The Brave and the Free

Over dinner on our second night in Hanoi, my friend Biboy shared to us how he up and left Manila for Vietnam.

He was backpacking a year ago when he decided to throw all caution to the wind and just move to the country. To survive, he became an English teacher and earned a measly 6,500 pesos every month. He couchsurfed so he can save on house expenses, and subsisted on instant noodles for six months. He connected with new people (a lot of them, foreigners like him.) He moved from one city to another.

Eventually, things started to pick up. He has come a long way since.

“Don’t you miss Manila?” I asked.

Not really, he replied, explaining that he was left to fend for himself growing up anyway as his mom was working overseas throughout his childhood.

It was no surprise to me that he had no plans of coming back (aside from the casual vacation every now and then): home, after all, was wherever he was.

“If I grow tired, I’ll just move to another country,” he said, laughing.
On the way to the airport, this struck me as one of the bravest things one can ever do.

It’s not easy to let go. I should know–when I get stuck in a comfortable place, I tend to make a nest out of it. I am a creature of habit and I enjoy things when they flow smoothly.

(Of course, that isn’t to say I don’t know how to handle trouble every now and then, but I have to admit that anything that goes out of my routine expends a lot of my energy for adaptation.)

It takes wisdom to know when to leave situations and people that become toxic. I say wisdom because leaving isn’t always the best decision, since there will be times when you will have to clench your fists, grit your teeth, and go through problems with the hope that you will turn the bad into good.

But when you slowly realize that you are making more compromises than you are used to, and that you are accommodating faults and flaws that happen repeatedly and which you’ve resolved as non-negotiable transgressions, you need to know when to tell yourself that enough is enough. When lines you’ve drawn are crossed and promises are broken repeatedly, you should respect yourself enough to say no.

Because when we say yes to something, that means we are saying no to other things. There comes a time when we just have to learn which things to say no to, firmly.

Biboy’s story, I think, is a glowing example of bravery. Staying true to yourself and focusing on what you want to do in life, even when the options that surround you can become dizzying, is being courageous.
He was brave enough to listen to what he wanted–and that was the biggest risk that he took.

At the end of the day, we aren’t brave because we choose to stay or leave. We are called brave because we know the risks each offer, and we take either path knowing full well the hell (and/or heaven) that awaits us along.

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