I’ve been living abroad for almost a year and a half now. My initial fear before I even got here was what if I don’t get to meet new people who’ll be there for me like my old friends do? I was freaked out by the idea of being alone in a new place.
What is it about being alone that scares most people so much anyway?
Last night was a nightmare for me. I won’t go into details, but I was in my most vulnerable state then. Not having made a lot of deep connections here in Dubai, having conflicts with some friends and troubles with ex-colleagues (yes, you can say my personal relationships are going haywire—I’d like to see it as testing our bonds, but whatever), I only had a few people up my sleeve whom I can call at 1 am on a Monday. I tried a couple, some answered and were in the middle of something but still offered a sympathetic ear, and some didn’t pick up until later on. At that point in time, it hit me, I was with no one but myself, in a country I’m still getting used to, with a culture I wasn’t 100% aware of until I “migrated.”
As I was crying my heart out right by some manmade body of water, I was in utter awe when I came to a realization: why am I so scared of not being able to reach out to anyone at said time when I have ME?
Was it a call for attention? Was it a cry for help? Was it because I was on the verge of giving up on my dreams that were once so bright in my vision until I encountered numerous obstacles?
What was it?
And so I just sat there, eyes bulging with overflowing tears without a tissue in hand. It was just myself, that manmade body of water, decent bench, my big bottle of H2o and cigarettes. Out of the busy Dubai life, there I was, at 1am, alone in my own thoughts in the peace and quiet of the morning.
Reflections came streaming through my mind that time; some made sense, some were random, some were emotional and *&^%$# irrational, some were breakthroughs, some were encouragements, some even came in the form of acceptance and forgiveness—they all just rushed in and out as if I was a freakin’ fast food chain that just opened in a prime area, and I got drained.
Moments do come to one’s life that seems like rock bottom. Last night felt that way. It was terrible. I was needy. I was hungry for affirmations. I was yearning for a hug, you know, some body contact assuring me that things will be okay without having to say a single word. My thoughts were everywhere that I literally did not know which one I should pay attention to.
So finally I told my brain to shut the F up and listen to ME for once.
Recalling the lessons I learned as I braved through this so-called independence, I hugged myself—with feet on the bench, legs folded—whilst crying the hell out of my morning. I asked for clarity, I prayed and asked for forgiveness and strength; I took control of my thoughts that were playing in my head, confusing me profusely a few seconds ago.
I took control. It’s MY brain anyway so who else will control it but me, right?
At that moment, I acknowledged the fact that I’ve hit rock bottom—which was once hearsay to me, I am now encountering it with zero to turn to (at least for a few hours). And I’ve done what’s bizarre to some (if not most)… I spoke to myself with so much love and affection.
If I am in deep shit, if I am encountering this then I must have brought this to my life myself. So why put blame on anyone else? Sure, let’s consider the additional factors, but for the most part, there’s no one else responsible for this but me. Instilling those, I slowly regained my power.
But the question remains: what was it? What was the reason for being so scared of being alone?
To those who know me well, they can attest that I’ve always been the clingy one—in friendships, in romantic relationships, in almost anything. Could it be because I was an only child for fourteen years then suddenly the attention was diverted to my younger brother when he was born, or maybe because I was a rejected child by my dad; or maybe perhaps I was just wired that way? I beg to differ with my latter statement, though. No one is wired and screwed for the rest of their lives for being “something” because we all know change is always an option.
So without the busyness of Dubai life to blame, I guess the answer is that apparently, I am lost. I lack clarity. I lack love. I lack compassion. I lack acceptance.
Despite my endless declarations of self-love, the adjustments entailed living in a different country I did wind up neglecting, well… me. And although it’s nice to put people, career, and goals first, these things will be null and void if I am incomplete, if I am broken and shooting in the dark.
I’m scared of being alone because I never really knew who I was when I began journeying towards independence. Back home it was relatively easy, I had my amazing set of support system, my family can be easily contacted, I was practically untouchable in terms of shaky expectations and obstacles.
But having to live by yourself is different. It’s different when all things are new to you. It’s different when you’re establishing a new life in a new place with new culture, to you (or me) at least. It’s different when during the first few stages, there’s no one to remind you of how brilliant you are especially when you are at your lowest.
For a time, I must admit, I felt disconnected.
Yes, I was busy. Yes, 80% of my days here were eaten by so many professional responsibilities. Yes, I have so many excuses.
I realized along the process that I did not pause to take time for myself anymore. I put other things first before my personal needs. I was in total sacrifice not realizing I was ruining the most important relationship everyone should nurture—the ones we have with ourselves.
I stumbled upon a quote that said: “Relationships are like birds–if you hold tightly they die if you hold loosely, they fly, but if you hold with care, they remain with you forever.”
I guess it’s fitting to say that I’ve held on too tightly on some, held loosely on most, and hardly ever kept me with care. Maybe that is also the reason my energy is funky lately resulting to nasty circumstances that can, in fact, be avoided early on. What’s done is done, though. The only way to go is forward.
It’s okay not to be okay.
It happens. We’re human. We go through dreadful encounters. But that doesn’t stop there. We always have a choice to turn our lives around.
In this case, however, I know I must turn my life around with the recovering incomplete me in tow. And towards this journey to total independence, I am pretty sure I will be whole again in no time. Post-its do help, so I’m finally making use of that damn pen and them pink sticky notes to remind my fabulous self every single day that I am important, that I am loved, that I have a purpose, that I am courageous, and that I deserve.
That is the lesson: never to desert my own needs for others every single time. If I can’t provide for me, how else do I expect myself to deliver excellent results in my personal and professional life? And that I have to be at peace with myself before anyone else, right?
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 no turning 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 keeping an extra open mind. These factors are no turning back for me for it nurtures my very existence for the better.
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 fill in a form 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.
And back in Manila I didn’t have a hard time finding things to do.
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 just relax and watch the television with sappy, 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, more so soon as I moved away. Eventually, though, I gave in to it. Now, cleaning is liberating and therapeutic for me 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.
I’ve substituted the adrenaline and sense of power of 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 situation. Best is 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, 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 test 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 back home 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 mistakes. I sure did.
- Love yourself. If there is one “bestest” friend you should and could have, it is yourself. Creating a harmonious relationship with YOU will go a long way. Do not neglect it. Start NOW.
- Learning new culture broadens your horizon. It’s currently Ramadan here and man, it’s summer. Imagine the heat of the desert 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 interesting.
- 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. You may fail a during the first few times, but once you master the art of cooking, trust me, IT IS SATISFYING, and therapeutic at that.
- 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 disturbing other people to get you out of the deep black hole you put yourself in. If it can be avoided, by all means, do it.
- 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. I cannot stress this enough.
- 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 (and overthinking) a lot easier.
- Stick to your principles, constantly.
- 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 nonsense 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.
Philippines: On January 22, 2014, actor-comedian, Vhong Navarro, assaulted and blackmailed by businessman, Cedric Lee, due to accusations of raping Deniece Cornejo, model/actress.
Photos of Vhong’s unrecognizable face due to bruises and swelling spread across the internet as well as circulation of interviews of Lee and Cornejo rebutting the actor’s statement.
The incident happened exactly a week ago, and until now, Philippine media has made this issue a daily top story, making Filipino fans (and haters) relentlessly express their concerns on social media and blogs alike.
What has the media gotten into?
The Philippines is facing far more relevant and serious issues. The pork barrel scam is not yet over, peace talks with MILF was successful, Yolanda victims and survivors still haven’t gotten ample aid to start over, and a lot more. But still, the media instead chose to make a big deal out of a dancer turned actor turned comedian who is in fact well-known for being a womanizer. Move on already. Let them deal with their cases themselves and delve on it again when it’s already in court if the media wants it that way.
Yesterday, I made a new Filipina friend here and we talked about current issues in the Philippines. One thing she told me (that was seriously in my head too for quite some time now) was along the lines of Philippine media getting so used to publicizing negative and depressing news. It then results to almost all the population having a mind frame of negativity and depression. It is no wonder Philippines is having a hard time rising to the top. Add to that the network rivalry rebutting every detail of their news.
Think about it.
Psychology is also applicable to this. Raising higher awareness is the least our media can do. Exaggerated drama telenovelas every damn night? How do we expect to have an optimistic nation that thinks objectively? Local television, instead of educating the people, only aggravates the psyche of each and every one, creating “monsters” of thinkers. How do these people vote for instance? By popularity, by charm, by whatever other shallow reasons. Feeding the masses with cynicism, BS news, and all that jazz does not help at all. We are only proving to the whole world that we truly are fools, when in reality we’re not. Filipinos are smart, talented, and skillful. I believe so. I see so.
However, what we lack now is values. Given it is a Catholic country, at our very core we know the values which most just can’t seem to apply to their daily lives. All the pettifogging details of Vhong and other banal stories then became a hobby of Pinoys. I am not surprised why gossip is so rampant in the Philippines… The clash of networks should just take their issues behind cam. It’s so improper to keep on narrating unintelligent news. So. Plaguing.
And a lot of people say this is a hopeless case. It isn’t.
If the media only chooses to be proactive, report authentic and honest stories, let go of their biases just because in one network the sister of the president has a contract or that the other network is pro-somebody else, stop accepting bribes and all, then we will have a more striving country. Media is a very powerful tool, use it wisely; Being part of it is a huge responsibility, and when used inappropriately, everybody gets affected.
This. Has. Got. To. End.
Deniece could be a rape victim. Vhong is a womanizer and may have raped that model. Cedric has criminal records. WE GET IT. Let it go. Focus on what’s more important, on things that will help the country rise again that will eventually inspire people.
Let’s get back to focusing on things that really matter shall we?
I just received a notification from WordPress congratulating me on my “blog’s” first year since I registered this account. Man how time flies. Because of that, I am choosing to delve into this C that’s been a struggle for the artist in me.
I’m definitely not pertaining to my second name, but rather the big C that’s been one of the greatest challenges in my life: Courage.
Don’t we all have this huge fear over something that stunts our personal growth? The fear of heights, of public speaking, of narrow places, of spiders, of failure, of success, of the unknown, of vulnerability and of a whole lot more? We all have at least one thing to fear about and we are all forced to go through it everyday, if not defeat it entirely.
The bad news is, there is no overnight remedy for overcoming fear. The thought stays in our mind as long as it can until we finally get over it… which is until when? The day we die? Let’s hope not.
Last year this is what I focused on–slaying this major demon that’s been getting in the way of my personal growth.
Courage is a big word, and admit it or not, not everyone can surpass their greatest fears in a blink of an eye. But is it solely about outshining it?
My answer is no.
A very good friend of mine, my angel in disguise, constantly reminded me one thing every time I came in contact with fear. She’d always tell me to “feel the fear and face it anyway.” Took me sometime to fully absorb those words, and the moment I embraced fear and made it my friend, I cannot fathom myself going back to that scared little girl I once was.
It wasn’t an easy ride though.
Before I took the leap, when I imagine myself going beyond my comfort zone I get more than terrified. The thought really scared the shit out of me (mind you, I was just picturing it then). So the terror of finally taking one baby step forward made me want to just quit and retract to who I was.
“But that’s not what life is all about,” I incessantly told myself. Every moment that I had to adjust, to stretch my capabilities, to question my own negative beliefs, at the back of my head, I knew for certain that I had to do it no matter how uncomfortable it made me feel.
So screw fear!
It’s just a thought and thoughts can be changed.
Reframing and reprogramming my beliefs were a challenge at first, but the moment I decided to take the plunge, it was all but a breeze. Besides, first step is always the hardest, isn’t it?
It all started December last year.
I did things I never imagined I’d do. Prior to it, I was too caught up, too confined in my self-limitations, that when I completely gave in and did what I had to do, I was rattled with bouts of gulping and gasping and panicking. But as soon as I got it over and done with, I found it so much easier to breathe, to truly live.
First, I dealt with my disempowerment that manifested through authority. What was once impossible to my eye became so palpable after I faced it head on. The initial apprehension existed, but the want to cut ties and stand my ground was more dominant than anything else. So I did it and my power gradually ricocheted back.
Second was overcoming my fear of vulnerability. You see, I’m not one of those women who cry easily, not unless the emotion is so hard to express that I get frustrated and there’s no other option but to cry. Either that or heartbreak. In this case, however, it didn’t really involve any bawling. It was a happy kind of vulnerability; verbalizing my deep-seated emotions without holding back. Being the first to admit my feelings toward a guy I admired for quite a while also unnerved me. But it had to be done.
The first two took a few hours and weeks (consecutively) for me to muster up the courage to follow through, but I eventually did.
Little did I think it was in preparation for something so much greater.
Before the year ended I came face to face with my biggest fear: the unknown. The moment this episode presented itself to me, I knew I had to seize it. Even if it’s nerve-racking due to unfamiliar course and extensive transition, I jumped right in.
It’s been a week and three days since I did, and I must say, I am not regretting it. Sure, I had to sacrifice a lot to get to this point, and for the past 10 days, I have nothing but so much gratitude for the freedom and foreseeable success I yearn to attain before I turn 30.
What brought me to this? The big C.
The intimidating word that’s imperative to one’s personal growth. Courage brought me to where I am now. I may not be as successful as I planned YET, but I know I’m one giant step away from it.
Hence the most important thing I’ve learned that pretty much sums up my 2013: It’s so cosmic because I always check that app on Facebook, and today when I did, that’s the message given to me. I am a believer of signs and this one I take as one big fat sign that I truly am on the right track.
So, that being said, 2014 is all about POWER, OPENNESS, and COURAGE; to go beyond my limits no matter how distressing and perplexing it is at first. To hold on to my power, express myself openly, and have immeasurable courage to do things I’ve never done despite sacrifices and hurt because in the end it will all be worth it.
The fear will always be there and more things to be afraid of will come, but the will to choose to do things and the courage to really dive in, that’s when amazing things and feelings take place.