Asian Garden Mall in Westminster, California.
July 2, 2019. I stepped out of the terminal of the John Wayne Airport, having a glimpse of Santa Ana for the first time in thirteen years. I hardly recognized it, yet it felt familiar still. My uncle (once removed) waited for me, as did my Grand Aunt, or “Auntie” as my mother called her. We walked out of the airport, my hand in hers.
It was nice being back. Welcomed back, despite having in the past felt weary about Orange County.
I enjoyed the best cooking in the world in my worldview by Grand Auntie, sure. Still, I was with family, catching up with all the time that has passed and nothing of which a week stay could make up for, truly. I started to remember what having family members outside of my grandmother, her children and grandchildren, and my parents felt like. Yet despite this, we enter each other’s doorway and still say, “Chào (Bà, Ông, Bác, Em, etc),” and I often had someone translating things beyond a few broken phrases, feeling still grateful I was with family.
My sense of isolation that many multiracials experience was not as present. Whether it was because I became more cognizant of my benefits from colorism, of my passing from ethnic ambiguity, or because I genuinely was trying to pick up a few more phrases in Vietnamese, I do not know. Or it was the fact I fit right in, where I stayed. It could have been a combination of all these factors. All of the posts I have made even as recent as a year ago pertaining to the topic of multiracial struggles does not resonate as much with me now. While I will not say the feelings of the past were ingenuine or not occasionally lingering now, the truth of the matter was that there were (are) bigger things. Other matters became more important for me in the grand narrative, such as what is happening to many Vietnamese and Cambodian Americans now. Family is family, my blood is my blood. I could not be without them. There was much to be grateful, that they were there, and I could be there with them.
My Grandmother, hours later, flew over to visit me, along with one of my younger cousins from her oldest son. We had a family vacation, visiting many relatives I had not seen in thirteen years, only to find I had a few cousins (once removed) who were born while I was away. To add context: Grand Auntie had nine children. Her side of the family was not a minor part of our cluster in the West Coast. During the visit, we went to Anaheim, Westminster, Los Angeles, and, well, a revised Disneyland. We also went to Garden Grove and Little Saigon. It reminded me so much of what I left behind when I moved out of California (last time) and went to university in the Midwest.
Then, as filial piety mandated, we visited my Great Grandfather’s grave. A former General of French Indochina and loved by all of us, Great Grandpa helped take care of me when I was a toddler. Every morning, we went to the convenience truck in Fullerton, where some of the family lived before moving over to nearby cities. As I remembered him, and also recalled his devotion to family and God, I knelt to his grave and uttered a prayer and my promise to stand with kin in the coming days; years. After making my gestures of reverence and respect, I stepped away and paid my respects to my Great Grandmother, who also cared for me when I was young. Then Grand Uncle and a Grand Uncle (once removed).
In my visit, I learned a truth I did not think was ever possible: I really missed being in Orange County. During my younger and even more problematic years, I made fun of the place and its “sue-happy” reputation. I was far more conservative back then, the irony of that statement now not lost upon me. I was a “centrist panderer” as someone called me months ago when I said something concerning and I was challenged. And rightfully so I was challenged. In summary, I have been undoing a lot of problematic thinking over these years, and have work to do. I realize since my last time in California, I have grown and I would not mind moving back.
In fact, I started to really consider it.
I struggle with the notion that I would be using my privilege (to move), to get away from a very ostensibly “MAGA” area. Still, there is work to be done in California, as well. If I can afford it, I would love to return, at this point.
And, I am also starting to miss being with or near family. The feeling never left me since my departure from Orange County on July 10, 2019.
If I live in the Midwest or West Coast, I would be closer to kin. Initially, living in Appalachia was wonderful and I met many lovely people here. One of my requirements for where I live now include mountains. This still holds.
Now, I want to be near family again.
My parents have thought over moving near the West Coast or Southwest if they find a suitable placement. If things go in our favor, I can visit them, there. I can also visit the Californian relatives, to top, when I am that way. In truth, I do not see my future with Kansas, and I am growing to consider whether my future is in Appalachia, too.
I have heard about Kansas being considered the black hole of places, that it is a place where one eventually returns. Somehow thus far, short of a few months of staying with my parents while searching for jobs, I avoided being sucked back in. I ended up on the proverbial Star Trek Enterprise, powered out by light speed, and went where no average person growing up in a small Kansas town has gone before. And I am grateful to have escaped the racist, homophobic, and gossipy Hell. In different points being in said small town (not worthy being named), I dealt with all three of these. The further I keep from there, the better.
I think at this point, my long-game will include the West Coast. This is provided I foresee myself surviving the next eleven or so years. Which then I suppose none of it will matter. For me, I need to be close to my community, however that looks. Our toxic climate puts them at risk by white supremacist, xenophobic policies and I need to be there for them. With them. It is becoming increasingly important for me to utilize my privilege to elevate them, to see their freedom as part of my own freedom. Not only help them. Until everyone is free, no one is free, as the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has once said.
In addition, I feel the West Coast is where I will grow the most. I want to become a successful writer of fantasy and science-fiction, but also a successful non-fiction writer. Ultimately, I want what I write to make a positive impact toward equality and justice for all (and not just old white men). For this to happen, I need to surround myself with more resources and opportunities to grow in this.
Where I am now, nothing I do to promote social justice is progressing anything at this point. My job has given me more gray hairs with how much I am fighting the status quo. People I have worked with closely on such initiatives have been “let go” and my resources for doing the work are slowly dying. Resources to sustain my psychological energy levels are also few unless I travel an hour and a half elsewhere. I realize hardships are part of the work, but I am not growing in my current climate, only deteriorating.
I also need more venues for self-care, and ones that are closer. Family is part of the network. I need additional spaces that help with self-care, as well. California’s resources are definitely not lacking in this regard. While taking care of myself, I can also help organizations dedicated to serving communities of refugees and immigrants most vulnerable to racist anti-immigration policies.
Where I am now, I am more severely limited on my resources, cut off from where I can take action beyond online petitions, donations, and writing about the topics; and have additional obstacles from my work environment. Maybe with this change of scenery, I can do more. For myself and for the world.
The West is calling me. I am ready to come home.