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About a year ago, I felt a lump in my chest.

Usually when I say this, it’s regarding a mental anxiousness I have been getting to know. This time it was purely physical. My mum took me to the doctor a couple weeks later and the results were benign. Around June, the lump began to jolt, and it took me a month to see a doctor. I went alone, now living in Chicago again with my family a 21-hour flight away in Vietnam.

I am an international student who grew up as a third culture kid—an individual raised in a country different from their own or their parents’ country of origin—so most things have been done alone. Voluntarily and involuntarily. I’ve always known distance, and what it teaches you about the different kinds of love. Since middle school, I had been falling in love; the romantic kind; the kind that also always ended up being long-distance; the kind that eventually ended. As much as being away has taught me how goodbyes don’t discard happenstance, these endings make me wonder whether it had ever been love. As childish as it may sound to some, all I want is to be in love. And with each doctor’s appointment, I became afraid that I may never get the chance to. Or that choosing distance might be better.

I wrote this poem after booking the most recent doctor’s visit. It is about the voluntary in the choices me make, out of fear of when our choices can only be involuntary. The life and the people we try to love. Mentally and physically. Close and far away.

The results came back benign, but there is still a lump in my chest.

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