Every weekday at around 11:20 pm, as my family goes to bed I sit at my desk, turn on my computer, and click on the blue zoom icon to attend my first class of the day. To get through my late-night classes, I nibble whatever sugary snacks that are available in the kitchen, ignoring my mom’s words telling me “this is why you don’t stop getting pimples.” Sometimes, my father who is a surgeon comes home at 3 am after his late-night operation, and as we see each other exhausted faces, we exchange a pitying look.
This has been my routine in the past months. Set aside having to sit through lectures in the late hours, remote learning has made it particularly challenging for me to stay in touch with my professors, classmates, and friends, whom I have not met in almost a year.
Nevertheless, as one might say there is always light in the darkness, being home has also allowed me to rebuild my connection with my family that was somewhat lost in the past years that I had been away. Now, everyday as my parents come home from a long day of work, my brother and I greet them and say the word Japanese people say whenever someone comes home: “おかえり (Okaeri)”. It breaks my heart to imagine that for the past years that their children have been absent, my parents came home just to be greeted by a dark and empty room, without anyone there to tell them “Okaeri”. It stings even more to think about how oblivious I was to this sense of emptiness my family have had to face.
Surprisingly, being at home has also strengthened the emotional connection that I feel for my friends who are on the other sides of the world. Each time I visit my favorite places on the island, whether that is a place to eat out, a driving spot, or a beach, I fantasize about bringing my overseas friends there when they come visit. Wherever I go I cannot help but imagine being there with them, thinking about the conversations we could be having and the silly jokes I know they would come up with. Sometimes I can even predict the exact reactions my friends would make, that it almost feels as though they are actually with me. And these are the moments that remind me of how big of a space in my mind my friends take up, despite so much physical distance between us. The pandemic, which initially seemed to separate people from one another, has taught me a lesson that once you are able to embrace the memories and emotional connections you share with others, distance only serves to make relationships even fonder.
P.S. Another thing I had missed and am now privileged to have near me is the ocean; living in a small island, there is not a single day without appreciating it!