The first Kingdom Hearts game is a story of three children who were born and raised on this island called Destiny’s Island. It was one of those games that defined my childhood, which in turn defines my longings in adulthood and beyond. Throughout the beginning of the first Kingdom Hearts game, you play as this character preparing to leave the island and see the worlds beyond the island. Then, right before you depart on your own accord, you are thrown into the immensity of the universe and with a constant need to run.
I was raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and then I went to college in the city of Philadelphia. I have traveled around the world here and there, but I have met so many people in college who have traveled from so far away to be in Philadelphia. Commuting twenty minutes from my college apartment to my home during breaks, I cannot help but feel some sort of envy towards individuals who are able to feel so distant between school and home. I wish I had that sort of physical separation in my life.
I think there’s a lot about the Asian American experience that delves into the feeling of constant alienation deriving from a label of being other. There are many coping mechanisms for this. Some of my Asian friends do all in their power to emulate the epitome of whiteness. Some of my Asian friends delve into alternative communities offering some semblance of acceptance. Some of my Asian friends insert themselves into Asian communities as a source of solidarity in an era of indifference.
For me, I like doing what I have done all my life: run away.
I often reflect on whether my glorification of running away is a coping mechanism for feeling profoundly unattached to my surroundings. If I could, I would have studied abroad every semester of college. People often say that relationships take time to form, but I wasn’t really capable of forming meaningful relationships even with time. It is something that I learned about myself, and I don’t think it will change in the near future. If the only thing that holds people back from running away is attachment, the natural conclusion from reflecting on my past is the realization that there is nothing holding me back from running away.
There are so little relationships to be formed in life, yet so much of life to see.
During my time as an undergraduate, I constantly attempted to understand what constitutes a relationship, as if understanding how relationships are formed would allow me to better understand how to insert myself into one. But, gradually, I realized that no amount of theory could ever address the void of the practice of feeling loved. It reminds me of the conflict between ideology and practicality that occurred after Mao Zedong’s death between Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping. Ultimately, Deng was able to convince the Communist Party that practical economic policy deserved more attention than the continuation of the revolution, and practicality is the name of the game in post-1978 China.
I think I have achieved a somewhat similar realization in my life. Sometimes, I adhere to these head-in-the-clouds-type theories that I wanted to govern how I lived my life. It is Ayn Rand who said that every philosophical system should be closed and that one philosophical system should be able to address all issues in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and political philosophy. But, specifically, in the field of metaethics, I was constantly searching and theorizing for this one philosophical system that would be able to address all of my questions regarding my relationships. Now, I realize; I should stop searching.
This philosophical system that would solve all of my questions regarding my relationships may or may not exist is the Moby Dick of my existence. I have spent all of my life searching for it and attempting to spear it. But, I think I am at the point in my life where it is probably to let it go and guide my life through practice.
There is a life out there that is going to be experienced, and I intend to experience that life. Regarding the relationships I wasn’t able to form — I have learned to take this fish I have raised all of my life and throw it back into the ocean where I could watch it swim away with me, along with the responsibility of ensuring the fish would grow. I could either continue to theorize about a philosophical system that in actuality has little practice in my life, or I could learn to let go of this false idol. I am letting go of the false fish. I choose to sail ahead.
On Destiny’s Island in Kingdom Hearts, there are a lot of comforts. There is community and friendship and safety, but it is also a world away from other worlds. For me, I never felt the comfort of Sora on Destiny’s Island, so it wasn’t that that kept me there. Instead, it was an attempt to make sense of my experience in Destiny’s Island in all of its alienation. During all the time I spent on Destiny’s Island to understand my experience in the first couple years of my life, the world beyond Destiny’s Island awaits. There is no amount of reflection that will allow me to understand why my experience in Destiny’s Island was the way it was. But, there are other worlds out there that could offer me what I have missed.
I understand now. As long as I continue running, there will eventually be a world that will allow me to have what I have left behind. As long as I have nothing to leave behind, the rest of the world only awaits the drift of my boat.