The basic thing is that everyone wants happiness, no one wants suffering. And happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors. If your own mental attitude is correct, even if you remain in a hostile atmosphere, you feel happy. – H.H. The Dalai Lama
One can only imagine the emotional roller coaster that a Filipino overseas (for many different reasons) go through. The two major points of contention are: (1) being away from the family and (2) not finding one’s footing right away.
In connection with this, a million-dollar-question was raised by our all-Filipina “support” group here last week: “Can you be truly 100% happy living here? Or can you be 100% ready for that matter?” Most of the women in this group are well-educated. Some even have established careers outside the Philippines before they decided on building a life with their partners in the Netherlands. It is also an understatement that Filipinos maintain close relations with not only their immediate families but relatives as well. There goes the two major points of the argument.
My short and crisp answer to the question is a YES. For being happy is really more of our disposition in life than our situation. So being 100% happy living here is a possibility.
When I decided to live here in NL, I have prepared myself for both the best and the worst. I owe that not only to myself (I’m leaving everyone and everything behind, right?) but also to my partner. Besides, the decision to stay here is not only his but mine.
To additionally prepare me psychologically, I waited for the birth of my first direct niece (my brother’s daughter) before I flew here, knowing that after that very special moment, I cannot be present in many important family occassions anymore. Can you imagine the guilt of leaving and not being there in times of need and celebrations? But these are things that we forgive ourselves for because we have decided to take another path.
So I left my family from whom I was never away in all my 30 years of living if not for travels made for work, my friends whom I have also known since I was in my mother’s womb and a profession that I loved. Living the single woman’s dream? Check. Good family relations? Check. But from there, it was back to zero. I had to start over.
However, I would not say that those days of finding my way in the Netherlands are the most depressing days of my life. I looked at this phase in my life as an adventure, an opportunity, a process. I never have to cook a family meal all my life before I went here. My siblings and I grew up with househelpers. But that was also a part of the process which I enjoyed immensely.
Starting a life somewhere else when you already made something out of yourself is no easy task. It would have been easier if the uprooting came first before building something for yourself. One of the biggest challenges for a communications professional like me was in learning the language. That was also a process and it still is. While I already achieved my “Dutch as a 2nd language” diploma, I know that there is more to learn. But I am happy to learn and discover what there is to learn and discover. I have always believed in hard work and perseverance. These pay off in the end. Other people may choose the easy way out, but victory is always sweeter with these two in tow.
Why am I giving you a summary of my migration process in the Netherlands? Because I believe that 100% happiness is achievable. If only we turn our guilt into forgiveness, our pride of being highly-educated and frustration of not-being-good-enough-anyway-because-of-the-language-barrier into motivation. Accepting the reality that we are here and really try to BE here, knowing that “different” (traditions and culture) is not necessarily a bad thing and niche’ is something you find if you work hard for it.
Change is good. The challenges that come with it keep us grounded. We are what we make ourselves to be wherever we are. That is how we honor the ones who raised us and the ones who influenced our lives. It is our way of saying, “thank you, you raised me well OR thank you, you prepared me for this”. We take them along in our value system – in the way we react to change, in the way we treat others and in the way we become useful in the society we live in.
Leaving everyone and everything behind is a big leap for anyone. But during this process do we also find ourselves. This is the opportunity to realize that we are our own individuals. We are not our family, nor our parents. We are not our partners, nor our children. We are not our colleagues, nor our friends. We are only a part of a bigger system and in a new society, taking part in that system is a good way to find one’s way back.
Happiness is achievable. We are faced with choices everyday and achieving that is a choice we can make for ourselves. To let go. To move on. To work on it. For happiness like love is not just an emotion but a decision. Happiness like love is a pact we make and a commitment we fulfill. Life is good and will be better, if we open our eyes and count our blessings, do what we can, help when we can and really BE wherever we are.#