I remember the first time I returned home during the holiday break of my freshman year. After my mom picked me up from the airport and we drove through the quiet streets of my suburb, my eyes soaked in the monotonous qualities of my hometown that I had bemoaned.
There were the same houses with their monochromatic colors and identically shingled roofs. There was the same grossly unnatural, bluish-greenish lagoon in the center of town. There was the same sprawl of fast food chains by the highway, the same buildings, the same palm trees, the same people, the same parks so painstakingly maintained it seemed like the grass never grew while I was gone.
Everything at home remained the same. I loved it.
After the rush of a new city, new friends, new classes, new social norms, a new apartment that was thrown at me in college, the unchanging qualities of my home became comforts that I realized I longed for.
In the most recent years, I’ve found these comforts to gradually be disappearing. When I returned home this past summer, my suburb appeared to be transforming; sleek condo buildings packed the suburb’s center, more cafes and boba shops opened with the growing number of young professionals in town filling them, construction sites popped up on the streets and even the local McDonald’s was renovated to look more like a chic vegan restaurant.
After witnessing the transformation of my hometown, I have started to question why my quiet, quaint suburb is being forced to change into what seems to me to be a gaudy, characterless cosmopolis.
I realize I sound like a cranky, conservative old man, but as I watch the same old comforts of my hometown disappear, I feel more desperate to preserve it. I think I find it hardest now to see all that was familiar to me altering into the unfamiliar during a time when college is coming to end and I am being pushed into the even more uncertain, fickle “real world.”
This may well be the first time I detested change, even empathizing with the older generations who grumble about everything that is new and transforming the world they knew.
But isn’t change supposed to be good? Like every classic novel, required philosophy class and David Bowie tell us, we are obliged to accept change. Yet, especially as a native of the Bay Area, where there’s a wave of yuppies swarming here and new homes and buildings rising, I wonder who is right here? The locals who have long-established roots and have worked to make something of themselves or the new young people trying to do the same thing? It is a difficult issue to grapple with, but if anything, I know change is inevitable and will never be easy to accept.
Now, as I struggle to accept change, I began thinking of the time my family and I visited the Philippines – the country my parents are originally from.
I recall that one night my dad planned to show my brothers and me his old childhood home. While we drove through the streets that my dad grew up in, I remember him becoming confused as we drove in circles and he could no longer recall how to get to his old house.
But he remained eager, spouting out stories about growing up with ten siblings in the house and how he spent his days as a kid playing basketball in the backyard by a pig pen and scouring through atlases in the house’s library.
Finally, when the car came to a stop, my dad grew quiet. My brothers and I peered through a window, looking up at only a tall, unlit structure.
“Oh my god,” my dad said. “It’s an apartment building!”
He abruptly got out of the car, walking to the front of the apartment building and staring up, incredulous that his old house was gone. My mom rolled down her window, asking my dad if he was okay.
“Those bastards!” he yelled. “They tore down my house.”
I was only 12 years old and wasn’t sure who he was referring to, but I remember suddenly feeling sad for my dad.
After a few quiet moments of my dad standing outside, he came back to the car and returned to his upbeat mood.
I was surprised when he asked where we wanted to go to next and we simply continued driving again.
I think I like remembering this story as I and many people grapple with the changes happening in our homes, much like my dad did. And like my dad, I think that we are allowed a brief moment of surprise and even anger at our transformed towns and houses. But eventually, we can and must accept it and just keep continuing on.
Contact Katrina Fadrilan at [email protected] .