NSLI-Y, Thoughts

Letters from last October

From my journal and notes on my phone.

10/19/19: Strange how for me, for a long time, China represented freedom.

10/21/19: “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life. As our interactions become bigger, broader. and fashionable, our actions and reactions become just as big. bold, and flashy, making it even easier to miss the not-so-hidden gentler side of the world.”

10/24/19: Thoughts with Bethany:

10/26/19: “You are not living in a narrative. You think too much in the third person.” –Charlie

10/27/19: Hang up your hair dryer chord under desk with a Miniso hook.

10/29/19: Owe Alec 41 RMB.

11/2/19: I’m itching with nervousness.

11/3/19: Mumisha: food ate in a rooftop classroom.


Nostalgia is a funny thing. Google “nostalgia” and the fourth question down is “Is nostalgia positive or negative?” Good to know most of humanity’s Googlers are with me.

Throughout my junior year, I used to feel overwhelmed with nostalgia for the two weeks I spent in Qingzhou—for the Chinese and Chinese American friends I made, for the late night moped rides, for the heavy humidity and sudden downpours, for the mountain ranges in the distance, for the 外卖 boba deliveries, for the delicious cafeteria food.

Now, I barely think of Qingzhou anymore. In its place, there’s a lump in my throat. There’s a wince every time I hear someone talk about Beijing. There’s an achy feeling when I scroll through the photos of my NSLI-Y friends, or eat Chinese food, or talk with my host family. I feel so much distance between last October and this September. It’s only been a year—why does Beijing feel so far away?

A friend lent me Goodbye Tsugumi during quarantine. Banana Yoshimoto is much more articulate than I am.

Two more notes from my journal:

7/7/20: “That night, having wriggled down into my futon all alone, I found myself in the grips of a wrenching sadness. I was only a child, but I knew the feeling that came when you parted with something, and I felt that pain. I lay gazing up at the ceiling , feeling the sleek stiffness of the well-starched sheets against my skin. My distress was a seed that would grow into an understanding of what it meant to say goodbye. In contrast to the heavy ache I would come to know later on in life, this was tiny and fresh – a green bud of pain with a bright halo of light rimming its edges.”

7/7/20: “This world of ours is piled high with farewells and goodbyes of so many different kinds, like the evening sky renewing itself again and again from one instant to the next-and I didn’t want to forget a single one.”

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