When you move to a new country, things are different. Obviously. From big things like the language and customs, to little things like the brands of ketchup or Sriracha. (Sriracha is very important to me, ok?) Sometimes I get frustrated when my new place doesn’t have some of the things like an old place did. Sometime you just have to write those feelings down just to get them out, you know what I mean? Also, sometimes you’re inspired by Netflix original movies. I mean, who knows.
I don’t miss you all that much, if I’m being honest. You’re like that relationship that happens because it’s convenient; the other person just happens to be in the right place at the right time. I love things about you, I suppose. I miss Spanish cafe culture, where you can go out and see people just chatting and enjoying themselves, having a café, caña, or copa de vino. I didn’t always love Spanish wine, but I loved how cheap wine was, even when it was from Portugal or France or Italy. I miss the jamón serrano. Not even the jamón íberico (the really good stuff). Even the stuff on down the ladder is good enough. And lord, the bread! Spain is not that great for bread compared to Northern Europe, but at least they have bread, unlike some places I could name. I miss buying some rolls, some jamón serrano, some cheese and arugula and making a goddamn sandwich.
So yeah, you never satisfied my itch for something spicy, but I miss you a bit anyway. I knew you weren’t what I wanted, but we made do.
We all know how much I miss you. While I know the love I’m declaring may reek of rose-colored nostalgia, I still want to tell you how I feel. I remember the feeling once I knew where I was going, feeling like I had a home away from home. I never saw everything, but I felt like I knew most things or at least had a pretty good idea about most things. We could have a good time together; I knew the small streets and alleys to get to my favorite bars and favorite bookstores and favorite late-night snack joints. I knew which meandering streets led to friends’ house, hidden alleyways full of street art, hipster coffee shops. I felt safe and understood, even though I didn’t literally understand (Polish).
Dear Kansas City,
I want to tell you that you are actually the first city where I moved by myself and learned how to find my footing, but the reality of our relationship is so much more complicated than that. To classify it as abusive seems more apt, at first glance, but that’s not fair either. We didn’t really understand each other that first year. Forces outside of us kept us distant, in some way. This was the first time I truly struggled with depression, anxiety, homesickness–where I cried what I hoped was silently every night in the shower, and sometimes as I was falling asleep; where I spent countless hours miserable because of rejection and stress.
But once I moved past that (cut those toxic people out of my life, out of our relationship, KCMO), I found something much better, much more fulfilling. A place where, like a real relationship, I had to put in a lot of effort, but I got a love out as a result. Your great music, great barbecue, hella cheap rent will be what I tell everyone when they ask, “You actually liked living in Kansas City??”, but what I will always love is the way you brought out something new in me, something that was painful at first, but ultimately necessary to the person I have become.
What can I say? We were young, and I was already disposed to fall in love with you the minute we met. I know some people dread going off to college; they get homesick or scared or overwhelmed, but I never felt that way about you. I was excited and while my first-semester classes certainly didn’t do me any favors, you, the city of Berkeley, never let me down. You always had something fun on the docket, a new restaurant or coffee shop, a new party, new colors in the fall, new flowers in the spring, something resembling that thing they call “seasons” which we don’t have in Los Angeles. You were a great first home-away-from-home. You did right by me and taught me so much about being a grown-up, even though I wasn’t quite a grown-up yet.
You are like that first young, passionate fling–short yet impressive, immature yet life-changing. You are, of course, enchanting and charming, like any travel blog written by a white person worth its weight will tell you. But there’s something about the way a 19 year old throws themselves into their semester abroad that I’ve never found anywhere else. Not that I would want to. You were never meant to be forever, but you were certainly special.
Dear Los Angeles,
What can you say about your childhood sweetheart, your on-again, off-again lover, your very first? Quite literally. I leave, I come back (OK, usually not voluntarily or permanently but whatever, you get the metaphor at this point), I could never really leave you. Part of my life will always be with you. Do we end up together? Who knows. There’s always the sequel.
((In case you are wondering, yes, I very much recommend that you watch To All the Boys I Loved Before. I love rom coms and also teenagers who are charming instead of doing weird things like eating Tide Pods (disclaimer: is that real? I’ve only seen memes about it on tumblr. I talk to very few teenagers in real life.) ))