If I had gone back to Hong Kong in 2010, I would be living at home and making trips to see a college boyfriend in Tokyo, instead of trying to make it in New York.

My college boyfriend moved to Tokyo the summer after he graduated in 2007 from college—a year before I did, and even though we had broken up that May in anticipation of this, we continued to see each other whenever I returned to Hong Kong twice a year, where my parents live. For three years, we were in an unspoken gray zone, predictably distressing and exhilarating at once.

In the summer of 2010, if I hadn’t been granted my student work visa after my stint at art school, I would have had no choice but to return home. I dreaded going back. I could see myself in the comfort of my parents’ care cultivating a laziness like no other. Hustle? What? Forget about being a better graphic designer! In many ways, however, I would be more materialistically content than I am now; I would have all the trappings of a “nice” lifestyle; I would fly to Tokyo every few months to see my ex (who now lives in a penthouse, I believe) until it naturally fizzled out or until one of us found a replacement and had the gall to cut it off.

My twenties would be driven by somebody else’s ambivalence towards me. I would’ve become adept at compartmentalizing, belying the gnawing message in my head and my heart that all is not okay.