Not There Anymore

If nothing else, this first week of my post graduate masters in Edinburgh has solidified one thing — I made the right choice.

For months, I’ve run through an obscene amount of scenarios in my head. Each one is of myself debating the pros and cons list of moving my entire life to a new country on a universal hunch that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be. But is it? I question my motive for being here, whether I am good enough to be here, whether my bank account will fracture under the weight of a gut feeling.

As much as my comforts back home felt like a noose, they were still comforts. Familiar people, familiar job, familiar pain. I’d often think to the past, as well, clinging to what was and hoping it will be again; a merry-go-round graveyard of memories, fears, missed opportunities, and this crag where I could either plummet towards the seabed, cracking my neck over my noose, or remove the rope entirely and use it as a catapult, swinging me into the air in order to fly.

I’m aware I use that image a lot — flying; like I’m a bird soaring through the air, care-free. When really, I feel like Daedalus. He built such ingenious wings for himself and his son to escape from prison, yet he still couldn’t predict that his own son would go against his cautions, swaying towards the sun and melting the very source of his flight. Daedalus had to watch his son die as Icarus crashed into the water below.

Icarus is my health. I’m finally (knock on wood) free of the severe eye issues, but it doesn’t mean the Scottish weather hasn’t played trickster to my skin. I try to comfort her, yet she still screams. It’s been almost a year of nearly perfect skin to suddenly floundering for a compass on how to assuage her moods. I’ve tried, like Daedalus, to be restrictive, mindful, and even inventive to save her, but she does what she wants, and I must watch. It’s like a crying baby after you’ve offered them food, a dry nappy, and a nap, which means it’s just another perilous appendage in that narrative loop — Am I supposed to be here?

Thankfully, I found my answer. And there was no easter egg hunt for it. It simply showed up, at the right time, with the right people, in the right city.

Our first assignment for class next week is to bring in a short clip of a non-American documentary film that inspires us. At first, I was sad, since there are many American made films I enjoy, but I was happy to be pushed outside my usual limits.

I searched through Sundance, watching a few short-documetnary films from foreign countries. One film I finished is called Still Here by Sean Wang. It’s less than ten minutes long, and yet it profoundly spoke straight to the source of my disarray.

The piece circles around an abandoned village in Taiwan where only a handful of residents remain. What was once a bustling, lively place is now memorialized by the few residents who do not wish to let it go. By the end, I was torn. On one hand, I felt a kinship with the residents. Their lives were sewn into the fabric of those homes and the memories stored within them. Each knew they could leave, yet they couldn’t bear parting from the hard work it took to first acquire their home in the first place. I relate to that, a cemented kind of belonging where the past feels too deeply intrenched in my veins to ever leave it behind. An obstinate loyalty almost; a marriage for better or for worse.

But, on the other hand, watching these beautiful humans with these reflective stories live in such squalor breaks my heart. Were the sacrifices some made in the beginning genuinely worth dismantling the possibility of moving on to another village? Towards a new chapter of life? It’s a type of hoarding that could be defined as endearing, but I don’t think many would find it healthy for a mother to carry her dead baby around merely because it is too hard to let them go. Same for the village. It’s as if they’ve swaddled it, desperately nursing what was but no longer is anymore. So, it made me wonder, what have I been holding on to for so long simply because it’s been stapled to my chest yet is no longer serving me?


I’ve held on to dancing, and not the joy of it or the surrender of it, but the need for it to be an elemental piece of who I am. I’ve held on to the notion that I am not good enough, intellectually or in my capacity to work, to do the things that my bones and my mind gravitate toward. I’ve held onto the notion that I am too much, romantically, because past relationships have slipped, like sand, through my fingers when I needed love the most. I’ve held on to old tropes, and traditional norms, and must-do lists that are supposed to keep me secure.

But all of these things, these thinkings, are like the sunken walls of that village. They are familiar yet are fragments of a life. I’ve done my best to carry the carcass of the human I’ve desperately tried to resuscitate and the human that I’ve embodied while in survival-mode, but that’s over now. It’s time to move on.

And a grateful example of this is my own lead teacher, Ling. As she opened up about her past to the class, she looked straight at me and said “I used to be a dancer, too,” and proceeded to say how much it grieved her to abandon her first love due to an injury — the same hip displacement that I have. She continued on saying it took her some time to figure out what could possibly take its place (because only dancers, I feel, could ever relate to the canyon it leaves when it’s stolen from you), but that she found it in film making. Sentimental Bri almost cried right there in the room.

So for now, I am basking in knowing that I made the right choice. It was not an easy past year wondering if I could do this, and allowing every bit of those nagging thoughts to eat away at my resolve. But Still Here and Ling’s backstory are just two tiny, but sweet, reminders that I am not there anymore, and I never have to be.

One response to “Not There Anymore”

  1. This is so beautifully written. Your metaphors are so powerful and inventive (the crag, rope, catapult!) Your experience is so relatable and this dilemma of knowing when to take a risk and try something entirely new is often diminished with cliches (“follow your bliss” comes to mind), but you write with such depth and honesty about the messiness of it all. I hope you keep writing- your words sing! “Breath by breath, let go of fear, expectation, anger, regret,…Let go of old judgments…Fly free and soar…” Lama Surya Das

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