On independence

Woman at the beach.

What independence means to me. 

On the 31st of August, Malaysia celebrated its 66th year of independence. As I greeted my friends and family and watched the celebratory parade through my phone, I reflected on what it means to be independent as both an adult and an international student. 

When I was a kid, “independent” was merely a word you’d write about in an essay on good values; often understood as being able to do things on your own (e.g. Fold your own laundry, pack your own schoolbags, order for yourself at the restaurant, etc.). I would later associate this word and the idea of independence with adulthood, propelling me into an a very long period of yearning for the day I get to call myself a grown-up. 

It was just so thrilling, wasn’t it, the idea of being an adult? It was all about staying past your bedtime, having your own money, and hanging out with your friends at the mall without being chaperoned by someone’s parent. Having a boyfriend and getting to sing the swears words in songs without being told off. Wearing high heels, getting manicures, and having a debit card. That was what adulthood and having independence meant to 9-year-old me.

Now that I am an adult, I can say that most of it is true – it is fun being able to do those things but what I hadn’t realised then (rightfully so) was that independency came with a lot of responsibilities. And navigating through those responsibilities came a lot earlier for me as an international student. 

Sometimes it feels like I’m being thrown into a ring with no gloves and no prior training, stumbling my way around as I figure out my next move. In other words, independency is unpredictable and filled with taking a leap into the unknown – which is, admittedly, scary. Sure, I can always call mum and dad to ask them questions, but they won’t have the answers to everything. Things like bureaucratic processes, applying for jobs, resolving interpersonal AND intrapersonal conflicts I simply had to learn as I go. 

Being independent is also tiring at times. It’s not just about knowing how to do certain things on your own but actually having to do everything on your own. From the cooking to the cleaning to my finances.

Independence isn’t all that scary though. Like I said earlier, being independent is also fun. It certainly gave me the opportunity to grow into my own person and to learn more about myself. As I did things on my own accord, it felt like I was given the opportunity to figure out so much about myself which i might not have been able to do had i not been alone: what I like and dislike, what I want to be and not be, what I’m capable of doing and what I’m not, what makes me… me.  

While I do miss the security dependency offers, I cherish what being independent has taught me just as much. 

Tagged in What messes with your head, international student, independence, growing up, growing older, Malaysia