The sun’s warmth is a scarce resource in this city, paling abundantly when held in comparison to my home country; every crack in the street unfamiliar in its path and every gust of wind seemingly bred differently to its siblings stirring up trouble in Southeast Asia.
It rains constantly in Manchester. Six and a half days out of seven, the sky cries in showers. I resonated with the city my first week here; I had cried through the first week, staining pillow covers wondering if I had made the right decision coming here, leaving all familiarity behind, packing twenty years of my life into two suitcases.
I’d be lying to say I didn’t feel pathetic. Half of my friends had already boarded their flight in the past year, every one of them smiling wider and brighter overseas, living the dream they’ve been working toward all this while. For them, the excitement of moving abroad for university had outweighed their anxiety; for me, the opposite stood true. I hate the word ‘pathetic’ but that’s truly how I felt; after all, I should be grateful for this opportunity more than anything, and feeling endlessly upset was the last thing that should be on my mind.
I’ve dreamt of pursuing tertiary education abroad ever since I came back from the States in 2016. Though I now find myself in a different country than planned, it’s still a huge leap toward the life I want to build for myself. It puzzled me, then, when I could not summon the same courage and excitement to up and leave, to flip the page of the book of my life.
Weeks prior to my flight have been a sequence of worrying, highlighted by anxious calls to friends and sobbing myself senseless to bed. According to my mom, the last time she had seen me this upset was when she couldn’t accompany me for my first day of primary school, and I had refused to get down the car alone. Pried away by the teacher, tears blurred my vision instantly.
But that’s beside the point. Things didn’t get better the moment I clambered into the window seat of SQ052. My heart heaved as the plane left the ground, soaring into the midnight sky. When morning came, I looked down on the thin clouds and longed to dissolve among them, as if they have the capability to take away my worries. At that moment, worrying was what I excelled at. I had yet to understand that worrying doesn’t remove tomorrow’s troubles, it only removes today’s peace.
After passing through the arrival gates hoping to wake up and realize it was all a bad dream, the taxi brought me to my new home for the next year. I unpacked my belongings in a room that doesn’t quite feel like the one back home, hung my clothes up in a wardrobe smaller than before, and put up pictures from home lest I forget who I’m working to make proud. But, of course, material things fail to quell the thunderous waves of emotions I was bracing through.
For the first week, my eyelids would flutter open at seven in the morning, stung by the cold air, every inch of my skin refusing to move and wake up. I allowed myself to wallow in the sadness of it all; I gave myself permission to be unhappy, and that was all that defined me for one whole week. I didn’t feel like myself but I couldn’t be bothered to get back to being the old me as if sitting in my pool of worries will trigger somebody to come save me from the mess that I’ve single-handedly made.
But the days go by and I put one foot in front of the other, watched each second tick by after the other. I open the blinds every morning and I learn to love the rain. I layer on clothes and put on my shoes, I walk out the door and I meet people. I try hot chocolate from new cafes and get lost in new bookstore aisles. I look for little things scattered around that remind me of home. I find my footing in this city bigger than dear Penang and I see that I’m anything but alone. In fact, I’m anything that I believe myself to be. So, I allowed myself to believe I could be okay, that this place could be home.
So, it rains and it rains, but we keep going, clinging onto the hope that tomorrow, the sun will find its courage to shine brighter than yesterday, piercing through the clouds,
and so will we.