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All I Have Is All I Need — What Moving Abroad Taught Me

When I thought I’d learned a lot about life and myself already before deciding to live and work abroad, life surprised me and showed me that what I knew was just the tip of the iceberg.

Back in Manila, I was already living alone, independently for years, so I thought it would not make a big difference if I moved further away — like 4,000 miles away. I had this confidence that, because I am a woman that has come to know herself and was already feeling whole and complete, I would not be easily shaken if the going gets tough. Plus, I could take a vacation if I wanted to … easy peasy!

But life has its turns of events and lots of unforeseen circumstances. Just three months after moving, the pandemic hit worldwide. A year later, the virus is still alive and kicking as if to remind people, “Hey, I will always be here from now on”. I have been one of the many that struggled and really hit rock bottom for the second time in my life.

My dad had been back and forth to the hospital for months which ended up taking his life away. Going home to at least give my last respect was impossible as the world was in the midst of lockdown. I must admit that my emotional and mental state had been on the verge of insanity but, as if those things were not enough, a salary cut of 30% cost the price of my savings and everything just seemed to fall apart. Being in a new place where I have not yet built a circle of trustworthy friends and no one to reach out to physically to sit down with, and talk to, almost took my sanity away — tough things happened and it made me eventually break down.

But even if it may seem like I had a challenging start to living abroad, an amateur of two years, what got me to continue fighting was one question “How can I get out of adversity gracefully?” I believe it is not the number of years I need to be away but how I give meaning to those years that will make the challenges worth the journey. And where there are challenges, there are learnings. Five of the most significant learnings about myself made me realize that the most beautiful diamonds are created under pressure and maybe I am lucky enough to discover that and more.

1. I learned that I am a warrior.

In my brokenness, I realized that being strong doesn’t mean I am invincible. Being strong is having the power to understand the learnings behind the circumstances, seeing different perspectives, and having the compassion to remind myself of the times I felt I could not make it anymore,but I overcame those obstacles, which showed me that I am stronger than I thought I ever was.

2. I learned to see obstacles as a blessing.

I learned to take advantage of my hardships to focus on my priorities. To figure out the most important things in my life moving forward. And I found out, again, that the most important things are the ones that cannot be seen or touched. It is deep within, my values, my truth, my heart. Life, in general, is complicated enough, and I learned to dance with it and just shout my worries away. Hakuna Matata!

3. I learned a deeper sense of gratitude.

While I understand that the happiest people are the grateful ones, I have to admit that it is not always easy to do. But I paused, and asked myself, would I want to be in a place where it can get any worse or is it just that where I am right now, is where I am supposed to be? Thus, I started to look at things from a different perspective, and from there, I started to be more mindful. I took a deep breath and started to appreciate the smallest things around me. I learned to be mindful of my environment, my surroundings, and even the genuine people I have yet to meet. I owe my sanity to the morning skies, the sunset, and all its glorious colors walks in the park, babies that pass by, and even dogs that I see. I have learned to really appreciate the things around me and with it came the realization that what I have at the moment is what I really need, nothing more. I am grateful.

4. Patience is not just a virtue, it is a lifelong practice.

Living away from home made me practice patience over and over again. Working with diverse people, getting to know different cultures, beliefs, and background are some of the things that are not difficult but needs patience to adjust to and learn. I had to let go of certain expectations and control. The real challenge is not on the people or the things that I want to change, but it is in being patient with myself to learn to accept the things that I cannot change on a more compassionate level.

5. I breakthrough with Resilience

Being like a survivor in a place far from my family and friends, I cannot stay in my little corner of drama and have long days of pity party. I understood that I have to cry a little, be sad a little, and acknowledge the emotions that I have at the present moment, but just allowing it to pass through gave myself a chance to let go of judgement within myself. I am human and I am flawed. As the sun sets each day, there is, a new beginning, and another chance to work on my goals.  As Nemo and Dory say, just keep swimming!

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