I was 21 years old when I first saw the movie, Eat, Pray, Love, and at that time, I was wondering if I would ever have the opportunity to do such a courageous thing: leaving your comfort zone, travel the world to find yourself and hopefully, to love you again.
Julia Roberts played the role of Elizabeth Gilbert and her photo biting a spoon while in Italy was so iconic. I also remember her scrubbing the floors in an ashram in India and how she walked through the green scenery of Bali where she fell in love.
I wasn’t aware of how one can lose oneself. How is it even possible? At a young age, I was so sure of what I wanted in life, what I wanted to achieve and of myself most especially.
I had all the adrenaline believing that one day I can save the world. I was afraid to lose that spark, mentally taking notes of what to do when that happens. I had a “good life” – a supportive family, a husband, and a stable job that allows me to still do things I am passionate about.
What could go wrong? I was aware that such circumstance is possible and can happen to anyone; I had to know when so I would be prepared.
Except no one has told me that when things fall apart, you usually won’t notice until everything is beyond your control. One time, you will lose a tiny part of yourself, and you would think that it is still okay. You can take it back the next day; you would even believe that it is normal. Eventually, certain events will happen where you will continue to lose yourself, and boom, one day you would wake up realizing that you don’t know yourself anymore. At this stage, blaming oneself is inevitable – there would be a lot of what if’s and I could have’s.
And when that happens, you either keep fighting or retreat at least for a while. If you think you still have the energy to fight, by all means, keep on going, but don’t you ever believe that choosing the latter is a less courageous thing to do. Besides, to continue on your path, you better equip yourself with the greatest weapon: yourself.
How would you know when you have lost yourself? Here is a list of signs that made me realize I am not the same person anymore.
1. You have lost sight of your goals.
The ‘bucket list’ has lost its meaning. Suddenly, you question yourself about your purpose and whether it is still worth your time to chase after your previous dreams. You’re back to square one and clueless of what to do next. You are no longer surviving to live – you are living to survive. Thinking about the future dreads you.
2. Despite being surrounded by people that you care or doing things you are passionate about, you still feel lonely.
For a period of time, I remember how every afternoon, while at work, I would feel so an unexplainable sadness. It was as if a blanket of loneliness would swarm over me; a phase I had to go through because I had no idea how to get rid of it.
3. Your happiness depends on other people.
I was so afraid to be by myself at that period of my life because I know I might break down any minute. I packed my schedule meeting friends almost every night. I even considered reconnecting with friends whom I have stopped meeting to fill up my calendar which is in a way, a good thing but also a pathetic way to find happiness.
4. You have stopped doing things that make you happy.
Writing has always been my first love and staring on the screen without typing a single word from my imagination was killing me. However, at that time, I could not feel the motivation with my brain and fingers losing the coordination. My heart was very empty, but there I was, letting myself get drowned in it.
The above signs made me a living zombie, but fortunately, there are some days when I would wake up and try to fight the negative feelings. I knew I couldn’t let my friends and family down who continued pushing me to be better.
I did a lot of things to make myself feel better – learn salsa, took courses in a university, hang out with friends to name a few. I also thought about Eat, Pray, Love and I knew that traveling would be a way to help me find myself again.
EAT: Okinawa, Japan
I love Japanese food – I mean, who doesn’t? Sashimi, ramen, wagyu beef to name a few of my favorite. Each week, I always make sure to eat at least once. Japanese cuisine requires a virtuoso to make from its simplest but freshest ingredients. I visited Okinawa for a weekend getaway in June and its blue sky, crystal clear beach, and warm air greeted me. It was beautiful!
The Okinawa Prefecture is two hours away from Japan’s capital, Tokyo. It has a relaxing island atmosphere which is very different from its busy and crowded capital. Their specialties include stirred fried bitter melon, tofu, and sliced pork or Goya Champuru. This is an iconic dish in Okinawa one must try before leaving the island.
Orion Beer started in the summer of 2015. Its refreshing taste quenched my thirst in the heat of the summer sun. Make sure to include the brewery into your itinerary. I can’t drink a lot but I joined a competition that challenged us to drink a pint, and boy, was it worth it.
Started in Okinawa in 1948, Blue Seal Ice Cream is not your ordinary ice cream. They have over thirty flavors to please everyone’s tastebuds, and the must-try flavors are Okinawa sea salt and sweet potato. The best part about its texture is that it melts in your mouth! Ice cream has a special place in my heart; thus, I don’t trust people who say no to ice cream.
Let’s talk about faith, an essential part of self-discovery. It is believing in something even without seeing it; nevertheless, you have a strong feeling towards it. I prefer to have faith than hope because faith is a much stronger word. In faith, you have complete trust and confidence in yourself, relationships, goals, systems, and many other different things that make up your life.
Unfortunately, when things fall apart, and the spark suddenly disappears in your life, losing faith follows. It is one of the most painful things because you lose the magic in your eyes, your purpose, and you don’t know what would be next in your life anymore. You blame the universe who meant to conspire for you.
Despite losing faith, I never stopped praying. At that time, believing in something bigger than me is the only thing I could do. The problem with my faith, at that time, however, is that I was grasping for anything that I thought would save me.
Continuing the path of Elizabeth Gilbert on ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ I looked for faith and found it in the Caucasus.
PRAY: Georgia and Armenia
I traveled to Georgia and Armenia last August, an area situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The mountain range itself is a natural barrier between Eastern Europe and Western Asia, the perfect display of East meets West. I flew via Moscow into Yerevan, a fascinating destination for culture with its squares filled with beautiful artworks and fountains. The capital has a lot of UNESCO World Heritage monasteries: Echmiadzin, Zvarnots and not so far away, is Khor Virap in the Ararat Valley against the spectacular backdrop of the biblical Mt. Ararat.
My favorite of all is Sevanavank Monastery located at the shore of Lake Sevan. I remember climbing up the hill quickly while the wind was blowing intensely with gray skies making it a more dramatic scene. I felt an intense warmth in my heart as I entered the steps of the monastery. The cool breeze touched my face, and I felt content and a different kind of happiness I haven’t felt before.
We crossed the border into Georgia and continued our journey north, to Kazbegi. Our room at Rooms Hotel offered a view of Gergeti Trinity Church perched on Mount Kazbegi. I had a magical morning when I woke up and witnessed as the sun was rising. Staying in the dark for a long time, I began to see the light.
That’s when I realize that having faith is not about holding onto something, but rather, it is about completely letting go.
When I was younger, I found it so easy to say the words ‘I love you’. It only contains eight letters, but these three powerful words can solve anything – or so I believed. During the ten-year relationship, I say these words every day and expected it to be said back. I relied upon these words o much, completely forgetting that love needs no words. Love needs no reassurance. You say these words because you want to express what is inside your heart and not to sweep the wrongs in yourself and your relationships temporarily.
LOVE: Sri Lanka
It was the night of Valentine’s Day when I took the flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka. I told myself a few months back that I am not going to spend the day of the hearts working in the office and going back home. I can date myself and make my adventure. The feeling of dreadfulness was non-existent, and instead, I felt thrilled that I am going to travel to this beautiful island for its magnificent Sigiriya Rock Fortress, green tea plantations, and stunning beaches. I got enthralled with the pink skies as the sunsets.
Wherever my feet took me, Sri Lankans always have smiles on their faces. They were friendly and were always willing to have a chat with questions of where I came from and which part of their country I am yet to travel to. I didn’t date anyone, but I met a lot of new friends who opened their rich culture to me.
I found myself but how do I find love?
I was looking at the mirror and thought about how I love the person I see. I realized what I had gone through not just in the past months but for the years when I endured misery. I thought enough is enough; thus a decision was made. I must love this woman no matter what and from now on, ‘you’ shall always come first. You kept on pouring even if you have nothing left, and now it is your turn to fight for your own happiness because that is what you deserved.
Love takes time and I am willing to wait much longer. For now, let me keep pouring that love into myself, so when the time comes, I can love wholeheartedly again.