It’s different when all things are new to you

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?




Living Away from Comfort

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Save for a rainy day. Pretty much self-explanatory.
  13. 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.
  14. Check on your parents regularly. I cannot stress this enough.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Still travel when you can. Even if you’re residing in a new city, find time to discover other new ones.
  18. 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.
  19. Stick to your principles, constantly.
  20. Have a grateful heart no matter how tough life gets. Make it a habit to perpetually find something to be thankful for.
  21. 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.

Until then!