordless images in my brain as I scanned through the pages one last time. I tried to imagine how the protagonist felt when he left his family to work in a strange, faraway land. The scene when he arrives on a ship in the new world blew me away!
My arrival wasn’t as extraordinary as the story, but seeing Jeremie’s grinning face at the airport was enough to put that warmth back in me.
The arrival. Home at last.
One of the things that amused me about this city is that people love to interact with strangers. On my first week, I was sitting in the lobby of our apartment, when a stranger passed by the full-length glass windows and waved his hand. Then, there was the time I was standing on the sidewalk when an old couple walking towards me paused to smile and say hi. Back home, the only strangers who said hi to you in the streets were half-naked cat-callers who had nothing better to do with their lives.
In shops, I wondered whether they were asking a rhetorical question when they said, How are you? My response is always the same: Good.
It took a while for me to get used to it, but eventually, I added two more words to my reply:
I fell in love with San Francisco. From the hilly, winding roads to the infinite cozy shops. It’s a breathtaking city packed with surprises.
One Sunday, Jeremie and I spontaneously walked through Valencia Street and found ourselves in the middle of a party. There was a Mariachi band playing in one corner while people danced along with the music. The food stalls were bursting with activity. The end of the street led to the start of a new one, so we just kept walking until we were hungry and ready to go home.
Our weekends were spent getting to know the city and what better way to see it than to be five hundred feet above sea level. With our hands tucked inside our coats, we marched up the steep road toward the famous Coit Tower. The higher we climbed, the colder it got.
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