“What I found appealing in life abroad was the inevitable sense of helplessness it would inspire. Equally exciting would be the work involved in overcoming that helplessness. There would be a goal involved, and I liked having goals.” – Frances Mayes
Living abroad isn’t for everyone. It takes a handful of courage to embrace uncertainty and face uncontrollable changes. I could remember at how I struggled to pack and squeeze my life in one big red luggage, leaving my native country behind, along with letting go of friendships, relationships and my comfort zone. Looking back, I know that I made the best decision of my life that I could possibly make. There was no turning back. It was time to leave everything. The feeling was both exciting and scary to embark on a journey to the unknown, and see the world in a much bigger lens. Here are the five things about living abroad that I have learned as a 20-ish discreet lesbian.
1. You are not the person you were – Everything that you were used to and familiar with and everyone you knew are gone. At first, you might not realize the changes but gradually your outlook, values, and perception about most things change. Things that were once important are no longer deemed significant, for example, I was scared about other people finding out about my sexuality, however, now, I am no longer scared. In fact, most of my friends at work know about my sexual orientation. Believe me, it is a huge relief as I look back at how paranoid I was when I was locking myself in the closet. Things that didn’t seem important before matter so much now. I learned the value of friendship more than ever. If I could only turn back time, I should have made more friends during college and stayed in touch with friends in the past years. Familiarity is a precious possession that I learned not to take for granted any more.
2. You are in love with freedom – There is a new sense of freedom when living abroad. The freedom to choose the endless possibilities that await. In my case, the freedom to be myself and the freedom to love. I’ve been more accepting of myself now than before. I grew tired of always feeling different. The ordeal that every gay person should undergo had taken its toll. I don’t want to spend the next years of my life being miserable. Nobody could stop me any more on who to love. The feeling that you have given up everything when living abroad is like starting anew. Freedom feels so different. Suddenly, you are like a child again and it feels like you are capable of doing anything.
3. Home is a distant word – When you have lived and travelled to many places already, it seems like home is everywhere. Each place has its own stories and experiences that you hold dearly. When I went home to the Philippines for a month, everything was never the same, then I realized that my life moved on from a stroll to a sprint. Truth is, the once familiar life is gone, then you would realize soon enough that your parent’s smile will become weary and wrinkled, your nieces and nephews are becoming taller than they once were when you remembered, and some of your friends are getting married and having kids. As for yourself, you can just watch everything unfold from a distance, then learn that life will not stop and wait for you.
4. Your mood is as erratic as a heart rhythm – Believe me, when you live alone in a foreign country, there are so many things that you will discover about yourself, and how crazy, literally crazy you could become. I could go from happy at one point then gloomy afterwards, especially when moments that I least expect, in which I remember little things that can overwhelm me with the feeling of homesickness. Those moments that you just wish to have somebody that you could share your feelings with and who could understand you. Unfortunately, most of the time, that somebody is you. There were times back in winter, that I didn’t want to come out of my room. The sky outside was dimly lit, and the weather was shivering cold all the time. I abhorred winter, not because it was freaking cold, but I just felt that I was the loneliest creature in the world and I didn’t have anyone to spoon with (and the rest were in their jolly and merry spirits). I was in a Grinch kind of mode, and I wanted to steal Christmas (hehe just kidding…). Anyhow, after some time, you will see things in crystal clear, that living abroad will alter the core of you and learn that you have indeed live life to the fullest, in happiness or in despair.
5. The world becomes a playground, and you just want to explore and have fun – Living abroad is the most satisfying and challenging experience that I have been through. It encourages me to live out of my comfort zone, and live independently and responsibly. The world becomes a playground, and I just want to explore and have fun. There was a time mid last year, that I frequented the lesbian and gay bars in Soho, sometimes alone and most of the time with friends. The first time that I went alone to a lesbian bar was an achievement, knowing that I am not comfortable going out alone especially in a bar packed with lesbians. It was a worth it experience because I made friends with some girls there. Other than my lesbian escapades, I am determined to travel more this year and detail my experiences through writing and taking pictures. As they say, travelling is like flirting with life, it is like saying “I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.” All the lessons that you will gain all through out the experience will stay with you forever, and when you grow old, you don’t want to share boring stories right?
“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher