I dream of being exactly where I am. Waking up to gray skies wrapped in light pink sheets.
I’ve replaced the cool coastal wind for pulsing still air,
Quiet boys in gray hoodies for young men in suits.
I left my Friday nights snuggled in bed, breathing gently to “Gilmore Girls,” for loud music and flashing lights; bodies everywhere; McDonald’s at 3 a.m.
I slip quietly into my room and strip the night away. I lie awake under my pale pink sheets, seeping with leftover stimulation.
I don’t give myself a chance to miss my family and friends. All I see is the newness of the city.
Van Gogh and Monet in quiet halls.
My coffee placed before me with brown eyes.
Dimly lit rooms that speak history.
The streets halt as his motorcade drives by.
Sometimes, as I wait for the leaves to change color, I grow wistful for something I’ve never had.
I got bangs and let my hair grow long.
I wear wisteria every day and paint my nails red.
I have friends I only see in the middle of the night. They don’t exist in the daylight, when life is more real.
I don’t get overwhelmed anymore. I only say I do.
In this world tainted by anxiety,
I’ve trained myself to focus on the person in front of me, drown everything else away.
I must live intentionally,
not distracted and half-minded
I added breakfast sandwich to my menu. Toasted bread. Fried egg. Mozzarella. Slices of tomato. Pesto. It tastes better with gray skies.
Sunday morning brings cafe mocha served in a tiny teacup. European style.
I stretch my cable-knit turtleneck over my head. It is my mother’s embrace.
Days go by fast and slow. What I did yesterday feels like a week ago. I’ve learned to accept that. Nights feel like forever.
“Work hard play hard” is overrated. It leaves no time for rest. That’s what I need. Rest.
I speed-walk through morning streets to catch the metro. A young Korean-American girl enmeshed in a sea of professionals. I enter the place I’ve dreamed of working since I was 16. I find myself staring beyond my computer, dreaming of more.
I go on long runs. Past the Washington Monument. Past the swish of east coast trees and the stillness of water. Past the Lincoln Memorial. The streets and traffic lights don’t faze me anymore.
I rarely watch TV. Escapism doesn’t belong here.
I find myself enjoying mundane things. Cooking curry for dinner. Grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s. Buying myself a cup of coffee. Sometimes I look forward to doing my homework. Adulthood eases into me naturally.
It was only this past summer when my mother would cook for me. Kimchi jjigae. Galbi jjim. Seaweed soup. And always a bowl of rice.
I’ve forgotten what Korean food tastes like. I wonder if this means I’ve forgotten home.
I could get used to this.
Long stretches at the bookstore, collecting books rather than reading them.
Walks back to my apartment with fall leaves spinning down from tall branches.
Dancing at midnight. Amused by strange men who whisper in my ear and spin me without my permission.
Italian dinners and stained white shirts.
Night walks to the White House. Hands gripping the iron bars, faces pressed as far as they can go.
Quiet cobblestone alleyways lined by homes colored soft with happiness.
But phone calls back home remind me of the reality that is California.
Endless days my parents spend in a shopping mall, where the air is too cold and the fluorescent light is taunting.
Folding clothes. Cleaning up after teenage girls with cell phones. Ringing the register.
The work is tough on them. But I picture their faces light up when they hear me.
My heart aches
And I feel guilty for having too much fun.
I work with people older than my parents. During lunch I don’t know what to say. They talk of their kids heading to college. Divorces. Pregnancies. Refrigerators.
I smile and feel the youngest I’ve ever felt in my life.
But when I walk back out to the city, wind gathering my hair, I let myself believe.
I come back to a building full of college students. Exchanging my blazer for a hoodie. Putting on my glasses. Sipping on pumpkin spice tea.
The city has taught me to not overthink things. I am better for it. Say something and mean it. Commit and stand by it. Let your intentions show.
When I’m back home for the wintertime, my body will finally rest.
But my heart will be restless.
Because every night, I’ll fall asleep with the fleeting hope that, when I wake up,
I’ll be exactly where I was that autumn.