Winter 2020, the time I learn to be alone

Winter break was the exciting thing I thought about during school, especially when I was overwhelmed by the finals, writing portfolio, and small projects. I thought the break would be a perfect time for me to relax and felt alive again. At the end of the break, I found myself too naive since independence and solitude were probably another lessons for me during the break.

During school year, I was surrounded by friends. Occasional calls from my family could easily motivate me for next few weeks. I thought myself strong and have already transitioned well into American lifestyle and the stressful college life. However, not until I said good-bye to my mom at the end of the winter break I realized how much I need my parents, mentally and physically. This post, therefore, is going to unveil my vulnerability, as you can see me acting so cool on the street but only myself know me collapsing inside my sheets. I believe this is a state that some college students or whoever lives away from home would experience; therefore, I am open to share my feelings and weakness as growth is usually accompanied by discomfort.

Before my mom came to New York, I spent the first five days in New York City. We lived in Brooklyn and took the subway to Manhattan every single day. We went to every place that we were supposed to go together. In some days, I went to some hidden spots in the city without following the map and tourist recommendations. I walked from 59th St to 1st St by myself, had pho at 2:30 pm with another friend (that was a really spontaneous meet-up). I went to Wall Street. At the south-end harbor, I saw the Brooklyn Bridge. The majestic buildings reflect the sunlight, which made everything brighter and elevated my mood. At that time, I was so not used to my empty calendar, having no notification telling me what to do in the next hours and where to be. In those five days, I felt productive but empty at the same time since I've been to so many places but never thought about why I was there. I wanted to know more about the history and story of the city, I wanted to tell someone what I was thinking, and I wanted to find a restaurant to dine myself without feeling awkward.

After the five days, my friend flied to Korea and I took the train back to Boston to live in my mom's college friend's home. It has been a peaceful and quiet eight days in Boston. I got bored easily at the first few days since I was not comfortable living in such as a slow pace. I scrolled my instagram unintentionally or watched Youtube and Netflix even though I was not even in the mood to watch anything. Sometimes, if the weather was good, I took the train to downtown Boston and wandered around the city. I had sweet potato sandwich at flour bakery, a cafe opened by a Taiwanese American Joanne Chang. I walked along Newbury Street several times but was always amazed by the beauty of those brownstone apartment soaked in the sunset. Simplicity of life is something that worths learning. It is about how to balance your the effort you put throughout the semester and the relaxation you need for a long run.

This picture was taken in NoMo, NYC. (NoHo? NoMo? SoHo? I was once confused with the names lol). I spent a day with Yane, my friend in college, taking picture around every corner in Soho. It was such a fun day and we walked almost 30,000 step that day! I didn't buy anything that day because every thing is expensive designer product. However, I was content how much I saw and visited, and had an amazing Korean food to warm my soul.

Anyway, there were some small trips in New York City and Boston before I met my mom, and I don't think you guys will be interested in such details! So moving on to January 3rd, the day I finally saw my mom for the first time in half of a year. There were so many things for us to catch up, but I felt surprisingly familiar and comfortable when we talked. She was unpacking, and I just sat next to her and asked her about the flight, the food on the airplane those everyday things rather than how have you ACTUALLY been in the past five months. I felt so relaxed when talking to her; it might sound weird but I had been pushing myself in the social mode during school year, as most of the time I was still not familiar with the people around me.

In the next ten days, we visited multiple art museums in New York, enjoyed sushi in SoHo, had a lovely symphony at Lincoln Center, and went to see the iconic architecture, the Vessel, in Hudson district. In the first few days, my mom woke up at least three hours ahead of me because of the jet lag. However, she didn't wake me up but did her work, read, and made herself a cup of tea. When I was awake, she was always like: Hi, morning Irene, how was the sleep? If that was me who woke up hours before someone else, I would definitely wake the person up and started our day early in the day. That's the difference between my mom and I, while she is the most empathetic person I have ever met, I am self-centered in some way if you know me well.

After New York, we took the train to Philadelphia on January 8th. I was really excited about and attached to this historical city because this is the starting point in which I decided to study abroad in the United States.

Three years ago, I flied to this country alone for a summer camp in UPenn. Before then, I thought studying abroad would be a good option but was not sure about when and where to go. From that camp, however, I love the feeling of being independent and creative. There was definitely some pressure from different aspects of life, such as when people asking about my opinions upon everything but I was used to accept everything when I was in Taipei. I love how my professors not telling me what was wrong, but gave me space to think about improvement, how to do better. The learning environment was encouraging, and students had to be active in order to get the best result of their education. Therefore, the day when I walked around UPenn campus, I was so touched and so thankful for all my parents' support.

This time, we lived around Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. It is a nice area to walk around, as there is park, nice restaurants, and some shops on Chestnut Street. My mom and I love the independent bookstores and La Colombe coffee (we went there for coffee every single day). Also, all the museums, as Philadelphia Museum of Arts and Barnes Foundation are among walkable distance from our stay, which is super convenient!

After another five days in Philadelphia, we took the train back to Boston, where I will spend the next six months in this city. I was excited to show my mom around Boston and my school, but at the same time, I was sad because my mom was leaving in two days. We spent a quality time in Cambridge, seaport district, and downtown Boston. I brought her to Tatte, pavement, and life alive cafe, which are the iconic coffee shops only in Boston and where I like to spend my time here either studying or just for eats. I also brought her to Legal Harborside to enjoy the famous Boston lobster. On the day she was leaving, we walked around Harvard Square and bought chocolate at L.A. Burdick Chocolate.

At around 2 pm that day, I took my mom to South Station since she had to fly from New York. I thought myself would be calm when I said good-bye to her because when I spent the last ten minutes with her at the station I didn't feel that emotional. She constantly told me that we are going to meet each other soon again. This is true, but I just don't want these wonderful ten day to end. I felt like my mom become my friend who I can talk about everything with and make fun of each other. We took picture and selfie every place we went, which were like that type of things I do with friends. Once we were at Metropolitan Museum in New York, a guy asked us if we were sister, which thrilled my mom and let me understand how close we look together. Anyway, all I want to say is this short trip brings us closer and somehow improve our relationship. I have never experienced this kind of feeling when I was in Taipei, as I regard my parents' existence natural and did not learn to cherish it.

At the moment we said good-bye at the platform, I suddenly became emotional and almost burst my tears. We hugged, but I didn't make it last too long because then I could not hold my tears. I went back to our Airbnb myself, and my tears dropped the moment that I closed the door as all the memories in the past two weeks came up with me. It is hard, living in a foreign country alone and forced to grow up, be independent. This was the lesson that I wanted to learn back in high school, when I yearned for freedom and absolute trust from my parents. However, when I am experiencing the taste of independence, the process is bitter and sweet, and I can only taste it myself without sharing my feelings immediately with my family. I now came to realize that the roles of parents gradually fade away out of my life as I grow up. Studying abroad is super fun and the experience that I felt appreciated and fabulous; however, it is hard to adjust the life without your family, who I can always talk about everything whenever I want. For now, I have to process my emotions and negativity at first hand instead of telling my mom immediately. Being alone may seem discomfort and sad, but it is actually a good lesson to learn, which I call it maturity 101.