My mom never fails to sign off of Skype without asking me the same question over and over again, “when are you coming home?” My inbox has been flooded with similar derivatives, such as,
“When you come home, let’s hang out!”
“Where is home for you?”
“Are you going home for the holidays?”
I struggle with these questions because I am home… Asia is my home.
Last week, I confessed this to my best friend in the whole damn world and she started to cry. “I knew you were never happy here,” she choked out. She turned her face to hide from me, but I know her too well for that façade to work. The whole conversation left a big gaping hole in my heart.
But she knows why I have to stay. She knows why I have to be selfish.
Some people don’t get the way my brain works. That’s okay. I rather be someone’s shot of whiskey, than everyone’s cup of tea.
To be honest, everything is a big joke to me until it’s not. When shit gets real, I’m the girl you bet on. I’m not good at anything normal (like math), but I can extract you from the burrows of NYC, the bazars of Morocco, or the Indian Himalayas. I am a chameleon by nature. I absorb languages, slang, customs, religious practices, and traditions like a sponge… and then I bring all these treasures back to the states to share with anyone who will listen; and people really listened in the last few days.
In the last week, 4.6 million people cared about what I had to say.
I get why people pushed back. It’s scary to be confronted with an opinion different than yours. It rocks your entire world. It forces you to curl up and defend yourself, and everything you were raised to believe.
But that’s the kind of shit I relish.
I love treading water in whirlpools. Once I’ve conquered one hill, I look for the next mountain. If I’m not the underdog at all times, I can’t help but feel incredibly bored; but that’s not “normal behavior” according to popular debate.
The reason I started this blog is to challenge the traditional definition of the “American Dream” for millennials. It’s okay to feel nervous and unsure about roaming off the beaten path. Sorry if I disappointed your dreams of me becoming a Supreme Court Justice Mom and Dad… but know that I’m happy doing what I want to do-here-in MY home.
And to be honest, I think they’re finally coming around. They’ve continued to support me since my feet hit the ground in Beijing and they even came to visit me in October! They even pimped out my kitchen to make me feel more at “home.” They’re pretty awesome.
My point is: We are not our parents’ generation. I cannot stress that enough. “The good ol’ days” were shit if you weren’t a straight white male and it’s time that we abandon that idea completely. It’s our time to create our own identities beyond the expectations of our seniors. Screw the country club, we should be spending our money on seeing and developing the rest of the world… because it’s the only one we’ll ever have.
My home has no expectations. We only have rules. Rules that are actually just suggestions and suggestions can always be resubmitted for revision“The American Dream” is not like My American Dream. My American Dream has very little to do with America at all to be honest.
When I think about the rest of my life… I think about a place where things are constantly changing. I want to be at the center of development and innovation. I want to be kept on my toes at all times. And I don’t ever want to feel like I’ve completely “settled” into anything, ever.
You can be careful and I’ll be the reckless one.
The history books aren’t filled with portraits of people who played it safe.
Ye Mao Zi Photography (夜猫子摄影)
Aaron Berkovich is one of my personal friends and long-time supporters. He believed in my dreams before it was cool.
He’s been shooting in Beijing for the later year and by photographing travel, parties, people, and food, his intimate images allow him to share his own journey with like-minded people. Like his page here.
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About Vanessa Elizabeth
Vanessa Elizabeth is a cultural chameleon currently based in London. She enjoys sports (such as CrossFit and dating), cooking, and demolishing her savings account. When she's not busy blogging about her feelings, she works full-time and practices Chinese with her English/German friends.
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