Five things living abroad for three years has taught me



Here at Preen, we’re fully aware that adult life doesn’t always go as smoothly (and look as beautiful) as curated Instagram feeds. We all face challenges amidst all the good things. Meet Mikka Wee, a former food editor-turned-working gal in Singapore, who’s about to share all the ups and downs that come with adulting and living. Welcome to Bless This Mess!

Last March 11 marked my third full year living in Singapore. It’s been weird thinking about how it’s been both so fast yet so slow at the same time. I still remember the anxiety I felt hopping onto the plane with a one-way ticket in hand with Death Cab for Cutie’s “You are a Tourist” blasting from my earphones at 4:30 a.m. This was it. Absolutely no turning back.

READ MORE: Why Singapore and Manila are the places I call home

I look back at the past three years and remember the feeling of gratitude for my first job (it brought me to Singapore) and the relief I felt once I quit and moved on. I felt the absolute plummet and experienced hopelessness in my first year and a half, and I really worked hard to get to a place where I am happy. I thought it would be impossible to find a job I would love here in a foreign country, but it just proves that the universe conspires to what your heart longs for—you just need to know what you want and work freaking hard to get it. Here are five things I’ve learned over the past three years living abroad.

1. You are responsible for yourself

Living alone and abroad has taught me that I am responsible for my own actions and decisions. I can’t keep finding something or someone else to blame for whatever outcomes I face in life. I am responsible for how I react to situations and for whatever decisions I make.

In the past three years, there have been many instances and situations where I was forced to face the consequences of my actions and decisions—a lot of times, growth has been very painful and a bitter pill to swallow. But learning to own up and admit my mistakes was one of the best things living abroad has taught me so far.

2. Nipping toxic friendships at the bud is necessary to move on

It is inevitable to lose touch with friends when you move abroad. I have come to terms with it, and I have accepted the fact that as you grow up, your circle of friends becomes smaller and smaller; more so when you leave. I admit, during my past two years, I was so clingy and too accommodating just to feel “home,” but as time passed, I’ve learned that some friendships are simply unnecessary. Sometimes, you just have to nip it in the bud if it doesn’t create a positive impact in your life anymore. For example, I politely made a French exit in the groups I get unnecessary notifications from—the noise pollution bothers me and the notifications piling up in my inbox, so I just left. I like to keep it simple now, and I have learned that I am not obligated to please everyone and spread energy too thinly. 

READ MORE: Why having a friendship breakup can be liberating

3. Everything happens for a reason

There was a particular point in my Singapore stay where I left my job, and my former boss was difficult and didn’t grant me an ample amount of time to gather my bearings. This resulted to some work visa issues, and I had to go back home to Manila. But it was a blessing in disguise because it freed up my time to apply for a marketing role in a company whose ethos and values matched mine. Also, their main product was ice cream! I remember walking into the shop, looking for a part-time role but ended up telling more about what I do and how I could contribute my skills to the company. I’ve never done anything like that in my life, but I just decided to go for it.

4. Use setbacks as opportunities for growth

In reference to my third point, I’ve faced a lot of setbacks and disappointments during my stay here. But it’s funny when you start mapping moments and realizing that hey, if certain things didn’t happen, you wouldn’t be where you are today. Whenever I face a stumbling block or a disappointment, I always just remember that I’ve survived 100 percent of my bad days so far. We’ll get through this.

5. Live every day to the fullest. Suck that marrow out of life

This is a mindset that I’ve trained myself to build a habit out of. My friend gifted me with a 5 Minute Journal where I take five minutes every morning to write the things I am grateful for and end the day with awesome things that happened. Not all days are great—there are a lot of bad ones and lonely ones, but what gratitude has taught me is that every day is a gift (no matter how cheesy it sounds). It can suck, but it’s still a gift, nevertheless. Exercising gratitude has refreshed my scrooge-like perspective, and it has helped me be more appreciative, take life a little more lightly, and see things in a brighter light.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.


Art by Marian Hukom

For the latest in culture, fashion, beauty, and celebrities, subscribe to our weekly newsletter here  

Follow Preen on FacebookInstagramTwitterYouTube, and Viber

Related stories:
Why Singapore and Manila are the places I call home
The untold truth of Camie Juan: Life in the Big Apple
Five tips for making the big move
My toughest long distance relationship ever