354 Melissa Chen


The object that I’m including is a school token. Before student transpasses were a thing, students were able to buy SEPTA tokens at a discounted rate so they could get to school. For me, this represents a time when I started to become more independent and for the first time was able to get to know the city on my own terms. Because I grew up here, a lot of my formative experiences happened in public school and whenever I meet someone else who also grew up in Philly, the first thing I ask them is what high school they went to because each school had its own distinct culture and stereotypes associated with it. Even though this object reminds me of how much fun I had exploring the city when I was young, it also makes me sad knowing that a lot of the schools that existed when I was in school are closed now.

Because I want to end on a happier note, I also included a traced outline of the key to my house. It’s the house that my parents met in, where a lot of my extended family lived in when they immigrated here as refugees from Cambodia, and it’s the house that me and my sisters grew up in. I know someday I’ll leave Philly to experience living somewhere else for a while, but this is always going to be my home and as flawed, inefficient, and frustrating as it can be, I owe a lot to this city. This sounds morbid, but I mean this in a positive way- I’ll probably come back here to die and be buried here or something (because that’s such a Chinese thing to do, lol).