On Monday my dad (what I thought) spontaneously messaged the family group chat and asked if we could have a family dinner. Initially I thought, “Awwww, that’s cute, dad wants to have a family dinner,” but I completely neglected to read the chunk of message before stating the occasion it was for, which was to celebrate our family’s 16th anniversary since moving to New York.
When I think back to moving to NYC, it mostly comes back just as a series of events, and not much as feelings. I don’t really recall being sad or excited about the change, just that it was a fact of life that my family was moving to a new country. I remember telling my teacher and classmates that when I first found out and stating it almost matter-of-factly. I remember my friends’ shock and intrigue, in almost complete stark contrast to my near indifference. Don’t get me wrong, I did feel a mix of emotions then. I was looking forward to being in a new place, but sad to leave the rest of my family and (maybe more importantly) our neighbor’s dog (whom we have come to love and count as our own). My childhood best friend asked me the day we were leaving when I think we would be back, “I don’t know, maybe 10 years?” I shrugged.
Though we would eventually frequent the little island we called home for so long in the years since then, when I reflect on the journeys my family and I took over the last 16 years (and more), I realize how far along we’ve come. You see, though I would have never known at the time back in 2001, my dad’s following into being the senior pastor of a small, bi-cultural church in New York has been a point of conflict for much of my teenage and adult life. It is something I don’t find easy to talk about, and so I rarely do. The truth is, as comfortable as I’ve grown to living in the States, there are many times that I wish we had never moved here. The challenges we’ve faced in ministry is one thing, but to do that while we’re half a world away from ailing family members adds another level of complexity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve counted the cost and determined that it was just not worth it, but it was too late; the decision was never mine to make to begin with.
In the blink of an eye, 16 years have gone by. I have grown a lot in that time, both literally and figuratively. But one thing that I am continuing to learn and relearn each day, is that God has much bigger plans than I could ever fathom, and that it will all take place and be revealed according to His timing, I just have to learn to surrender and trust in that, whatever that means.
Within the last 5 years or so, I’ve begun to feel that I was growing tired and weary of this city. It’s a city that’s groomed me and it’s something that will always be in my blood, no matter how I may try to shake it. But like with any high-usage vehicle, sometimes the wear and tear is just a little too much for the old faithful. It’s a turning point in which I believe each one of my family members have questioned, thought about, or felt on our own, but have never spoken about collectively. Within the last 5 years, the question I would always ask slowly started to shift from, “God, why did you bring us here?” to “God, where could you be taking us next?”
NYC will always be engrained in my person, but I’ve begun to look forward to a possible life beyond it (except that the amount of film/tv work is currently sucking the life out of me back into staying here). As far as my family goes, they probably never thought they would live in the biggest city in the world for the longest amount of time. Every year since about 6 years ago, I would always wonder if this would finally be the year we made a plan for a future that took us elsewhere. I love-hate this city only a true New Yorker who grew up in the boroughs of New York can do; I am both privileged and disadvantaged for having grown up here.
Whether or not I will spend the rest of my life here only time will tell. But if you ask me now how long it might take before we move again, my answer could very well be, “I don’t know, maybe 10 years?”