Home for the Holidays

I sit at the dining table, in that familiar armchair seat that faces boxes upon boxes of cereal, snacks, and once-edible things that are probably expired by now. The electric fan beside me bids a faint, soothing humming sound. My personal laptop from 2013 hardly works, so I am forced to use my sisters’ laptop tonight.

I never would have thought I’d ever say this, but here it goes—I’m home for the holidays.

How do I even begin to tell the story of how I moved out last February?

While the story’s been repeatedly told to family, friends, and acquaintances, being here, back in my mom’s apartment, with my luggage just in the other room and my clothes stuffed in my sister’s old dresser, has made it all the more real that I do not actually live here anymore.

It started sometime in the middle of 2018, when I met with Carla, a good friend and mentor from church. I was telling her about this issue that kept repeating in my life, and I couldn’t see a way out of it. Then she told me, quite bluntly, an idea that was swimming in my mind for days: “why don’t you move out?”

While it was one of my options, I never thought of it as an option I could actually avail of.

“I think it would be good for you to learn how to be on your own,” she said.

Following that (literally) life-changing conversation ushered in months of conversations, prayers, questions, and crying out to God in the dead of night. I was praying for clarity and direction for two major milestones in my life: moving out and going to my church’s global conference (which I write about here and will write on this more at another time) the following year. I was excited about how I was going to get there, all I could think of was money, money, money. Seriously. It would take a lot of money for both of these things to happen. At the same time. In less than a year.

Then after fasting about it in September, I brought it up with my mom. She was a bit upset, and rationally pointed out the reasons why she was against it (i.e. the rent money that I’ll be wasting, how there was no actual need to move out, etc). I told her calmly that I understood, and how I’ll be praying some more about it while looking for a place.

“I really think that this is what God’s leading me to do,” I said. She didn’t say much after that, and I was grateful to have a mom who also knew God and understood what I meant.

What I did next was to pray and set some real expectations about my moving out. I did not do this because I think that God is a genie or a sign-giver, but because I wanted to be practical about this move. I still wanted to live, even if that meant cutting back on my lifestyle.

I had three considerations that I thought of when deciding if I would still move and, if yes, where I would move:

  1. The rent would match the price range I had in my head
  2. The place would be an easy commute to work
  3. (This was perhaps the hardest one) I’ll know the people I would be living with

I started asking around the office for anyone who was looking for a house mate. After a month of looking for leads, someone told me about Joice, whose house mate would soon vacate one of their unit’s rooms. It also turned out that her other house mate was Maya, a good friend of mine who worked in the same department. 

I visited the unit on October 20, 2018. I remember clearly how the apartment looked—the daylight enveloping both the living and dining room. The cups that Joice quickly cleared from the dining table, and washed as soon as I sat down. The corner of couches that Joice joked to be a receiving area for all her suitors. The sink rack of plates and utensils next to the stove and rice cooker. The rows of cabinets that lined up the kitchen ceiling.

She told me how her family had moved to the US a year ago, and she was left with all their furniture and appliances. She told me about the commute to work from where they live. She named the rent price, which surprisingly within my budget, and that the room was actually ready for anyone to move in come January 2019.

There I sat, in the warmth of the dining area, and I felt at peace with this place and it also, surprisingly, felt like home. A new home. My new home. Three words echoed in my heart that lunch time—this is it.

But it wasn’t until another month when I finally told Joice those words. It was another month of that cha-cha I do with God whenever I swing between faith and fear right before a major thing is about to unfold in my life.

I was afraid that telling Joice my decision would make it final. I was afraid that not telling Joice would give my spot to the another person. I was afraid that moving out would mean the loss of savings, financial security, and the ability to shop (haha just being real here).

Meanwhile, an even bigger part of my soul knew that to forfeit this decision would cost me something even greater, which was the ability to experience the what-could-be if only I allowed God to move in my life. Giving this up would be losing more than just another house hunt; it would mean that I would never get to know God in a way that I didn’t before—as the only one whom I could bet my life on for this to actually happen.

So on December 5, after the youth service, I felt a rush of courage that told me to just go for it. I approached Joice, and told her how I’ve decided to move in. I would have one more Christmas to spend with my family, and then finally move out by February.

Come February 9, 2019, with two luggages worth of clothes, I moved into the unit. I remember the faces of the students in the dining area who welcomed me as they played card games. There was Joice with them, joking about the amount of clothes I brought. And I felt that warmth in me once again—I was home. God brought me home.

Since the big move, I’ve been wrestling with the reality of having two homes. There was a time when I just wanted to keep sleeping over at my mom’s place as if nothing happened. Then came a time when I never wanted to visit my mom’s because I wanted to live as if everything had changed. But in these last few months of the year, I started to learn the balance of being fully present when I am with them, and being fully present when I am not.

Because while I know that I have a home with my family during holidays, home for me, these past few months, has turned into something different.

Home became a place I built with God. A sacred space where I would truly be myself—with the silly and serious and productive and lazy parts of me. Home is where time didn’t need to push me to doing things, but move me to rest. A place where I feel safe.

Home isn’t limited by a holiday or a location, it is wherever God calls you to be. That’s home.

Because of this, I’m home for the holidays. And after the holidays, I’ll be going back home.

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