From city lights to island life
The ground beneath me felt like it shifted six ways from Sunday. A shot of cold sensation went straight up my spine, and I was on the brink of passing out. Gladly, I didn’t. I made my way to the office and headed straight to the clinic, fearing I might be having a stroke. I was 25. This couldn’t be a stroke.
Our company doctor ruled out stroke and heart attack because my vitals were stable. I felt relieved, until I overheard him talking to the EMT, sending me off to the hospital with a recommendation: possible nervous breakdown and/or anxiety. Clearly, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I said to myself. I am fine, it’s probably just the heat or something. At this point, you may possibly have an idea what the findings were, so I am just going to let your thoughts run wild on the diagnosis.
For one year and seven months after the incident, I religiously took my Zolodin and went to my therapy sessions. I kept going forward, but I felt like it did not amount to anything at all. That’s when I decided to leave everything behind and go home to Palawan—plant crops, teach yoga, sell produce at weekly weekend markets, or something. So I did.
People often complain about their awful work on social media—the grueling hours, the relentless workload, the unyielding and painful commute—everything. We often look forward to long weekends where we can make a quick trip to the beach. Oftentimes, it becomes our routine—work, travel, then go back to work to complain about work and contemplate about living the island life where you can live near the beach, teach kids and do volunteer work, go on early morning runs on the shoreline, and plant your own produce.
Island living is what so many corporate slaves crave for, and I am here to tell you exactly what to expect the moment you leave the weirdly comforting city lights. The most exciting part about this crazy idea is packing. You pack your entire life from the city and you stand in your empty apartment while staring at the pile of boxes of stuff—work clothes, documents (lots of documents!), utensils and supplies, furniture, mementos. Then ask yourself, “Is this what my worth is?” You would probably feel ecstatic thinking you’re taking off the capitalist leash. You would feel free. Finally.
The second best thing is when the plane lands and you smell a hint of peace—just for a brief moment. Everything after that is panic. For several nights, there will be nothing but restless nights and endless thoughts of self-doubt. This is going to eat you up and make you question your entire plan and life choices.
Three weeks after my return to Palawan, I woke up late in the morning craving for a Starbucks iced latte and a blueberry muffin. My body immediately went into panic mode, and I texted all my closest friends to send me my cravings via LBC. If they made it in time before the cut-off, I would still have my coffee and muffin the next day. We can all agree this was a stupid idea.
I managed to check all the marks on my plan. I did raise my own produce. I did volunteer. I did do yoga. I did run on the shoreline in the early morning.
I did not get the feeling I was hoping for, though. It felt forced. Suddenly, I found myself identifying all over again with that broken corporate slave that I used to be. It didn’t make rational sense because our lives couldn’t have been more different, until I realized that we were still the same at the core—stuck to a routine. Now on completely opposite environments, but the same, nonetheless.
That’s when you would think that your calculations might have missed some marks—the variable of feelings in the whole equation. Before we go on a wrong turn and everything goes dark, I want to assure you that everything will be okay. The shadow of doubt will continuously follow you like a cloud above your head, and that’s okay. A little doubt is good. It makes you reevaluate your life choices and remind you that feelings can never be forced. That actions and thoughts can be adjusted, but your feelings might take a while to catch up.
It took me almost half a year before I was desensitized to that feeling. As corporate slaves, we’re used to tension, stress and inconvenience. And that’s the most important thing I want to warn you about. The transition phase from the concrete jungle to island living is oftentimes not pretty. There will be a roller-coaster of emotions, mostly self-doubt, but continue to breathe and chase the sun. I promise, in the end, it will be glorious.
Romar Miranda, 26, is a former corporate communications coach who recently moved back home to Palawan.
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