"Trouble melts like lemon drops."

From left to right: Cousin Chris, my not-so-little-brother Nathan, baby Aiyanna and myself.

My last trip home left me strangely homesick. I’m homesick after living away for three and a half years!

The trip itself was a little bizarre though, but that is just Life, I suppose. I flew to LA to attend a memorial service, and as a result I was able to meet my new baby niece. My emotions were understandably all over the place.

The week preceding the trip, I was barreling through my first classes at Syracuse University, with some luck and a whole lot of kindness from my cohort and professor. (I am enormously indebted to them all, by the way. I spent only a few days with them, but they are some of the brightest and kindest people I’ve ever met.)

Truthfully, I barely felt present during that week at SU. I found out she died (died, not passed away. She hated it when people wrote that. People die.) the night before my flight to Syracuse, and I was numb for the first two or three days of my residency. I felt so odd. I could only think about Jolene Combs and the profound effect she had on my life. I would be in a very different place now if I had never taken J1 with her at El Camino College.

My best friends, those who know me through and through, are not the people I grew up with, or went to high school with, though I still love those guys dearly. I met my best friends on the Union. We scrambled and triumphed together under JC’s iron AP style rule. I met David on that same staff, and we have now been together for nearly five years.

Perhaps the most crucial role JC played in my life was that of my personal cheerleader. She believed in me and my talents at a time when I was barely beginning to rebuild my life. I had just dropped out of Boston University and was content to take random classes at EC. I needed direction, but more than that, I sorely needed someone to encourage and guide me.

At SU, I kept contemplating the way JC had subtly woven herself into the very fabric of my existence. A little strange, but in a way I owe everything I now have to her. She told all of her students that there are only three things one needs in life to achieve happiness: Someone who loves you, good health and a job you love. The first two things are not necessarily in your control, but you can find a job you love.

I only felt some peace when I decided to cancel my trip to New York City to attend her memorial service in LA. Only then did I feel comfortable focusing on my studies; I would have my chance to say goodbye to JC, and do so with my best friends around me.

The service itself was very lovely. JC’s influence was clear from the range of people there: students younger than me, a couple of my high school teachers who had also been taught by her, etc. I saw many people I haven’t seen in years. I even learned a few things about her.

I still have trouble believing she is gone. I wish I could have guzzled a Suffering Bastard with her.

I prefer to think of that weekend home as a celebration of life on all levels. We celebrated and honored the life of an amazing woman, and I was able to experience the joy of new life in the form of my cousin’s baby girl, pictured above.

Again, a curious mix of emotions. Seeing him with baby Aiyanna made me feel every day of my 24 years of life, but it also opened my eyes to the wealth of new experiences awaiting all of us.

Many of my friends are getting engaged or married, or already having children, and that is amazing. It’s beautiful. We’re all growing up and moving on, and though it makes me a little sad and a little nervous, I’m much more excited. Next June I’ll be a bridesmaid for the first time; I’ll have a front row seat to my oldest friend’s wedding. We’ve known each other since we were babies, and it’s only fitting that we experience these new chapters of our lives together.

All of this to provide some background for my homesickness. Whenever I visited home before, it never felt like anything had changed. I would fully expect everything to remain close to the same as when I had first left, and although I always knew that was unrealistic, now is the first time I actually feel the weight of all the potential for change. My friends are getting married. My cousin just had a baby. In a couple of years, my dad will retire and move back to the Philippines. My grandpa just keeps getting older and older.

And I’m missing this progress. That’s where my homesickness stems from: the growing realization that Time is swift and unrelenting. And as well as I can come to terms with change, I just feel like I’m wasting precious time. I want to be around when Aiyanna starts to crawl and walk. I want to hear her gurgle out her first words. I should really get to know my friend’s husband-to-be before I am a party to their marriage. I want the time to grill my grandpa so I can learn more about where I come from. I want to watch him play with his new great-granddaughter. I want to bug my dad every day until he leaves me here in the States with all the crazy relatives.

This feeling makes me want to move back to LA for the next few years, but I know it’s unrealistic. I just need to budget my money and make more frequent trips home.

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