Observing changes in myself seems nearly impossible, and yet I seem to find ways I have become different—act differently, think differently, talk differently—every day. For one thing, my self-confidence has improved. For the first time in my life, I actually don’t care what others think of me. I am okay with me, I am okay with what I choose to do, so what my peers think is really irrelevant. I have always told myself that I felt this way, but it was more a matter of self-insistence than reality; I was insisting that I felt that way so maybe I finally would. Now, I find myself proving that I feel this way by acting accordingly. Finding myself doing this almost automatically is liberating, in a sense, but also worrisome. I greatly fear seeming pompous or stuck-up.
I have been through a whole range of experiences that most of my friends could not even begin to imagine: I settled in a new country and navigated (successfully) other countries without even being able to speak their native languages. I did not so much learn to take care of myself (because did know how to do so before I ever lived in England) as I proved that I could take care of myself. For the first time, I was truly on my own: every appointment was scheduled, every meal cooked, every illness treated, every purchase paid for, every plan made, and every crisis solved by me. This is not to say I was isolated from my friends and family while abroad. Rather, I became free from my dependence upon them, both material and emotional.
I have always been frugal (and reasonably so, I would like to think). Early on, I realized that if I wanted to enjoy my stay in England (and travel to foreign places), I was going to have to resign myself to the 2-to-1 conversion rate and the fact that I would come home with less than half of the money I had saved in my entire lifetime. My mother has always claimed, “What is the point of having money if you are unwilling to enjoy it?” and although I had heard her say this many times, I only listened with half an ear. Now, it has almost become a way of life for me. Sure, now that I am back in the States, I do feel a vaguely pressing need to “get back to work.” Compared to how much money I had saved before, I am now relatively poor. However, I trying to make money with a new goal in mind: in stead of simply making money in order to feel secure—saving it to have, “just in case,” as I once did—I am now working in order to raise enough money to go and visit Angela in Singapore next summer. Money comes and goes. I have finally realized that no amount of money will ever make me feel truly secure. Instead, I have discovered security in my own resourcefulness and found confidence in my capabilities.