Cupertino never felt like home.
It took me approximately 18 hours to realize that. The air was unfamiliar and stale, too cold and sharp for my body, which was used to the fervent nature of tropical heat. For the 10 years I lived in Singapore, America had always been some kind of dream land for me — the land of cheap clothes, celebrities and cold winters — and I was finally living the dream, right?
I stepped foot into Monta Vista in my hot pink tights, a dark green Old Navy jacket and a big, fat smile, even though you could see all my crooked teeth. Colorful and so full of life. But soon, reality hit — life wasn’t supposed to be colorful.
Life wasn’t what I thought it would be at all. It was characterized by monotony, loneliness and a prolonged sense of longing without ever belonging. Monta Vista has this unique power of changing the lives of anyone who walks through its gates. You never return the same way. Everyone carried the same resentment and grudge but it was almost impossible to break the mould that blanketed everyone’s personalities. Every day was colored by the same kind of conversations — sleep, stress, social deprivation. There was nothing else to talk about, really. I learned that life was actually about numbers and equations and scores and success.
Monta Vista begged and begged and I gave and gave until I woke up in the mornings with blue fingers and toes, a pounding migraine, blurry vision and an accelerated heartbeat. I caught myself slipping further down and down, and after a point, I just let myself fall. I was at my pediatrician’s office nearly every month, but she just repeated that everything I was experiencing were normal side effects of stress. It didn’t feel normal though; I was a stranger in my own skin.
There was too much being asked of me, too many expectations and questions, and I simply couldn’t satisfy anyone or anything. Everyone kept telling me that failure was normal but I was conditioned to think otherwise. It was a struggle to accept my own triumphs and respect myself when I had achieved practically nothing compared to everyone else. The whole world was on my shoulders and every breath was suffocating, painful and too much.
The nights were the worst. I would go to sleep praying to not be awakened by a migraine or permanent blindness. It was always eerily quiet, too quiet to fall asleep; the air heavy with what-ifs and silent wishes. I was only accompanied by the howling winds, my noisy thoughts and the pitter patter of my irregular heartbeats.
But there was also something so beautiful about Cupertino and the way it made every moment seem like it mattered. Every test, every mistake, every migraine, every football game, every late night drive, every laugh, every smile. Everything felt oversaturated and heightened with emotion, but there is something to be admired about that.
There were no thunderstorms with crackling lightning and on the best days you could look up and see the stars waving back with twinkling eyes. There were flowers everywhere — in my backyard, in my neighbors’ front yards, on the way to school, in the ditches, on the field. They were beautiful, fragile and so colorful. They made me pause and stare, every single time, and just for a second, I let them take over me, because how are there pink roses growing by my bedroom window sill when the occupant herself feels withered and decayed?
Every day I have to remind myself to be positive, to look on the bright side because wallowing in my ocean of self pity and lack of confidence brought me nowhere. I learned to ground myself and find reasons to believe in and stay. And now that I can finally leave, and no longer feel tethered to this piece of land, I can’t help but feel a sense of emptiness within myself, because so many pieces of myself are scattered in the streets, classrooms and fields.
Cupertino never felt like home, and even though there is so much to hate, there is so much to love and remember.