Postcards From Home: New York City

I’m Mikaela Keen. I currently live in New York City and I’m a photographer/art director/all-around creative human!

I moved a lot growing up, so the word “home” is a little strange for me, honestly.

I have to define where home is first before anything else.

I went to a family reunion a few months ago. I met so many people for the first time and I would introduce myself as someone from Cebu. I honestly didn’t feel like I’m being completely honest when I said that, but I guess it is the closest truth since Cebu is by far the city I lived in the longest (9 years and some months).

So it’s safe to say that Cebu is home.

My best memory of home would probably be the insane sunsets in Mactan Island specifically in Marigondon. 

I remember, my whole family would pass by it day after day on our way home from school; my siblings scattered on both side of the seats, my Papa driving, and my Mama on the passenger seat of our bright canary yellow multicab. 

Now I imagine it being very cinematic but it was probably a little hectic with the traffic and sweaty, exhausted kids/teenagers but I always remember it as something so magical. 

Marigondon Sunsets - honestly would be a good album title.

I miss the people, food, the weather! 

I used to hate rainy days in New York but I honestly appreciate it so much now and maybe even secretly love it. Especially in the summertime--- because it feels like tropical rain. It feels familiar. It feels like home. Puddled streets, lapok shoes, and all.

Aside from leaving family behind,  starting over again would be top 1 scariest thing about living abroad. It's something that I should already be familiar with, but it was still scary.

I left Cebu for Manila when I was 17, then left Manila for New York a year after, so you can imagine how dramatic it was for my egocentric, teenager self.

I had a conversation with my brother about moving, being challenged or even “forced” to make big life decisions and I wouldn’t forget what he said:

"There's growth when you don't have a choice but to accept things and move forward."

 I agree. 

Growth is kind of a big deal. 

It probably isn’t the prettiest story, but it’s rewarding. 

Didn’t really have a choice but to actually find myself again, dream again, build relationships again and it was definitely hard work. 

I had to choose to get out of bed every day (seriously this is still hard), open up to people, do my best in school/work, be an adult and to be thankful for where I’m at. 

No magic formula I’d say. Lots of tears, laughter, doubts, prayers, meditating, self-talk and lots of learning. 

Almost 9 years in and still trying to take it all in every day.

Living abroad definitely has its wins and glamour which I’m grateful for but in no way is it easy.

The most difficult thing is probably learning and living in a new culture and many subcultures.

New York City, which people say is “the capital of the world”, is arguably one of the most diverse cities in the world. There’s so much required of you when you try to live a harmonious and flourishing life with people that are brought up with different values and culture as you.

Learning about new culture is pretty cool. It opens up your world a little bit and sometimes you’d even think you’re “wiser”.  

But to actually live it out and truly accept and include people and their values, perspective, beliefs, history, preferences to your very comfortable and familiar thinking– it requires hard work, lots of patience, a soft and, at the same time, strong heart. 

Soft heart to be accepting of others and a strong heart to stand firm in your values and what you believe in.

It’s also the most difficult when you just want to cook sinigang and the kangkong in the Asian grocery is $6 per tangkay. Mapapa tanong ka nalang, Why The F Do I Live Here Again?

My favorite thing about NY is the people. People here are very open-minded and eager to learn new things. I like that.

I love that you can see the arts and creativity all throughout the city (museums, galleries, architecture, design, fashion, even in food)

Van Leeuwen Banana Caramel Nut Ice Cream would make me happy in a heartbeat and it’s made in Brooklyn so shoutout (but Bohol Bee Farm Ube Ice cream is still on top of the ice cream throne of my heart in THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD IMHO PLS SEND SPONSORSHIP TY).

“Favorite” is such a heavy word ha - I guess it would be meeting people from all over the world. It makes it smaller that way and bigger at the same time. 

Wanna know my least favorite thing? When these people leave and go back home :/ Ha but thank you the interwebs!

Do I plan to live there for good?

Whew, “for good” is a long time! God never respected my plans so far haha but it’s good to have one right? I’m currently working on a project that would possibly relocate me to a different city/country/continent.

How ironic right, deciding to move when I can decide for myself now as an adult to stay? We shall see. I’m stoked!

New York is home now (9 years in March 2019) so I know I’ll always be back but for now I really want to get out of here and see the world as much as I can while I can.

Parting Words?

What do you want? Do just that! You’ll figure it out. Give it time. Get out of your bed. Eat your favorite ice cream. Stop and smell the roses. Watch a movie. This is your life. Be responsible. Be free!

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