The Importance of Building Roots

July 2023

I always had the desire to live overseas after graduating from university, hoping to explore different cultures and environments to my own. I worked full-time whilst studying law to save enough money to travel every university break, first visiting the golden temple in Kyoto with my friends to seeing the Statute of Liberty in New York just before the pandemic had started. My plan to live overseas was fast-tracked by the pandemic where I first moved to London, and little did I know that a few years later I would end up founding Building Memorii with the mission to help others around the world, living the life I had always dreamed of.

As exciting as it may sound to live a life of wanderlust, this meant that I was constantly moving from place to place — saying hello and goodbyes all the time. Eventually I started to avoid building roots with people as a way to protect myself from the emotional challenges dealing with my transient lifestyle. Relationships became temporary, as I moved on to my next destination with my carry-on luggage. As much as I wanted to form deeper connections with people, I would tell myself that building roots would only deter me from continuing my travels. I had started to despise the person that I had become.

It was only after documenting my memories with my grandma when I visited China earlier in the year, that I realised the importance of building roots once again.

My Grandma and I

It had been five years since I last visited China. The first person that I wanted to see was my grandma, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years ago. Her condition had been declining, and now requires 24/7 at-home care with my relatives taking turns to take care of her at night. Even though she experiences memory loss, she can recount her childhood experiences living in poverty and sometimes she will remember and compliment you for something you had done in the past, such as how obedient I was as a kid.

My grandparents were loved by everyone in their village, sharing food with others when there was barely enough to go around for their six children. At the yearly reunions with those still living in the village, countless stories were shared about them helping out in the community and being a role model for the next generation. My late grandpa, who I have never met, was celebrated for his generosity when times were economically tough and those describing him would always end up with tears of joy.

I realised that documenting my memories with others was my way of building roots with people whilst living a transient lifestyle. My struggle was a false dichotomy; building roots and moving on to the next place were not mutually exclusive. I didn’t have to actively avoid saying hello and goodbyes. Rather, I should have taken comfort in knowing that sharing my experiences also means that I also share those of who I interact with, and in that way, learn to appreciate the deeper sense of connection with the people I have met along the way even if the moment may have been short-lived. And frankly, life is too short to live without maintaining a sense of community. I sometimes still struggle with this, but from this newfound realisation I now have a better appreciation of hello and goodbyes.

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