Ahead of my 15th birthday, my mother turned to me and asked if I wanted to have a traditional quinceanera to celebrate the milestone, or if I’d rather her take me on my first trip to New York. I chose New York.
Any Mexican will tell you how special and valued the coming-of-age party is in our culture, but for me, the decision was a no-brainer. I had long been fascinated with New York City and was positive I’d only fall deeper in love when I finally visited. I was right.
After that initial trip, my entire focus shifted to doing everything in my power to go back and live there permanently. I worked hard during high school, did all the extracurriculars, and when the time came, I was beyond thrilled to find out I had been accepted into New York University’s Class of 2020.
Flash-forward to May of 2020: I found myself evicted from my college dorm months earlier, no job prospects on the line, and COVID-19 running rampant all while celebrating my graduation through a computer screen from my parent’s bedroom.
Similarly to many of my peers, I had moved back in with my parents. In the months before the coronavirus hit New York, I was working as an intern at a talent and events PR company I hoped would extend a formal full-time offer upon my graduation.
Of course, things didn’t exactly go as planned and I found myself back in my Los Angeles childhood bedroom surrounded by the judging eyes of the stuffed animals I had abandoned years prior. Amid the collapsing job market, there was nothing I could do but wait for the storm to pass and pray it wouldn’t hit home.
I quickly realized that sleeping squished, sandwiched between my little brother and mom, on the couch after a movie marathon isn’t the worst way to spend my days. And while everyone my age lamented the fact they weren’t able to go out to the club, I relished in an abundance of home-cooked meals from my grandmother and sporadic trips to Costco. I had lost so much time over the past four years while I was away at college, and living back at home gave me a bit of time to catch up and make up for it all.
When I left for New York, my little brother, Sean-Carlo, was still in elementary school. Now, he’s over 6 feet tall ― a fact he makes sure to regularly tease me and my 5-foot-4 height for ― and in his first year of high school. It’s bittersweet but my baby brother is all but grown up, and I missed countless birthdays.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered he had tossed aside his favorite dinosaur toys for an Xbox instead or that he was actually able to join in on the conversation during our family dinner talks on topics like a woman’s right to choose and Black Lives Matter.
People have never believed me when I said my mother is my best friend, but it couldn’t be more true. I love my mom. Being raised by a young single mom, she’s always been a bit more like a sister than my mom when it comes to stealing my favorite coats and accessories.
But where it concerns giving life advice, she’s golden. During lockdown we made it a point to finally check off classic movies we had never seen before like “Gone With the Wind” and “Pulp Fiction.”
I regularly canceled plans to hang out with friends and stayed in to drink Argentinian red wine with my mom while my dad raced to get snacks at the corner liquor store, earning me some pretty confused texts in response, but I don’t regret it at all.
I’ve thought about moving out a lot. At 21, I truly thought I was ready to live on my own and take on the world. But my formal entry into adulthood was halted by the pandemic, and in coming back home, I realized how wrong I was.
Recently, I accepted a full-time position that requires me to move back to New York. And while I have visited a few times since the COVID-19 pandemic began, I found myself beyond disappointed at the news. I’ve wanted to move to New York my whole life, so why am I so sad?
The implications of leaving home again, this time at 23 and only a bit wiser but all the more aware that time is sacred, is much more difficult. The past two years have also been met with many losses my family has had to endure at the hands of the pandemic that’s forced me to reevaluate what’s most important in life.
Thanks to my time away at college, I had the opportunity to study abroad in both Paris and London, make wonderful friends, and fall in love for the first time with my incredible boyfriend. In many ways, my life is all but set up in New York, except I’m not ready to leave home.
I don’t love the idea of seeing updates or celebrating birthdays through our family group chat, but I’ll be a willing participant in the passing of TikToks, memes, and cringey emojis in an effort to feel close to them. The phrase “you can’t go home again” is true, but I’ve learned your loved ones will build a new shelter from scratch, wherever and whenever you decide to make your way back.