I am walking through JFK airport when I was struck by a weird feeling of easiness. I caught me by surprise because I never expected to feel this way as I'm always slightly on edge when traveling.
I remember when I first came here in June, confused and lost as I was swept on a multi-leg homecoming journey (Taipei -> Istanbul -> New York -> Buffalo -> Toronto). The place felt otherworldly and unfamiliar; I was a speck in a confusing mass of people, concrete, and noise.
This time, I pass through quite casually, almost like a local. I feel ambivalent, perhaps even nostalgic, as a thin layer of familiarity grows on the buildings I say hello to for a second time. I had lived here for a month, gotten an apartment, made many friends, and started getting comfortable living in the city. I walk through the building alone, yet I no longer feel alone. Now, the space has developed a sort of softness and warmth.
Reflecting on how I've felt in spaces as I travelled in the past, I've concluded that the difference to me is whether I have friends in the area. It's the memories, the shared experiences and the knowledge that there are people who care about you that turns a harsh city into a place I'd like to call home. We add meaning to objects and places through the power of association - by interacting with them under a shared feeling or experience, these things become more special to us. Looking at the angular terminal building, I am reminded of the emotions I felt of exploring this city, the excitement of anticipation and the bright and liveley nights I spent with new friends.
Now that the novelty of exploring foreign places has worn off a bit for me, I'm beginning to realize that there are, subjectively speaking, only a few places that I hold dear to my heart. It doesn't matter where I am, so long as I'm with friends and I'm able to persue some level of self-actualization. There's no place like home.