Tales of the City: The Epilogue

Sharing an essay I wrote back in 2015 that means a lot to me. It sums up a very exciting time of my life, all the lessons I’ve learned, and moving forward.

On Leaving Home and Coming Back

If anyone had told me just over a year ago that I was going to move to New York City and live by myself at eighteen years old, I would have told them they were crazy. I’ve hardly ever ventured outside my comfort zone or the Philippines for that matter and my family was no where near financially capable for me to study abroad but alas, life brings some pretty unexpected blessings our way without us even noticing. It all happened so fast. My five-month summer of visa applications, figuring out what to pack, and excited anticipation dwindled into weeks then days and there I was hugging my parents goodbye and laughing at my twenty-three year old brother who was crying like a baby at the airport. “I’m so proud of you. Take care of yourself out there,” he said as I hugged him tight. I thought I wasn’t seeing my family for ten months, since we couldn’t afford to have me fly back for winter break, but I felt the strangest calm as I headed for security and my boarding gate. I was ready to make the big move all by myself and I felt unstoppable and fearless for the first time in my life.

When I had arrived in the US, everything was big and shiny. It took a while for me to come out of my shell but when I eventually did, I found that I was in my element. In the last few weeks of summer before moving on campus at Fordham, I grew to be more independent but I also became mature enough to know to ask for help when I needed it. And I really was not expecting how soon I would need that maturity and strength. I was just getting used to life there and excited for my many plans when it all came crashing down on me.

My dad was not well and something had happened to the family business. Suddenly, we weren’t as secure anymore and my scholarship wouldn’t nearly be enough to cover tuition. The semester hadn’t even begun and I was told I had to come home right after it finished. I was heartbroken to have come so close and for it to be taken away just as quick. There were countless nights of crying and questioning myself, “maybe if I didn’t push for it, my parents wouldn’t have such a hard time” and “maybe I don’t really belong here and it was an ambitious stunt on my part.” And there were countless days of plastering a smile on my face and having to act like all the other freshmen that were looking forward to the next four years of university life.

What hurt the most was that I knew in my heart that I deserved to be there and didn’t do anything to merit having to leave so soon. I worked just as hard, if not harder than others to get where I was. I fought with persistence because I knew I was destined for great things if I strived for it. The opportunity was not there at first so I went out on a limb to look for it myself. The means was not there at first so I took it upon myself to arrange how I could obtain it. But then I realised that after everything, no matter how much you want something or how much you earn it; the odds could still go against you. So many other factors come into play and pure determination isn’t enough.

My parents and I invested so much in building my dream and all I could think about were the many ‘what if’ opportunities and experiences that felt like sand quickly escaping through the spaces between my fingers. It was not only the education there that I felt so sad to let go of, because I knew the universities in the Philippines could offer me the same, but the chance to be living in a completely new and exciting environment at that particular juncture of my young life. The perfect time when I have the most leeway to make mistakes, to learn about the world around me and find myself, as cliche as that sounds. I was so convinced of this until I couldn’t bear making myself so miserable and pragmatic thoughts began replacing the dejected feelings. I realised that I could still do all those things: to make mistakes, learn, and find myself but in God’s time which is the actual perfect time.

It took a while to get it in my stubborn head but I had no business feeling sorry for myself. In fact, I was the luckiest girl in the world. I was so wrapped up in being sad about losing what I had, I failed to see exactly what I thought I was losing. Everyday I was immersed in big city living, in one of the most global metropolises you can find yourself in, which was an experience like no other. I learned to be more open-minded as I saw and interacted with people of all ages from diverse backgrounds. I learned to trust in myself as I rode the subway on my own and walked through dangerous neighbourhoods I only heard about in books and movies. I learned to be free and be myself from being in the city that encourages you the most to do so. And I learned and took to heart that I am only and constantly a part of something greater than myself.

Being on my own and having been given such a big reality check, I grew up so fast that I didn’t see how much I’ve changed. I became brave in confronting my responsibilities and I adapted to the changing circumstances as best as I could. I had to fight my own selfishness to realise all these things. When I overcame my pride and fear of what people will think, a flood of relief came rushing in. I finally accepted that you would always have to deal with the repercussions of your choices, even the unlikely ones. All that was left was overwhelming gratitude, for the amazing experience however brief, for all the wonderful people I met and came to know, and for my family and friends who were my strength abroad and back home who had my back even when I was being unreasonable to a fault. I have so much gratitude for in Him, I was never alone.

Upon coming home, it was a different internal struggle that I had to face. After a few weeks of settling back into life here, my new challenge was figuring out the next steps of my plan and remaining hopeful. There were times when I felt like I had no direction and nothing to look forward to. Again, I reminded myself that my stress and worry was my own doing. I would like to think that I’ve grown as a person this past year, more than I could have if I didn’t fight for my dream and tried. I took a shot at it and even if I came short, it was farther than I ever imagined for which I am so lucky. Now it’s time to move on and craft newer and bigger dreams. It’s time for me to live everything I learned and live by the new outlook on life that I gained. I used to dread the uncertainty of being in my position but now I know the uncertainty just means I have so many more opportunities to grow and flourish.


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