With the new year came the eye-opening cognizance that in the three years since I had left home, left my friends and my family–for college, then a gap year, then another year of college–I had still failed to shape myself into a community. I’ve gone from living in a dorm with the not-so-quintessential roommate experience in Chicago, to living on my own in the same city, and then moving to NYC to again live alone.

In all of these instances, I have felt entirely displaced; The oddity is that it felt natural to gracefully become lost. It was almost too easy to just dissipate into the cityscapes and linger there among the lights, removed from the jubilance. Three years of  self-criticism led to the following question: Why has my social life never measured up? I’ve convinced myself since the beginning of high school and into early adulthood that one’s self-worth is attached to the largeness of their social life. Not to say that I had that; I always had the opposite. Consistently with a small but very close group of friends, I have maintained those treasures from high school to this day. But I’ve always counted those friends on my fingers.

The obstacle of my friendship insecurity is this: How is it possible that after being flung into two new cities and living in New York for the past two years, I’ve still failed to find that sense of belonging? Part of the dilemma may be that I am immensely happy with the support I do have from my best friends and family. With Instagram stories, direct messaging, and FaceTime, it’s surreal how digital interactions really can leave an impression on your heart as if they are right there beside you instead of thousands of miles away.

So, my excuse is that I have it too good. I lucked out with the most remarkable family and extraordinarily affectionate friendships. Add that to my uncontrollable romanticization of cinema, books, and music, and here I am. What I have grasped is never to make the assumption that everyone around you except for yourself has it all figured out. As I watched Lady Bird for the fourth time, this line continues to tug at my strings: “Some people aren’t built happy.” It’s true, but that doesn’t make us any less of a person, because integrity is found in being honest.

So, here is another series of artworks about my mom who is my best friend, a friend of Chicago, and a series of prose I wrote to help me work things out. ♦