What happens when you live abroad

From the internet

Two months ago when I said that I came to Singapore with no expectations, I lied. It was a feeling with no shape and nothing to attach itself to. Yet.

It’s like telling someone not to look, but they do anyway. If you tell me not to think about something, I will, even if only to mute it in my subconscious. This subtle form of dishonesty, I think is worse. Here I have two versions of myself: who I was back at home and who I want to be in Singapore and the rest of my life. I’m still on the outside, but rippling on the inside. The problem with aspirational quandary– this sense of becoming — is that you forget how to just be. I forgot how to just be.


When you begin to live abroad, in this promised land of possibility, the experience can be disheartening as it is empowering. Freedom strips away your social skin, until you’re left naked — liberated, but raw, exploring a new part of yourself the way your teenager-self encountered puberty: scared, confused but true. I am not the person I thought I was or projected myself to be and that’s okay. My priorities and life goals have changed and that’s okay. Am I ashamed? Disappointed? At this point in life I am who I am and that’s okay.

Perhaps I was over confident to assume that I would be immune to culture shock or a sense of displacement because Manila and Singapore are not extremely different from each other and I have family and some friends here. I also don’t want to say that I’m trying to find myself (cause it’s cheesy), but by leaving it’s inevitable that I will.  Global exposure has made me hyper aware of how Filipino I am when ironically for a large part of my life I struggled with how I wasn’t.

It was only after reading this article by Forbes and Thought Catalog that I better understood what I was feeling. I don’t have the physical presence of my “six people” to reassure me anymore – something we take for granted in Manila. So instead of looking outwards for support, I have to look within, even more so when I’m miles away from my sense of community.

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Why don’t we break the rules already?
I was never one to believe the hype – save that for the black and white
I try twice as hard and I’m half as liked, but here they come again to jack my style

So independence, I realized, is not only the freedom to do everything you’ve ever wanted, but the strength to trust and prevail on your own– in defense of your beliefs, dreams, and principles. And the strength to say sometimes I really don’t know anymore.  I never thought about it that way. The song above puts it quite aptly!

Independence: A dance of light and shadows

No matter how independent I had claimed myself to be, living abroad means picking myself up from insecurities on my own. In fact, being abroad has made me become acutely aware of them and it’s scary: What if I’m not good enough?  Is this what I really want? What do I want? As my Pops pointed out to me before, Geminis with the nature of our split personality, we are our own worst enemy.  Now I better understand the risk I took by coming here because I have to face this darker side head on and it hasn’t been easy. I know it never will be.

“To live in a new place is a beautiful, thrilling thing, and it can show you that you can be whoever you want — on your own terms. It can give you the gift of freedom, of new beginnings, of curiosity and excitement. But to start over, to get on that plane, doesn’t come without a price.” (What happens when you live abroad)

But one night this kindred spirit, let’s call him Frank,  (the rare kind who just gets you in one instance the way others never can) asked me, “Are you afraid that you lost faith in ambition?” It’s a trait I always prided myself in having and in some ways felt obligated to be. Isn’t that why I moved here?

Have I? Really, I just want to be happy.

From the internet

Maybe the beer was causing the light headedness, but some time between 10PM and 4AM I finally felt lighter than I had been in a long time. Even until now I still do because I’m finally giving myself the breathing space to just be, to be honest with myself, to stop explaining myself, to let go and embrace this part of my life for what it is not just what it can be and that it’s okay.


6 thoughts on “What happens when you live abroad

  1. I super agree with what you’ve said Rica!!! Especially this one:

    “So independence, I realized, is not only the freedom to do everything you’ve ever wanted, but the strength to trust and prevail on your own– in defense of your beliefs, dreams, and principles. And the strength to say sometimes I really don’t know anymore.”

    I love this entry because I’m kind of feeling the same things! Hahaha! You can do it girl!

    • Kaaaarsie! It’s such a relief to know that I’m not alone! Everyone dreams of going abroad but no one tells you how hard it can be once you’re there! Haha! Same to you. Good luck! As JQ likes to say “Just get lost.” Have faith in the bigger picture and it will eventually reveal itself to you. At least that’s what I tell myself :) You should write about your abroad experience btw!

      • It’s totally challenging living abroad without the usual comforts like you know, someone cooking for you and stuff :)) But I agree, little by little everything gets smoothed out! It’s definitely been a rewarding experience so far! And yeah, I should! I haven’t actually got down to really writing about what it’s like here, so I should definitely do that! I’m wishing you all the best in Sg and I’m looking forward to more of your awesome entries!

  2. RICA!!!! i could totally relate and the last photo is just awesome:D I was just having a conversation over dinner last night with two colleagues about how you’re never going to be able to relate to your friends once you live away. There’s that side of you that they won’t really understand, telling stories will be different since they have no point of reference and you guys will inevitably grow apart in some way. But that’s the whole essence of being away. There are sooo many things in your article that really hit a chord, particularly being confronted with with your flaws and finding out that you aren’t as great as you think. And I’ve have several arguments with my American co-worker about how I’m so Filipino. Ugh. Hope to catch up with you soon, even just having confidence in yourself to actually trust that you could do things in your own is something I understand and yes, I’ve also experienced that vicious habit of losing your motivation. Anyway, I really enjoy your blog – keep on doing what you’re doing. Hopefully we stumble into each other’s paths next year:D Enjoy the holidays!

  3. Hey Donna! It’s always such a relief to find out that someone else can relate. When it gets tough I always have to remind myself that I’m not alone! Will you be in Manila for christmas holidays? I’d love to chat about this over coffee, etc!

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