Learning to be brave

I realized that I’ve been getting along thus far on pure bravado and a touch of naivety; with the thinking that everything will be fine, I have mostly charged headlong into things without planning ahead. Sometimes I think I live for the unknown, the excitement of seeing what will unfold, and testing myself to see what I’m made of – and sometimes, I forgot that I need to be prepared, at least mentally.

Not many people are prepared for life, that’s for certain, and no one is 100% prepared for what will happen next; I’m a big believer that life has its purpose, and its unpredictability is part of its beauty. I’m not going to worry about being in complete control of life, but I do worry about my own strength. Someone had said that “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not on the branch but on its own wings” and I really think that it is true. If I’m strong enough to face life’s challenges, that would increase my chances of succeeding in life.

It has been a long process, but I’m slowly trusting myself more; I’m learning that I do not have to be perfect to be enough. I do want to improve myself, to be the best of me, but I am enough just as myself.

I came from a dark past, bear with me; I am the youngest daughter in a very traditional Vietnamese family, where my value and self-worth were based on pleasing my family, getting good grades in school, and marrying well. I was taught not to have my own opinions, to obey whatever my parents decided for me. I grew up terrifying of doing the wrong things because every time that I did something not to my parents’ liking, I was in for a beating. To this day I still cringe at any type of confrontation, if I do something wrong I would feel like it’s the end of the world, and my mind blanks out when someone came at me with an argument that I’m not prepared for. I’m getting better, though, and hopefully, I’ll grow into myself more. I’ve done a lot of reflecting the past few months, and came to the conclusion that striking out on my own would be good, as it would give me the distance I need from my mother, and the last time I strike out on my own, I did come to a better understanding of myself, so I was hoping this time would be the same, if not better.

I thought that things will go smoothly since I tried to have my all my ducks in a row, but I guess life will throw challenges at people and show them what their actual strength lies.

I thought that I have everything I needed, but it went its separate way when I started. First, to study abroad, I needed my high school diploma, an apostille (a document stating that the education I received from my country is the same standard as the country I want to study in), and the G.I. Bill entitlement letter bearing my name. There was a miscommunication, and the explanation for the apostille was wrong, so I got the wrong kind of documents (that I did not know until I was in Poland). I was halfway to the airport when I remember I have forgotten the G.I. Bill letter, but had to keep going since I was going to be late for my flight; then when I got to my new university in Poland, I was told that I have the wrong documents, so I have to send necessary paperwork back to the States in order to get the right ones. It’s been half a month since I send paperwork, and a month and a half since the start of the school year, and I still have not received my paperwork back. It’s been making me anxious since I was relying on the G.I. Bill funding to pay for school. Oi vey. I’m trying to stay positive, and hopefully, things will be resolved by the end of the month.

And of course, being the carefree person that I am, I figured that I’ll rent an apartment when I get to Poland. I didn’t account for the fact that there will be hundreds of people also looking for apartment XD It took me two weeks to be able to find apartment, and I was running all over town trying to do apartment viewing, talking to owners, talking to agents, and staying with different Airbnb hosts meanwhile (it was expensive, and I have three different hosts due to the timing of booking).

I was very happy to finally rent an apartment within half an hour of the University, and the owner was very understanding and accommodating with my circumstances (I couldn’t pay him right away when we sign the contract, as I forgot about the withdrawing limit for ATM, and I didn’t know that the first payment is in cash).

The lesson I had to learn: do more research, but a good thing that came with the struggle I had to go through – learning that I am stronger than I think and that the struggle is only a temporary thing. During the first month I was in Poland, I had to travel all over town to find the things I need while trying my best to convey my meaning to native Polskie who doesn’t speak much English. I also had to do things the hard way, like checking to see what voltage my electronic equipments need; if I had done that, I would have saved so much time and effort. Instead, I thought that everything I own need a power converter, so I had to run to many electronic stores to find a power converter that is strong enough for my 250 watts laptop, only to find out that my laptop can convert EU power (if it has 100 ~ 240 V, then you only need an adapter for the plug, not the battery). I didn’t check, so I ran into the problem of trying to find a strong enough power converter, but the strongest could only convert up to 200 watts, so for a while I had to plug to charge my laptop while it’s turned off, and it takes almost twice as long to charge as usual, and have to charge my phone while I’m not charging the laptop so I can find my way around the city.

After all that trouble, I find out that all my electronic devices are quite capable of converting power by themselves, all of them are dual voltage XD

Gadzookaronians, four days of hunting for power converters, only to find out that I don’t need to. Urgh. The rest was fairly easier, getting plug adapters, and find a surge protector outlet and I was good to go.

So, yes, research, as I was pretty confident when I was on my way to Poland, then find out that I don’t really know anything, it’s rather frustrating, humbling, and hilarious at the same time. I don’t think I’ve ever walked for 8 hours a day ever since I move to the good U.S. of A, but I’ve had to do that during my first month of just getting used to how things are in Poland. Now that I have my own place, my base of operations, I’ve only had to walk for 4 hours a day, isn’t that marvelous?

It’s been a learning experience, and I’m still hanging on. I’m proud of that.