I really don’t know how I ended up here, in another country, a thousand miles away from home. It only took one word: yes, and I saw myself packing my stuff, leaving 23 years worth of memories behind. It may seem easy, but it’s a swirl of emotions.
A promise of self-discovery, of independence and of cultural experience, was what it took me to kiss my parents and hug my friends goodbye. It’s been two months since I made the nine-hour flight that brought me to the cultural city of Abu Dhabi, and I continue to embrace the path I chose.
Since leaving home, I have been bombarded by questions of “how are you doing?” And I always answer the same way, “I’m okay so far.” Moving here made me realize what adjustment really means.
I knew exactly what I was getting into; I only knew two souls in this city, a friend from high school and another from college. This practically makes me alone. To put this in perspective, I’ve only seen these two people once in the two months I’ve been here. Understandable, since they’ve already made lives of their own here and I don’t want to bother them so much.
Most of the time, its all flowers and sunshine here. But there are moments when I feel like I’m floating in a vast body of water and a sudden wave crashes into me, then I’m drowning. When this happens, the reality of being alone in this big, unknown, culturally-different city suffocates me. I find myself questioning if I made the right decision of leaving. Thoughts of uncertainties and doubts flood my mind. I comfort myself with the thought that I will be a much better version of myself than I was before I left my sheltered nest.
Being emotionally invested is probably the biggest adjustment every OFW had to go through, well at least to me, it is. Everything is new, you don’t know anyone, and every one you love is oceans apart. Despite all of these, you will have to learn to love the new job, to love the new country – no matter how different it is from home, to meet new people and slowly trusting them. It doesn’t happen overnight; it takes breathtaking moments to finally have that connection you’ve longed and missed when you hopped into that plane. You hope that one day, you will feel a belongingness, enough to make this foreign land feel like home.
I feel truly blessed to have met a few people who adopted me and made me one of their own. Their company is the thread that holds my sanity amidst an abyss of loneliness. I am grateful for the friendship they offered when they didn’t know a thing about me. I don’t think the introvert in me would have survived if it weren’t for them.
Right now, I am still in the process of taking everything slow. As a hotelier, I go to work in the morning and after ten hours in the office go home to my accommodation. Most of the time, I’ll be too exhausted to do anything else but feed myself. On weekends, I mostly find myself at home catching up with my favorite TV shows or reading a book, rebooting myself for yet another week.
Sadly, I am yet to go around the city. I have expected that I can do this on my own, but I overestimated myself. The Grand Mosque and Etihad Towers for example are far from where I live. I either take a cab or a bus (I also don’t know how to ride one), and when I do get there, I wouldn’t know what to do. Also, its way too hot in this country at this time, it’s almost summer and you do not want to find yourself outside the streets meandering at this temperature. I find myself embarrassed when someone asks me if I’ve been around town, because it is a constant reminder that I am yet to make friends who will show me the treasures of this city. Ouch! Also, as I am writing this, I have only realized that I haven’t taken any photos around where I’ve been.
In spite of all of these, I feel optimistic. I am slowly feeling comfortable and I hope soon enough, I’ll find myself going out more, by myself or with some friends. I would want to be able to use this time to discover my limits. As of this moment, I am still between the line of my comfort zone and what’s out there. One foot has left the box, because moving into a new country alone counts as a huge leap. One foot is still inside because I find myself shying away from people and places.
Slowly, my box will get bigger and wider. The things I thought I would never be able to do will be part of my comfort zone and I will have to find other ways to step out of the line again. I feel excited with the prospects of seeing what I can do and what I can’t do, of success and failures, of gaining and losing.
When I was making the decision of leaving home, a quote popped into my mind and it says,
“If you want to know where your heart is, look to where your mind goes when it wanders”
This quote has been a part of my decision-making process ever since I first read it. Whenever I look where my dreams go, it always wanders to places I’ve never been, of faces I’ve never seen, of languages I’ve never heard or spoken and it remembers memories I am yet to experience. It constantly reminds me to travel and experience more.
I may not be sure how I ended up here, but I sure have no regrets, regardless of the struggles.
This is where I’m supposed to be right now, the future is the sum of all the decisions we make. And I want my future to be a canvas full of twists and turns, of stitches and burns, of memories and melodies.
I don’t know how to end this, so I’ll end it with a quote I use as my desktop wallpaper: