Two months before I turned eight-years-old, I landed in America.
I never thought that I could never find a home after that. I had not only lost all my friends during the immigration process, but I had lost my identity. I didn’t know who I was anymore if I wasn’t Korean. I didn’t know who I was if I didn’t have my house. After my move to America, my family has lived in seven different apartments across New York. It’s impossible for me to associate a specific building to my childhood. I didn’t have that one fence I always climbed with my cousins. I don’t have family pictures next to the same tree. I don’t even have a specific couch that I sat on to watch movies with my friends. I thought that there was never any consistency in my life for me to find a home. But that was before my family’s decision to move out of New York. Until that moment, I didn’t notice that my home was actually not a house, but a whole city. I learned a little too late that New York is my home.
Twelve years after I moved to America, I lost my second home: New York City.
To everyone else, New York is just the city that never sleeps. It’s the place with its blinding billboard lights, amazing Broadway musicals, dirty subway system and an array of beautiful museums to visit. It’s the melting pot of immigrants, the home of the best pizza, and Central Park. To the world, New York feels like a concrete jungle that is impersonal and full of rude people. The city that’s too expensive, the city with weird homeless people, and the city of millionaires. But that’s not how I view this city. When I walk around New York, I see the streets full of my memories and understand that I belong here.
I may not have a backyard with swings and a little sandbox that I played in as a kid, but I have Central Park. I have the picnics in Sheep Meadows with all my friends after school. I have the memory of running into my gym teacher while we threw around a frisbee. I remember when we joined random people on the volleyball courts for a game because we didn’t have a net. I remember the countless number of times I tried to rent a rowboat but felt too lazy in the end. I have the memory of just laying down on the grass with all my friends as we stared at the skyscrapers all around us. I remember we talked about school, our grades, our family, and our world.
I don’t have an old oak tree that I take all my family photos next to, but I have a review of practically all the Korean restaurants in New York. From the discreet little joint in Bayside to the biggest, trendiest restaurant in K-town, I’ve been there. I’ve been there for my little cousin’s first birthday or my great uncle’s 60th. I've been there for baby showers, wedding celebrations, and funeral receptions. I might have gone because I was dragged there by my parents or maybe I dragged my parents out with me. Most of my family pictures feature a grill, some soju, and servers on the side, but that's my family and this is my home.
I don't have memories of getting my first car or even my license. But I do have the subways to make up for it. Next to New York, the subway is my second home. I lost my first umbrella on the N train when my mom and I got off at Ditmars Blvd. I cried for hours and begged my mom to call the train back to the station. I got up every morning at 5:30AM so that that I take the Q12 and transfer to the 7, then the N, then the 4 to the Bronx by 7:30AM. I went to school 30 minutes early because I knew that a single delay could make me arrive at 9 o'clock. I was on the 4 train when I received my acceptance to Harvard. I cried for the hour commute without trying to hide the tears or the sobbing. I sat on the A train's floor after concerts and slept. I feel safe on a subway. Safer than I ever will be inside a comfortable car.
There are thousands of more reasons why New York is my home. I can't possibly list all of them here. But even if my family is moving away from this beautiful city, it will never stop being my home. This city is where I am from, where I grew up , and where I will return to.
Good bye New York.
Until next time.