Have you lived in one place all your life? Ever dreamt of traveling around the world and meeting new people? How about having people at your beck and call whenever you need them? Sounds like a princess’s life, doesn’t it? Maybe it is, in a way. But for those of you who can’t wait to leave home and see the world, here’s something to think about.
I am 18 years old and I have lived in four different countries, learned six languages, visited numerous places, met countless people, and immersed myself in unfamiliar cultures. I am known by various names. I hear people call me “yung anak ni Amba.” “the girl who moves around a lot,” or “the diplomatic chick.” These were labels I didn’t particularly cherish.
For 16 years of my life, I moved from one place to another, and I hated it! I dreaded the so-called “family talks” that we’d have over dinner, once in a blue moon. These “dinners” were the trademarks of our move. They have been so from Virginia, USA to Bonn, Germany to Parañaque, Philippines to Bangkok, Thailand (where I currently reside). I am one of those kids who, when faced with the question, “Where did you grow up?” would have to stop and think before answering. I’ve never had a place I could call home.
It’s very tough having to move around as much as I do, not knowing when the next “family dinner” will be announced (it’s usually every two to six years). It’s hard not being able to decide for myself what I want to do with my life. It’s hard trying to cope with change on different levels—changes in environment, in schools, in languages, and in cultures. It’s especially hard to let go of friends (not to mention, boyfriends) who matter a lot. I don’t get to say “No, I don’t want to leave.” All I ever get to do is pack my things and get on a plane, leaving memorable people and places behind.
As I said, I hated my life. When we left Manila, I was in tears for months! I was moping around at formal dinners at the embassy. I would lock myself in my room all day. I hardly even talked to anyone. I would unpack my things and think, “What’s the point? In a few years, I’ll be packing up again anyway.” What I failed to realize then was that “through every dark cloud, there is a silver lining.” Back then, I was surrounded by darkness.
And it took me 16 whole years to see the little rays of sunshine that tried to peek through my desolation. Being an ambassador’s daughter, I have so many privileges that other girls my age don’t have. I get to travel the world, dress like a princess (and get away with it), be the center of attention at embassy events, go sightseeing every single day, get free invites to concerts, and meet amazing people from all around the globe.
Our unexpected (and at first, unwanted) move to Thailand made me think about my life a lot. I quit my brooding, which I realized was very childish of me, and decided to look at my life from another person’s perspective. So many people were pointing out to me how lucky I was to have a life like this. At first, I rolled my eyes at all of them. But then, I started to consider that there might be something behind those words. I decided to be more mature about my predicament. I thought about it a lot, and finally came to the conclusion to accept my life with all its shortcomings. Sure, I have to dress up occasionally in itchy barong-style outfits and act every bit the prim and proper, perfect little lady (which by the way, I am NOT!). But at the end of the day, I go back to my home, which I have found in the hearts of those I love and who have loved me all my life: my family. And next time some random dude comes up to me and asks: “Ikaw ba yung anak ni Amba?” I’ll know what to say: “Yes, and I’m darn proud of it!”
All I ever get to do is pack my things and get on a plane, leaving memorable people and places behind.
This first appeared in the August 2005 issue of Candy.