You Can Never Go Back

The promise of reentry is a dangerous lie

Jane Park
5 min readAug 24, 2021
Author’s photo of Seoul Airport, immigrating from Korea to Canada, 1975. My parents were dressed up for the long trans Pacific flight. That’s me in the middle.

“You thinking I’m the liar?” my mother asked me as she showed me around her childhood home in Pangyo, South Korea on a hot and sticky July afternoon.

“Somehow it shrinking!” she marveled, scanning the site where she grew up with her parents, seven siblings, and the many cousins and friends who would come to stay for weeks and months on end.

When my sisters and I were growing up, she would laugh as she regaled us with stories about summer evenings in her childhood home, how more than twenty of them would gather, eating chami melon and listening with rapt attention as her eldest brother acted out the story of a movie he had watched in Seoul.

Their courtyard was the biggest in her town, she used to boast. Her house had so many rooms! No one ever wanted to leave. My grandmother magically fed them all, just cutting everything smaller and making the food prettier to distract from the portion size.

But a decade of living in suburban Toronto, Canada had changed my mother’s sense of scale. What was once a majestic courtyard in my mother’s memory now revealed itself as a small patch of gravel decorated with broken pottery jars. Instead of a mansion, we found ourselves in a maze of connected rooms that seem to have been added on one at a time…



Jane Park

Entrepreneur + Essayist. CEO of sustainable gifting company: Speaker, writer: Addicted to making meaning.