This is Essay #15 (a little late) of The 52 Essay Challenge, a series in which I write a new (unpolished) essay each week during 2017.
As a brown child of immigrant parents, I live in a place called the diaspora. It’s this in-between space, neither here nor there, just in-between. I’m not at home in the US simply because I’m brown and I’ve got “exotic” looks. People are surprised I speak English so well. (Uh, I was born here, mutherfuckers.) I’m also not at home in the Philippines, the place from which my parents fled. (Aside: That last word “fled” is something I use to describe their arrival in the US because they left during Marcos’s martial law. This is how I see it. How my mother sees it is entirely different. But that’s for another essay.)
When I first visited the Philippines, I had this overwhelming sense of home. Everyone I saw looked like family. I welled up with tears before I even left the airport. But I knew better than to fall entirely for this romanticized feeling. They can smell American a mile away. And I stank.
All my life, I’ve tried to navigate the in-between spaces, to negotiate a place to call home that really had no fixed location. It’s like home exists in the ether. In a place that doesn’t have a physical existence. Over time, I’ve kinda gotten used to it and worked to be okay with it, to be neither here nor there. I think I’ve created my own space to call home.
Of course, the idea of home, the definition of home is complex. What is home? Is it a feeling? Is it a physical location? Is it people? Is it all of the above? Or none? Or something else?
I’m at a stage where I want to do a little more investigating, a little more inquiry. I’m working on a project that is trying to do just that.
The project is still developing but it involves water and bowls hand made from wood and the idea of memory being held and carried by water and how these things might represent what it is to live in the diaspora. What does it mean to hold water, to be the very bowl that gives it shape? The bowl can be seen as the thing in power because its depth and shape determines the water’s shape. But what does it mean when water spills over the bowl’s rim? Water wants to escape the bowl or perhaps the bowl is not large enough of a “home” for the water and water moves on.
But then consider water as memory, water as carrying memory. Memory creating identity and home. All of our lived experiences build upon each other to create this very moment that we’re in. Water can build, but it ebbs and flows. Does memory rise and fall, ebb and flow? How does this feed into the idea of home? Is home a raft on the current of memory?
What is it to map water? Is it to find one’s way through the unknown, like explorers heading West? Or is it to ensure a way back? Or both? Or something else?
What memories are carried in water? Which ones dissolve into the water and which ones simply wash away? And with whatever is left, what is made?
I don’t know. I only have more questions. Stay tuned for more exploration!