roots | day 17 | 3958 miles

july 17th, 2015 | 3 hours ahead

In 1995 a young man and his wife moved to Fredericksberg, Virginia from their parent’s home in Foster City, California. He was getting promoted to an outside sales position for a large biotech company called Biogenics, and she was looking for an adventure away from home. They bought a two story, 3 acre property in Fredericksberg, and began a new life.

Only a year later though, the man’s boss said that she was leaving the company and that she recommended him for her position. He got the job, so the couple moved back to the bay. Shortly after, they had an awesome kid. Ultimately, the new father left Biogenics and started his own biotech company. It’s been 18 years, and he’s still doing it. The kid is 19 now, and his parents still call him Aaron. Those two people are my parents, and today, I went to their house for the first time — the one they lived in around 20 years ago.

2 English Hills

Going to a place that has, attached to it, some kind of historical significance is like looking back in time. People say that time machines don’t exist, but I beg to differ. I stepped onto the same driveway that my parents stepped onto for the first time 2 decades ago. I wasn’t with them then (I wasn’t born), but I was with them here (metaphysically). That’s the crazy thing. I could instantly and effortlessly envision them here. This was the setting of their stories, and now what was a mysterious amalgamation of imagined images from throughout my life is right in front of me, concretely.

I knocked on this newly familiar door, hoping to find a resident at the door, just so that I can tell them that my parents lived here 20 years before. I imagined how shocking it would be — from their perspective — to receive such a guest, and I knew it would evoke a kind of awe, something of which a lot of people are unknowingly starved.

Unfortunately, there was no answer, so we left for Philly.


Another man — at an age younger than the man above — found himself in a very similar situation — though slightly different in detail.

He was low-achieving student in a high school in Hong Kong. At the time, there was only one university in Hong Kong, and it was incredibly competitive; he knew he wasn’t getting in. But because of the relations between Honk Kong and England, it was relatively easy for a Hong Kong citizen to study in England, so the man ended up in the University of London.

He didn’t know english well, so he spent the first 2.5 years studying english in a coastal region of England before moving to London where he studied chemical engineering.

60 years later, that man finds himself in an English pub in Philadelphia, eating fish and chips and enjoying a great local beer that can only remind him of those days.

side note: every time fish n’ chips are on the menu, he orders them and explains how they’re not as good as they were in England.

After dinner, I went for a walk by myself around the area. I wandered aimlessly until I found the first Washington Square Park I would visit on this trip. It was dusk, so the light was such that you could make out the generality of people but not their detail. They’re like the subjects of Picasso’s blue period paintings in shade and style but not in tone. Instead, romantic accompaniments ensue: elegant street violinists and exquisitely and constantly surprising firefly shows.

People were everywhere. People shared company. I admired how incredibly involved in their lives everyone seemed. Strewn across benches, lawns, and pathways, each and every person, though connected through this inexplicable and instantaneous moment, had a story of their own. I had this deep feeling and understanding that we all go through life doing the things that we do. We all have our own history, our own roots, a common denominator or line connecting us to our past.

I can only wonder what traditions, customs, and experiences I will remember and maintain 3, 4, 5 decades into the future and which people I will share them with. It excites me to think that someday my kids will wear a pair of cowboy boots from the same store that my grandfather’s are from, eat at the same restaurants that I enjoyed decades before, and see the house that I grew up in.

It’s our story that gives us our identity, that teaches us who and why were are who we are today. It’s not until you understand another person’s story that you understand who they are, so remember your roots and try to uncover others’.

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