Astra inclinant, sed non obligant. The stars incline us, they do not bind us.
It is not our circumstances that define us but rather what we choose to make out of them.
As a peripatetic, I have moved all over the country, as well as across borders and continents. These frequent relocations were often caused by new jobs or living closer to the family. It became especially more difficult as I started to grow up and make lasting bonds with people around me, only to uproot once more.
But this challenging journey I fondly call life is one that tested my abilities to navigate through unfamiliar territory.
I was able to visit Taoist temples in Hong Kong as a child. My feet traced the fertile valleys of Bangladesh to the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal to the bustling streets of New York City to the shores of Lake Ontario in Toronto. I swam in a lake in humid Mississippi and rode in a boat off the coast of Malaysia and dipped my feet in the warm waters at South Beach in Miami.
Most importantly, I learned to look on the bright side, even when it was too difficult to step out of the dark. Life consists of ups and downs, but often it is us who get to decide how we label our experiences. So I decided to make the best out of the lemons that life handed me.
This is what I learned...
1. The extrovert hidden in your introverted self will make an appearance.
It used to be challenging to make new friends. I was used to growing up with people I had known since the playground in kindergarten. But suddenly, I found myself being the outsider -- whether it was in the midst of a busy and unfamiliar metropolitan city or a high school in a small town where everyone knows each other’s middle names.
So HOW do you make new friends? For me, it was usually by complaining how difficult a test was and how badly I think I did on it. Or discussing the cliffhanger from the newest episode of Riverdale. It was over a shared love of dance or injuring ourselves playing lacrosse.
Sometimes the smallest things can lead to the best friendships. You just have to put your best foot forward and take a chance.
2. Your intentions will be questioned and abilities will be doubted.
This was particularly true as a woman of color growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood. I couldn’t relate to many of their experiences simply because of the differences in our upbringings. It didn’t matter that I wore the same clothes or listened to the same music as everyone else.
But none of it ever made me cower. My South Asian ancestry was never something I tried to erase; it was a part of my identity I wore proudly. Our differences are often the best part of ourselves. I just had to believe in myself and my knowledge of neurological afflictions as much as I believe the gender pay gap is not a manipulated, oversimplified myth.
3. The upside of having friends around the world will instill a sense of altruism in you.
The amalgamation of all the cultures I experienced led to a better understanding of people and the world for me. I was no longer the shy girl afraid of voicing her opinions because she worries what others will think.
I strived to become a role model, whether it was using the power of my words or my actions. I spoke out for causes I strongly believed in, for injustices others suffered in the world, to be a voice for those who were silenced.
Finding common goals and interests also led to new friendships. Suddenly, I found my social circle transforming from two collinear points to a vast sphere expanding past borders and continents.
4. The fluidity of your situation will result in the creation of an ability to adapt as you go, growing accustomed to uncertainty.
Whatever curves are thrown in my way as I travel along the road of life are dealt with in a calm and careful manner. Sometimes the path to a destination will not be the most simple one and there are many pit stops along the way you must handle first.
But in the end, I learned that life always has a way of working out. No matter what happens, you will always end up in a situation where you are happy, whether it is because of your current circumstances or the people in your life. If you find yourself not being happy yet, the only solution is to keep moving on until you are.
5. You will discover that your entire life can fit into a cardboard box.
Possessions become less meaningful. Sure, there are certain belongings we would like to hold on to forever but they will become nothing compared to the memories engraved in your brain. It is the little things you pick up along the way that will become your most prized possessions. For me, it would be the seashells I picked up by the Atlantic Ocean in Long Island or my pen from the beautiful campus of Yale University. Also, I can now say I know the traffic laws across several different states.
6. In the end, your heart will no longer belong to one single place.
Pieces of it will exist wherever you travel. The experiences and memories will leave a lasting impact to carry in your pocket for the rest of your life. The word “home” will no longer make you envision a certain place, but rather a film of familiar faces and fond memories.
A new home will be found wherever you travel next, continuing to live through new stories and filling up the rest of your pages.