There is something daunting about coming back to a place you once knew. For me, it’s being alone in the perpetual normalcy of Fontana, a quasi-gentrified hamlet my family has lived in for over 10 years. It’s the place that hid me from the beauty of the world, a threshold of memories I have the tendency to repress, and the building that housed my dreams of escaping the eternal touch of suburbia. To be back in this house alone has forced me to be vulnerable with myself and it’s one of the most intimidating obstacles I’ve had to wrestle with to date.
See you later.
I will never be able to explain how integral Sierra was to my college experience and — to be a little more dramatic for the hell of it — my human experience. I’ll probably dive into her beauty another time, but what I can say is that leaving the home that helped me grow in all aspects of my life was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do.
But I had to do it anyway, as if I was being evicted out of my own home.
I stood in line at the Housing Office to turn in my keys and reflected on how scared I was to live by myself in Irvine, away from family and other external reference points that informed my life before. I remember how much I wanted to ensure that I was friends with everyone in my hall, that I over embellished myself to come off as acceptable and friendly to the people I was going to live with for nine months. I remember how scared I was to have a roommate, that I was afraid he was going to be a douche and adopt the jock archetype that I saw a lot of in stereotypical college movies. These were the few thoughts that I came into Sierra with.
As I turned in my keys to Sierra in the Mesa Court Housing Office on the last day of move-out, I found myself also turning in a piece of my heart. Those gold pieces of metal were the skeleton keys to a year’s worth of memories, hurt, and growth that I try not to forget. I thought, in exchange for those fears I came into Sierra with, I came out with 50 or so family members I grew with, a type of self-empowerment and love for all parts of myself, and a feeling of being whole.
The last Sierran I saw that day was one of my best friends that will continue to be my mentor and a witness to the struggle and growth I’ve encountered in my first year at UCI.
I gave him a hug that, I think, didn’t express how much I was going to miss him, how much I was going to miss getting dinner at The Anteatery (only to complain about Fish Fridays), and random Target runs for alcohol or shampoo.
But I left, somewhat empowered and excited for the summer, for the love I found for myself. I proceeded with my plans to explore Los Angeles.
I drove from Los Angeles to Fontana in 6 p.m. traffic. I was tired and hungry, thinking about plans to travel to Oakland and to stay in Irvine for the summer. Thoughts lingered of how much I missed my family, who are being sun-kissed in the Philippines, and how I was coming to an empty building that night. I turned up Power by Little Mix (my current fave, at the moment), a song that helped me find some elevation towards the end of my first year, hoping it would cheer me up a little with memories of liberation.
When I exited on Baseline Avenue, I figured that I needed to save every cent I had to my name to even travel to Oakland for a week or so. Assuming a frugal mentality, I picked up overexpensive Lucky Charms, a gallon of whole milk, and a piece of chicken — thinking it would fucking suffice for 3 days (It didn’t suffice for 3 days).
I arrived, called a few people to tell them that I was safely back in the emptiness of my parents’ house, and reflected a little bit about how I was alone, again. I tried calling my mom. I thought about taking a shower. I called one of my best friends and talked about the freedom Irvine liberated us with when we lived in Sierra. I expressed how much I missed Irvine, how that was my home, and that I wanted to be back.
After looking up some cheap tickets to Oakland, I took a shower and fell asleep.
Waking up alone, as opposed to having a roommate sleeping soundly across from you or two best friends you can walk over to, was an old feeling that crept out of no where. It felt like it was a million years since I had any kind of human interaction, that I was waking from a long slumber and the apocalypse had just happened, or better yet, life was continuing on without me.
I stayed cooped in my family’s house. If I remember correctly, I had, say, five bowls of Lucky Charms, insisting that I needed to save money if I really wanted to travel to Oakland for the summer, meaning I couldn’t go out to get food made for me.
You have to be productive, I thought to myself, this is going to be a productive and fun summer. I did some laundry and opened boxes. I don’t have a room in the house, so it seemed natural to just leave all my things unpacked, dramatically left opened. My belongings looked at me, begging for a home to live in again. I didn’t have much to offer.
But these were simple tasks that were done in a matter of minutes. The time ticked on slowly and I couldn’t find anyone else in the house that reminded me of Irvine, except my mind. Thing with being alone with your mind is that it’s like drowning in an endless blackhole that consumes time and positive sentiments…if it gets too wild.
And that’s what happened. You see, I grow fond of a certain version of myself in a specific time and place. At that moment, I felt too attached to a certain version of myself that was empowered in the world of Irvine, that felt whole in Irvine, and that felt self-love in Irvine. Like all moments of elevation, they come and go; these sentiments didn’t bleed into my time here in Fontana.
I felt sad and confused and upset and displaced and I have about five or so Medium drafts expressing my frustration with myself and the unnatural realm I was in. As I write this, I’m trying to understand the intricacies of finding that self-love I found at the end of my first year.
Naturally, I turned to Ameer. He was driving back to Oakland and his girlfriend was able to part some empathy my way. What she said resonated with me on all layers of my displacement here.
“Home home for me doesn’t necessarily feel like home to me anymore. It is home because my family is there, but for the most part, it just feels like a familiar place with old memories of the person I was before coming to college.
Going back reminds me of how much I’ve grown since leaving, but I feel like my life is in Irvine now.”
I take this to heart.
That night, I found myself looking over my Snapchat memories, laughing at how chubby I was, missing my best friends, missing my family, missing the pizza/movie nights, missing Sierra, and missing a self that seems to be on the other side of the world.
My high school best friend and I were able to FaceTime after a long hiatus of time apart. While it was on a virtual platform, I had human interaction with someone I missed for the longest time, someone that reminded me of the person I am rather than a certain version of myself.
The mechanism of my mind always seeks a kind of solution-based response, but being in Fontana dropped a bottle of “Bitch, You Thought” serum on the intricacies of my mind, forcing me to pause life. I realize that being alone, while it is a kind of curse that seems to imprison, it also forces you to liberate and expand your mind.
That’s what being alone for, say, two days has done. I’ve had to be vulnerable with myself and I came across a few thoughts.
I don’t know how to fucking cook, I’m going to be real with you. I eat all the time and getting $12 BCD every day is not going to cut it. In my time alone, I’ve learned that being able to eat is a privilege in itself, and getting ingredients is one as well. Today, I took the initiative to not be my sad self that eats Lucky Charms all the time and to go to the store to grab ingredients to experiment cooking with. I’m going to be living on my own (with a rag-tag team of Sierrans, so I guess it’ll be okay) which means I need to take care of myself on my own, without the crutch of a dining commons giving me all the food I can eat at my heart’s content.
There are many “I’s” in this post and I am my only company, for the time being. While I do want to be in Irvine, I have to look at my circumstances of being alone for a week and just be. I have this opportunity to learn a little bit about myself. I have this space to do all the Work from Home dance sessions I want. I have this building to recuperate after a year of being surrounded by a family that watched me grow and let me be myself. This is my time to check in with myself, to see where I’m at, and to conquer my mind’s inner workings in the face of loneliness.
I’ve also learned that while I found self-empowerment, self-love, and self-worth in Irvine, I don’t seem to have it here in Fontana. What happens when I go to Oakland or any other part of the world? What happens when I’m in a club with an overwhelming standard of community, an organization that dares to compare me to star personalities or a rubric I don’t agree with?
Being alone and enchanted by a certain version of myself that I left two days ago has transformed my understanding of self-empowerment, self-love, and self-worth.
While they are tangible sentiments, they are anything, but static. These three pillars of self-concept are marred and conditioned by society’s expectations and desire to place us in bubbles that inform who we are. In order to break free from the bubble of complacency and automated acceptance our society has fostered within our minds, our souls must develop the resiliency to continue working on the three forms of liberation I keep talking about.
That’s why it didn’t click, that’s why I’m so attached to having that empowerment, love, and worth that clings on to my memories of Irvine. It’s because while I feel it in Irvine, I need to also feel it in other places. Succinctly, in order to be self-empowered, self-loved, and to recognize my self-worth, I need to continue working on empowerment, love, and worth in other spaces that isn’t Irvine. In this way, how I feel about myself isn’t informed by the people I’m around or the places I’m in, rather, it is informed by me.
I suppose, from here on out, my summer might not consist of the plans I had before, but simply an opportunity to not just feel empowered, love, and worth, but to be someone with self-empowerment, self-love, and self-worth.
I come to you offering a series of narratives and this is the start of them. I tried desperately finding the courage and words to show my confusion and growth justice. I’m hoping I have.