Whenever I faced trouble during my high school life, I always sought the sight of the bright lights emanating from Hong Kong’s tall skyscrapers. I still don’t really know why I did. Something about those alluring lights brought me solace as I organized my thoughts. Maybe it was because my appreciation of the sheer beauty of the view, a cluster of colors contributing to a singular masterpiece, led to a temporary abatement of a self-inflicted pain caused by excessive contemplation.
Luckily for me, there was a park a five-minute walk away from my house that happened to be adjacent to the famous harbor that splits the main city into two imperfect halves. I frequented it often, following the same routine of walking along the edge that faced the vast sea and eventually sitting down to stare at the lights. The marine ambience was an additional bonus; the gentle winds, along with the relaxing sound of water against water, as if the ocean was fighting against the very waves it helped create, helped me forget the blistering heat of summer and the sweat dripping from my pores after a winter jog.
I visited those lights the most during the few days before graduation and the consequent departure from a place I called home for 14 years. College. Every time, I pondered whether I’d still keep in touch with my friends in the future, and whether some third-culture kid like me would get by okay in Korea. The direct, luminescent paths connecting my soul to the other side of Hong Kong once provided me a sense of direction, a reminder to always move forward, but during those times, it only brought dread. I didn’t want to leave behind the memories, people, places, and culture that made me who I am. It felt as if the world as I knew it was coming to an end.
But time passed on despite my wishes, only giving me one more bittersweet night to say farewell. I smiled to myself as the lights from the distant, magnificent structures danced along the ripples to become my personal spotlight, following my each and every footstep to my favorite spot. The gusts ran through my hair as if the sea breeze longed to whisper to me a secret. I gripped the cold metal guardrail, hopped over, and took a seat. The only sounds that accompanied me as I stared at the vista of skyscrapers across the great, obsidian void were the waves crashing into the walls beneath my feet and the periodic gulps of air from joggers on their evening run. I looked for the last time.
My worries were warranted. Adjusting was hard; a nervous anxiety afflicted me constantly, every interaction a reminder that I didn’t really belong. The shadows underneath my footsteps were stages for a performance of pretending to be someone I wasn’t. A vicious cycle of insecurities and paranoid fears caused me to doubt myself more and more by the day. As I struggled to familiarize myself with the new environment, I longed for home. So as winter break rolled around, I booked a flight back to those lights.
It was only when I got to that park that I realized something was different. The breeze. The waves. The skyscrapers. They were all there. Except for the lights.
The lights didn’t grant me the same warmth they used to do.
With the sluggish progression of time, I found myself to be an unwilling nomad, traveling on time’s volatile sands. No longer did I have an answer to where home was. Nothing anchored me down to Hong Kong anymore but intangible memories. And although I didn’t want to admit it, my experiences in Korea came to define a part of me, a new chapter in my life.
More than four years after my first farewell with Hong Kong, I stare down at Seoul waiting 561 meters below me. All the roads, juxtaposed with the darkness of empty apartments, are so distinct, each split into halves of white and red by continuous streams of car lights. The last few minutes of the sunset leave a streak of midnight blue in the twilight’s sky. In the back of my mind, I think to myself that these lights remind me of a place I used to call home.
I am a different person to who I was back then. I used to think that home was a concrete place, but maybe it’s always been something a little more abstract. Maybe this once intimidating place can be much more than a temporary resting place. So I wait for time to heal me, for these immature wounds to be covered in wiser scars. I wait for a day when I can call these lights home.