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Olivia is devastated when she learns her family is moving away from lush, beautiful California to drab, grey New York City

I relaxed in my backyard, delighted by everything around me. The warm breeze rippled through the air. A symphony of birdsong erupted from the chirping birds that swooped around the sapphire blue sky. I visualized the clouds as fluffy cotton candy that you could devour in delicious wisps. A majestic palm tree’s lush emerald green leaves swayed slightly. From the juicy fruits of the orange tree wafted up a wonderful fragrance. The pear tree was tiny compared to the other trees in the backyard but pleasant to look upon. A peach tree had feather-shaped leaves that varied in shades from lime to rainforest green. The peaches were soft, like satin or velvet, and refreshingly quenching. The grass tickled my ankles enticingly, swishing hypnotically like serpents.

I’d only resided in California for a little while, but that was enough for me to love it thoroughly. My spacious house was illuminated by exquisite lamps, furnished with elaborate sofas, intricately decorated chairs, and magnificent tables. The windows were iridescent and looked out onto the panorama of the backyard and the front yard. I spent barely any time in the front yard because, instead of grass, there was the obsidian-black road. Still, it was entertaining to scrutinize the streaks of colorful blurs whiz by, the quick-moving cars. I also enjoyed the consistency, how everything stayed the same, how nothing changed unexpectedly for the worse.

Suddenly, all of those wonderful experiences began to be tainted with a hint of change. Instead of the serene contentment that settled on my family at most times, there was a general mood of frenzied liveliness. I would leap out of my comfortable bed energetically, enthusiastic and effervescent for another day filled with my magnificent life in California, then notice my parents discussing matters that were evidently significant. I only caught drifts of words that floated to my ears.

San Francisco Bay

“Great opportunity . . .”

“New York City . . .”

“Amazing schools . . .”

I ignored this, my mind drifting back instead toward the last time we had moved, from Canada to here in California. It had been quite paradisiacal. A picturesque scene with a large glassy window depicted itself in my mind. Booming fireworks of all colors thrust themselves forcefully into the dark night sky, exploding in blindingly bright sparks . . .

Anyway, we couldn’t be moving again! We just came here a year ago! I told myself firmly.

I bound out of the house with as much indifference as I could muster, despite the ominousness of the conversation, because, if anything changed, I didn’t want to know. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do a while later when I was called into the living room for the announcement.

“We’re moving to New York City!” my mother announced, sounding ecstatic.

It took me a moment to register this, that it was true, we were moving. I don’t think it’s official, I told myself hopefully, but I knew that I had to resign myself to the fate I was being condemned to. New York? I thought with contempt. Why can’t we stay in California? Our house is here, my school is here, my friends are here . . . what’s in New York that’s so much better?

I clung to the few precious moments I had left of California. Everything seemed to pass in a monotonous blur, because I couldn’t fully indulge in the excitement of packing, which I would normally have loved, since I knew that we were moving soon. Whenever I went to school, I felt devastated that I was leaving behind all of my friends. I’d known them for an entire year, which was a lot when you were only five— basically one fifth of my lifetime! I’d spent so much time with them and couldn’t imagine leaving them all behind. How would I stay in touch with them when I lived so far away? I dreaded moving to New York the way you would dread being pulled into a torrential riptide or a vicious tornado. And when I ended up finally moving, my suspicions were confirmed.

The view outside of my window of New York was a dilapidated building with very plain bricks meticulously woven into the figure. The crimson paint was peeling and the stairs on the fire escape might have been shimmering obsidian-black, but were now a bit tarnished and stained. Whenever I looked out of the window, I saw a few patches of blue sky, so unlike the vast field of vivid blue I’d seen before. Thick smoke occasionally covered even those rare glimpses, in which case I despaired especially.

And I most certainly did not have a backyard, let alone a luxurious one filled with piquant, appetizing fruits. I didn’t have the same spacious house, so I kept thinking about all I didn’t have anymore and realized how lucky I’d been before. I couldn’t even take advantage of what I’d had; it was too late. I tried not to indulge in sorrow and self-pity, but who could blame me if I did? I wondered how long it would be until all of my memories of California slowly disappeared, fading into blurry images and then disintegrating into nothingness. But there was nothing I could do. I was five years old; I had no power in decisions. I felt a sense of both growing helplessness and emptiness. Everything I did, I did it without enthusiasm. This was definitely not “a place with more opportunities.” Not a day passed without me thinking longingly of California.

Not a day passed without me thinking longingly of California.

After I had been miserable for a considerable amount of time, I noticed that, though I personally hadn’t seen any positives in moving, my parents clearly did. They seemed delighted with the condo and relished unpacking to make the place comfortable. Every day, they worked hard to make it wonderful and something that I would eventually like too. I had ignored their efforts and now comprehended that people would get weary of this. I recognized how selfish it was of me to only think of myself and how I viewed New York. After all, my parents saw as favorable the circumstances I considered unfortunate. Maybe I’d judged everything too quickly? Now that I thought about it, how long had I lived in New York? A week? Two? Not long, and definitely not long enough for me to fully comprehend the grandeur of it. I hesitantly decided that I would try to be unbiased for at least another week before I continued sulking and whining.

A while later: I smiled as I raced across Central Park. I walked along the edge of the lake, delighting in the tiny fish that flickered around, sometimes visible, sometimes dark, blending into the water. The water looked serene, with ripples occasionally spreading along the surface of the shimmering lake. It was still the summer and the air was warm, but there was a refreshing breeze. I was just as pleased with our condo as anyone else in my family, excited for school, which was starting soon, and disgusted at my previous reaction to moving.

By the time winter came, I was fully adjusted and delighted by New York, especially when I felt the thrilling sensation of delicate snowflakes fluttering down gently, lightly landing on me and melting into an iridescent water droplet. There was no snow in California, and New York City had such a different climate from the blistering heat. I also marveled that I could walk everywhere, instead of driving from place to place, stuck with the boredom of the car. I remembered driving to school, driving to the supermarket, driving to anywhere and everywhere.

At first, I’d have given anything to be back in California, but now I realized that to truly judge things, you have to give them a chance.

Olivia Choi
Olivia Choi, 12
New York, NY

Kina Sands
Kina Sands, 10
Davis, CA