The idea of moving away always scared me. And by the time I finally mustered all the courage to do so, setting foot on unfamiliar territory, it was a no way back for me. Not the type of never coming home though. It was more like how being away from familiarity hones me to be more independent than I already am plus having an extra open mind–this is a no turning back deal.
Sure I don’t cook so well and I have no clue how to segregate my colored clothes when I wash them, but the freedom and self-reliance turns out to be one of the greatest experiences so far. Meeting new people, immersing in a different culture, trying out authentic cuisines and creating a small family of your own, these things are lasting memories that I deem irreplaceable.
Although having an in case of emergency person is hard to acquire when you’re living abroad, this makes you more careful about your health too. If getting sick (for me) is like the end of the world, then heck, I will have to do everything within my power to not catch a flu at least.
I didn’t have a hard time finding things to do in Manila. If I wanted to hit the bar to watch gigs, I knew who to call who’d come with me in a blink of an eye. If I needed some downtime and just chill, one text will take me to the right company. If I wanted to go out of town, road trip the hell out of our weekday, man I got a couple of friends up my sleeve. If I get stuck in a party with no one to drive me home, I know my guy best friend will always come to the rescue no matter how hot his date is–he’ll drop whatever it is he’s doing and come save me. And say I wanted to precisely just watch the television with sappy or action or horror movies on, my family was just one staircase away to share the couch with me.
Being away from comfort taught me to adjust to that ease, to that convenience.
Back in Manila I also had my own yaya (nanny) and daily cleaning was a nightmare for me soon as I moved away. Eventually I gave in to it. Cleaning is liberating and therapeutic in a sense that I feel I have the most control when I do so. Back then, when I felt disappointed and weary, I drove. I’d blast my best playlist and just go around the city, with cigarette in one hand and steering wheel on the other. Being behind the wheel freed me. Now, I’ve substituted driving with cleaning. At least for now.
Why am I writing about things like these anyway?
Today marks my sixth month here and I’d like to share tidbits of things I’ve learned from living by myself, away from my immediate family and close friends alike:
- When shit hits the fan, breathe. Facing an intense situation head on with so much rage only aggravates the quandary. Best to take two to three steps back, breathe, and come from a space of love and forgiveness before jumping right in.
- One Arabic expression commonly used here nowadays is “kalas.” It literally means to run out or in slang it means enough or let go. When something is beyond my control, when there’s nothing I can do to change the person or situation, I go kalas. Letting go of what’s not supposed to be there, of what poisons or damages you is a great thing. It’s an art I think everyone should learn to master. You were rejected? Kalas. You were scolded, kalas. The cab driver was rude, damn that, kalas.
- No matter how many miles away you are from the people you love, the truest ones will find ways to keep in touch – constantly. Distance and time difference tests commitment whether romantic or platonic. As the old adage goes, “if there’s a will, there’s a way.” Living away from comfort taught me that big time.
- You’ll make new friends eventually and comparing them to your closest ones is unfair. People in our lives are our teachers. We attract them because they’re there to teach us something – learn it. Embrace it. Sometime soon you’ll realize they’ve become your second family.
- Chores don’t feel like chores when you listen to good music. Washing your own clothes is the best part. It challenges your fashion intellect – know which fabric fades and what doesn’t. Mixing whites with reds will make pink shirts and delicates. Don’t make the same mistake. The wise learns from other people’s gaffes. I sure did.
- Love yourself. If there is one “bestest” friend you should and could have, it’s yourself. Creating a harmonious relationship with YOU will go a long way. Start NOW.
- Learning new culture broadens your horizon. It’s currently Ramadan here and man, it’s summer. Imagine the heat of Dubai mixed with Ramadan where you need to be totally covered. Damn. That. Plus you can’t smoke and eat in public until after seven. Adjustment never stops and it makes the whole learning process piquant.
- Be adventurous with food. You’ll never know which flavors suit your palate unless you try. There may be some that will F up your tummy, but so what? Taste everything you can and suck in the experience.
- Cook. If you don’t know how, now’s the perfect time to learn it. Not only is cooking cheaper, it’s also fulfilling. That and preparing your own food is truly satisfying. Do it.
- If you have a huge penchant for something, no matter how busy you are, go for it. There’s nothing more destructive than neglecting your passions.
- Be more responsible. Ready all your stuff before hitting the hay, time yourself in the morning, renegotiate if you’re going to be late, take note of deadlines, follow traffic rules, and so forth. Just be more responsible. Save yourself from the hassle of hassling other people to get you out of the deep black hole.
- Save for a rainy day. Pretty much self-explanatory.
- Date. Meet new people. Talk to strangers. But still be on guard. You’ll never know if the other person’s a psycho or not. Better to be sure than sorry, but still be friendly. You get the gist. You’ll never know when you’ll pick up something truly interesting unless you open yourself up to what’s what. We learn something new everyday.
- Check on your parents regularly.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t put up a show just because you need to impress or get someone’s attention. Let the real you shine through. Stay pure. Works wonders.
- Being adaptive and accepting saves you from the drama. When you’re living away from comfort, drama shouldn’t be on your list. Do everything you can to stay away from it.
- Still travel when you can. Even if you’re residing in a new city, find time to discover other new ones.
- At the end of the day, assess, reassess, add and deduct. Ask yourself, what worked and what didn’t? What could I have done better? Who/What/Where should I add and deduct? Makes living a lot easier.
- Stick to your principles, in perpetuum.
- Have a grateful heart no matter how tough life gets. Make it a habit to perpetually find something to be thankful for.
- And finally, always have an end goal for whatever it is you’re doing at the moment. Having done so will help you stay focused, make you feel alive and more purposeful.
These things may seem depthless for some, cliché even. But know what? No matter how obvious this list may be, admit it or not, we do tend to forget the simple things. And it’s the simple things that matters more and gives greater impact.