The In-Between

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

I push through the mountain of people ahead of me to glimpse at the check in line at the traikin station. I frantically push myself through the multitude of people to avoid being trampled to death in the busiest city in the world: Beijing.

I finally find my train and find the train conductor who checks my ticket and allows me onboard. It’s time for me to return home to Shanghai.

It’s summer of 2017 and I won’t call Shanghai – or China – my home any longer. In a week I will have to start life in a place called Charlotte. But is Charlotte my home? Or Shanghai? The place I will leave or the place I will go to? I feel like a compass with it’s magnetic strip broken; the direction to point home is unclear.

I am consumed by worry with this uncertainty. I take Flowers for Algernon from my suitcase and go through the smooth pages.

I’ve heard people say that the greatest books teach you what you already know, they allow you to resonate with your own thoughts and emotions. As I read Flowers for Algernon on the train to Shanghai, I feel my thoughts unravel and spill out onto paper. The sense of reality in Daniel Keyes’ words of wisdom overflow into my world.His words become mine, his memories become mine. Despite train’s constant battering into the tracks, my mind is perfectly still – trapped between the plot of the book and the plot of my life.

I feel like I should be disturbed, but I’m not. As I finish the book, I look out the window to see the shining fish ponds and peaceful rice paddies. I’m like a speck of dust out there, floating, content, happy. I am at home between worlds. I can speak English and Chinese. While I can use Chinese for math and science, it is English, however, that is my language of choice for art and emotion. My childhood belongs to America, filled with pine trees, video games, and Lake Orion snow; China holds my youthful years, accompanied by industrial smoke, expeditious mobility, and fast-paced social scenes. Shanghai is where I fought my first bully, discovered cell phones, and tasted tranquility.

I come to my senses and realize we are coming into Hong Qiao station. My reverie is coming to an end, but I have answered my question. Home isn’t arrival or departure. Home isn’t America or China. Home isn’t here or there. Home is the in-between, the gray area, the space between thoughts, and that is where I feel most content.

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