Have you always been an independent kid, or do you always rely on others? What does being independent mean to you?
Does it mean getting out of your familiar zones and people around you? Would it mean moving out from your parents’ house and start living on your own? Does it mean freedom to you?
Being independent generally, means taking responsibility for yourself.
It means taking your own life under your reins and not be easily influenced by others. It means living your life the way you want it while not making others worry about you.
Some may perceive independence as breaking away from familiar grounds and people. But, it does not mean that we stop communicating or seeing them or returning home ever again.
Being independent means being able to think for yourself, take care of yourself and being responsible for your thoughts and actions.
In being independent, you might experience living without limitations, do what you want, when and how you want to do it. Or you might no longer have to ask for approval but being Independent also means that you have to include accountability.
Aspects of Independence
To be someone independent does not mean living alone or being able to take care of ourselves without needing others anymore. It also means us having our own set of thoughts and opinions, to be comfortable enough to not ask for permission or approval of others to agree with us.
Having thoughts of your own, owning your own voices and taking your stand demonstrates independence. Everyone might disagree with us but we would still be trusting our own decisions, even when they could be wrong.
It shows that you value you and your thoughts rather than being a follower and taking opinions of others to be your decision. It is also worth noting that what is important to you may not mean the same to others, whether they are your parents, elder siblings to anyone else close to you. Opinions are just words until they mean something.
The Power To Decide For Ourselves
If you have always depended on your parents or others to make decisions for you, what would you want to see changed in your life to start living independent going forward?
When we give others the power to make our decisions for us, we are essentially giving our power and control away. Soon enough, we’ll get into the comfort zone of constantly leaning on to others, we become reliant on them.
Journey to Being Independent
In our Asian culture, we are used to our parents making decisions for us. From a young age, we were told to do well in school so we can get better and higher education with better results so that we could secure better jobs or careers in the future.
I didn’t come from a wealthy background. This was one of the reasons why I studied hard. So that I could fight to the top to prepare for scholarship in the event that there are opportunities. However, as I didn’t carry any citizenship status back then, it was very difficult for me to apply for one.
When I finished my secondary school (high school), I pretty much had my mind set on getting a job for myself first before I pursue my own further education to not burden with my parents any longer.
My parents’ wishes were for me to complete my ‘A’ Levels before moving to University to study a good course. And then, get a well-paid job back at home. However, I already had an idea of the path that I wanted to go.
I chose the opposite route, which to me was pretty unconventional in the early days.
The usual education route :
Kindergarten (2 yrs) + Primary School (6 yrs) + Secondary School (5 yrs) + Post Secondary School (2 yrs) + University (4 yrs) : 19 years
The route I took :
Kindergarten (1) + Primary School (6) + Secondary School (5) + Diploma (3) + Work (2) + Work+University (3) : 20 years
The path I had chosen, may seem to take me longer than the usual route, however, there are several points to note
I started my Kindergarten late and spent only a year there, but this was not my choice as I was barely 3 at that time.
I had a 2-year head start in my career at 19, and when I did my degree, I was also working full time, so by the time I completed my degree, I already had 4 years of working experience compared to zero experience as fresh graduate had I taken the usual route.
Calculating the cost of my living expenses and tuition fees for my overseas 3-year diploma, the cost was considerably high. However, if I had spent two years studying for my ‘A’ Levels and then my university overseas plus living expenses, it would have been a larger chunk that my parents had to fork out. Also, after working for two years, 90% of my degree fees was self-sponsored instead of having the burden wholly placed on my parents.
I managed to persuade my parents into letting me choose this route not only because of the finances but also because I wanted to experience living independently for myself. From a young age, my mum has been telling me that I need to stand up on my own and be willing to step out and start being more independent, because I was always behind her back, be it to ask for a holiday job or to renew my passport.
My journey began when I left home to study overseas at 15 and that was a huge step I had to take towards being independent. As I recap my story, I was often commended for being independent having lived overseas alone for more than ten years, leaving home at such a young age and earning a good living for myself. However, what they did not know was the struggles I had to overcome on my own, the internal battles I had to win for the many years I was alone.
My first fear was taking public transport when I first arrived. Having been in a country with mostly private family vehicles, I had close to zero experience in public transport. Up until I left home, I had only taken the public bus once, school bus thrice. And I had never taken a taxi. We do not have trains in my home country. It was dreadful for me to hail the bus, board and then alight. I did not dare to move or ring the bell many times, I often wished others could do it so I need not worry about alighting at the wrong location (most times I realise I have arrived at the location I wanted to go only when I saw the bus stop). Over time, as I began to get used to the routine and environment, it became a natural act for me.
My second fear was making friends. Communication was a barrier for me. I was often conscious about voicing out due to my accent. Also, I quickly came to realise that my new friends were all cheery and vibrant teenagers while I was quite the opposite. It took me a long while to get acquainted and hang out with them. From a withdrawn and shy girl, I learned to make jokes, speak their language and eventually, acquired their language as well.
Over time, there were many instances I had to face not only as a teenager but also as a foreigner.
I learned to scout out my own rental room, tell my landlord that I wanted to move even before the lease was over (I have since acquired various experiences from having to save water and reuse, to having to put up with dog poos not being cleaned for weeks, to ones who had health concerns yet not aware that they should not share food with you – I ran like a plague)
learned to buy ticket for myself over the counter, queued up at embassies for visas, applied of residency
went for my first and only part time interview, to prepare for my first real job interview and secured it
then I started driving alone for the first time, started travelling on my own, and so on.