A Fragmented Whole

Two homes, 8,000 miles apart, and how one remembers the memories dear to each home.

There’s a lot of things that I don’t know, but one thing I do know is that I’ve unexpectedly built a home in a city that used to be a mere travel destination— like a bullet point on my bucket list that I wanted to visit and possibly come back to. In fact, Chicago was never an option until one day, it surprisingly became one when my parents agreed for me to study in the city for college.

So I stayed and I’m glad I did. I’m grateful I did.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t long for my first home, the Philippines. Being in college, away from loved ones, away from what used to be my normalcy and away from the shackles constraining me, allowed me to start anew. For me, this meant flying more than 8,000 miles away to be here. 

Through a poem, I’ll reflect on the experience of moving back and forth — from a home that raised me to another home that nurtured me — and the moments in between. It also represents the gray area of separation and memory’s immense power in finding ways to connect me despite distance and time. This gray area has always meshed both homes, leaving a sense of constant yearning. Four years later, I’ve mastered the art of acceptance of this odd yet humbling reality.

The poem is called “A Fragmented Whole.” It represents a metaphor symbolizing the pieces of me embedded in every feeling, moment or place that once felt like home. While the pieces may be scattered and appear fragmented, I, myself, am whole. 


Animation by Julia Hester, 14 East


A Fragmented Whole

We cannot control what we remember

     but we can control how we remember 

Leading theories reveal that brains store everything from the past

     from how I was uprooted by vision

     thinking of what could be

     dreaming of the possibility 

     to now, replanted, living in the what is

Eight thousand miles away,

I have the birds to thank 

     for carrying me across the pacific

     while under their wings, every inch and every bone trembles 

     crossing time zones, I say goodbye to the moon and say hi to the sun

Until finally, I arrived 

     not to say the journey is done

     in fact, it only just begun

     because nothing stayed the same

     except for the same vision 


We cannot control what we remember

     but we can control how we remember 

The same theory argues that neurons; linked and ever present 

     choose for us

          what’s essential

          what remains

          is of highest potential

So until then, I’ll be hungry for connection

Witnessing time like a mismatched puzzle kit 

     with tiny pieces forming the most gradient sunsets

     on a mission, we move past 90 miles

     till it gets fainter and fainter until our eyes decide it’s over

Leaving me be

     in the company of others

     in the islands of Ilocos Norte

On a bed of sand, barefoot, my feet embrace the warmth

     tingling through my veins

     waking up moments of joys and pains 

Some pieces look like waves of blues

Carrying every love boat, never ceasing even when you say so

Reaching the shore, causing the loudest raucous

Calling it a day,

     but tomorrow it’ll try again

And when it’s time, it’ll float then resist, then do it some more 

     leaving no clear path


We cannot control what we remember

     but we can control how we remember

The same theory argues that to strengthen each memory, one must hold on to it

     actively, knowingly, fearlessly 

     put in on chokehold 

     or else it’ll dissipate

     in ways we didn’t even anticipate 

     falling from our fingertips

            like atoms in the universe, spread out and unheard of

Years after, time still mirrors a mismatched puzzle kit

With skyscrapers on the rise 

So high they don’t meet my eyes

The hustle and bustle seeping through every crevice 

      sifting for hints of anxiety, confusion, name them all 

Comfort comes in ripples 

Knowing the city is an art

      in itself a masterpiece,

      painted with grace and hues of graystone

Adding views from the L,

Jackson’s smooth jazz harmonies,

A cup of Jeni’s,

People incomparable

And of course, a vision intact


We cannot control what we remember 

     but we can control how we remember 

Time doesn’t stop and neither should I 

This round, I’ll say goodbye to the sun and say hi to the moon

      maybe learn how to say “see you soon”

Because I know, even you know 

That I’ll cry and I’ll fly, then do it some more

     if possible, pushing it to its core

Only to stay on this path 


We cannot control what we remember

     but we can control how we remember

Leave it to this body to withstand long flights 

Leave it to this mind to fuse moments of all kinds 

Leave it to this beating heart

     to brave the blurry present and past;

      unveiling dualities and contrasts

      forming a sole pledge of impermanence

      and being completely, utterly fragmented

      it does remain mismatched 

      continuously, courageously, perhaps perpetually

But at least it’s whole.






Header by Julia Hester