Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it means to have “paradise in our own backyards.” As a resident of Southern California, a highly sought out region of the United States known for its year-round sunshine laden weather, the mecca of entertainment, a high accessibility to the coast, mountains and snow (in the winter time), a wealth of arts and cultural institutions, and lastly, rich diversity among its population and food offerings, it’s easy to believe that what we, residents of Southern California, call home is this whole region in its entirety.
This photo shoot was taken in the backyard of a friend’s newly acquired house and while we had no particular intention of what to do with the photos, even on the editorial letter I might attach to it, I began pondering what it means to call a home a home.
Throughout all of the positive and negative challenges that occurred this year, I helped acquire a house for my family not too far from my hometown. It hasn’t been something I’ve publicly shared yet, even to most of my longtime friends mainly because I haven’t entirely figured out how I’d own up to this new lifelong responsibility.
What most people don’t know is that I’ve never technically lived in a house before.
There was a brief stint when I stayed at an old friend’s house during college, but it was a temporary arrangement until I was able to secure a new apartment. I was raised in apartment complexes because it was what my family could afford. I moved out of my mother’s household ten years ago and am constantly bombarded with the question of why I “keep moving further and further away” from her. I’m the last of her children who has yet to move back in after fleeing away as an adult. We always joke about her having resentment towards me not ever returning.
As a child, I dreamt of moving to Los Angeles. As a teenager, I sought independence from my immediate family. I moved to Orange County for college and found a family there through other students I met. In late 2015, I committed to both moving to Los Angeles and achieving full independence by living in Pasadena on my own. It was exactly where I needed to be at that time. I made a new family in Pasadena too, with people who have inspired me to continually go after dreams that, although I may seem confident about, am sometimes afraid to voice.
In looking at my living history, I’ve realized I’ve been quite the bird jumping from city to city practically every year. While I make a home out of wherever I’m living, I’ve noticed that I’ve been treating my living situation as transactional for what I want to accomplish.
And now, I own a house.
I’ve always sought out coming home to my parents as a retreat from the city life, but since home ownership and helping my parents move in earlier this year in April, I surprisingly have developed a particular attachment to our house. It’s not just because of the fact that I now have a financial and legal responsibility to it, but because I clearly see it for what it is: a roof over the heads of the people I love the most and a safe space for building a future.
Lately, more than ever, I view the house as an oasis hidden in the suburbs as well as a physical, permanent place that I can call home. And the best part is, there is still the possibility that the actual paradise in our backyards is the world itself, and the opportunity to be a bird flying across the globe is still within reach, but for now, these wings will be put to rest until sometime next year…
All photographs of Rosie Chuong were taken by Tina Nguyen.
Outfit Details: Dress – Maxi Dress by Mossimo from Target (loaned and sold out, similar from Etsy, Revolve & Nine West) | Bow Sandals by RED Valentino (old, similar here) | Floral headband (loaned and sold out, similar: here, here & here) | Straw Purse (from a Mexico-based flea market trip, similar: here, here & here)
Makeup Details: Laura Mercier Oil-Free Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 in ‘Sand’ | YSL Top Secret BB Cream in ‘Clear’ | YSL Touche Éclat Blur Primer| YSL Touche Éclat Blur Perfector | YSL Touche Éclat in ‘4.5, Luminous Sand’ | NARS Illuminator in ‘Copacabana‘ & ‘Laguna‘ | Anastasia Beverly Hills Perfect Brow Pencil in ‘Soft Brown’