The Dark Side Of Moving Abroad

Toa Heftiba

To the people who are dealing with life alone in places they have never thought they will end up living in, you are brave, you are fearless, you are invincible.

It’s beyond scary to be placed into circumstances you have never been conditioned to deal with, to be pushed out of the shelter that you have always been entitled to, to consciously exercise your rusty primitive survival skills.

Living overseas is different from backpacking. This time, you are not superficially passing by people’s life anymore. You make the conscious call on which bridges to build or which bridges to burn; decide that you are not obliged to burn out your own fire to light up someone else’s fire.

When you are thrown into a time of complexity, you avoid grey areas because you know that you need clarity in the midst of chaos.

You become intolerant of people who add unnecessary weight to your shoulders when you have your plates full. This time, you don’t have the option to jet off when sticky situations arise. You stand by obstacles, on top of adapting to the unfamiliar norms, language barriers, cultural and traffic rules. This time, you find yourself justifying every single move, contemplating which battles are worth fighting for, deciding effort to be placed on the right people. You become your own critic. 

In this new reality, there are paradoxes and idiosyncrasies. There are infatuations of moving to a new city. First, the unsettling chaos, then slowly falling in love with the imperfectly perfect place you now call home. You pick up slangs and phrases to get by, you learn how to strike a fair bargain with street vendors, you find a place of connection with people who are going through the same mess as you are. You realized that you are not struggling alone.

The challenge about leaving home is making the cut from your safety chord you have always been entitled to.

There is comfort in leaving, in knowing that you can discard all the chaos tagged to a place, in knowing that you can move on from status quo, in knowing too well the feeling of disengagement. It represents a break from bad habits grounded in a familiar territory, a stage of disentanglement from deadlocks.

This time there will be variables, there will be the dynamism of a one-way ticket. The variables that shapes you in a way that constants do not. After all, we are moulded by our choices, circumstances and above all, the sum of our parts.

Under the carefully curated pictures in this new reality reveals a layer of micro aggressions and anxiety that are strategically filtered out; the unspoken struggles of learning how to manage your new life completely in your own terms. You arrive in a stranger territory, finding yourself inevitably thrown into spectrums of incidents. Finding yourself potentially homeless, then living in temporary homes, juggling fiscal accountabilities, workloads, among all other responsibilities.

Above all, you fear the idea of being stuck alone in a dead end. Working abroad and being location independent at some point of the job scope came about in a series of heart palpitating moments behind the fancy title and seemingly romanticized exchange. 

There’s this innate sense of urgency that you’ll embed in your daily routine within a short amount of time, the real sense of understanding the responsibilities of gaining autonomy. You build up defense mechanisms because you cannot afford vulnerability to be visible. When you are on your own, you stand up for yourself because you are miles away from anyone who will stand up for you, you call people out because you know what’s unacceptable in your life anymore. This new reality is uncomfortable but as a variable, you learn to change your sails to align yourself with the currents.

Affirm yourself. You know you have signed up for this.

You become this person who often contemplate about leaving and goodbyes because that’s what you are familiar with, your second nature, your reflex, your defense mechanism. Over time, it turns from courage to nonchalance when you are conditioned to receive temporary gratification and adrenaline rush during backpacking trips. You know that you could easily leave if you wanted to, knowing well that your ability to disengage from people comes more effortless than staying.

Maybe the mantra ‘catch flights, not feelings’ has become something you believed in as you wander from city to city. TC mark

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