"It's strange how places seem different at different times in your life, and your memory of things are different when you are an older man, versus a younger man."
For most of the past decade, I prided myself on always going to new places, conquering new lands, and meeting new people. I should never return, or retrace my steps, because that means I have failed and retreated. Yes, I still believe this sentiment to be partly true (backtracking can seem like failure), but now I have a more nuanced understanding --- whenever you return to a place, it is never the same as when you left it, because YOU have changed. While personal growth may be externalized, when you move to a new city, get a new job, or enter a new relationship, a lot can still happen internally. During the pandemic, when most of the world had to stay in quarantine, there weren't many "external" markers of growth that we can hold on to. But that hardly means that we did not grow and change internally. Time still moves forward, and we pick up new skills and meet new people, perhaps only less enjoyably through Zoom.
As hard to admit as it is, I have "returned" to certain cities more often than others, and each time life has "hit different". Hong Kong in 2008, was very different than Hong Kong in 2015, or even Hong Kong in 2018. My summer as a high school student in Chicago in 2010, compares very differently to my first internship at a corporate office there, in 2014. Each time, I treasure and cherish all the things I loved and enjoyed from my previous trips, and I augment them to the current reality. (A internship in a hometown abroad, cannot compare to a childhood visit, when you can finally get drinks at LKF.) I can only hope that this time, "returning" to Boston in 2021, would be a different story than the Boston of 2016, and perhaps, I can tie up some missing pieces, complete unfinished business, and follow through lost dreams/aspirations, before moving on to the next great adventure, and all the adventures following. Because this time, I intend not only to seek and learn, but to build something (whatever that may mean, or be).