Many a night I have sat in the company of darkness while looking out the window at the sparkling lights. As soft music played in the background, I would ask myself: What have I learned this year? What have I accomplished? Where am I now and am I any closer to becoming the kind of person I want to be?

It has been a year since I left my life in Toronto for a life in Hong Kong. Although I’ve never doubted my decision to come here, I find myself feeling a lot of different emotions as I look back on this past year. I look at how far I’ve come, not in distance but in personal growth; it both scares me and excites me. I smile when I think of the happy moments, while I try my best to understand the hardships I’ve had to face and what they mean in my life.

Anyone who has uprooted their life to start anew in a different country will know that it’s not easy. For me, moving to Hong Kong wasn’t my choice; it came with dating someone whose work was in a country on the opposite side of the world from where I was. It was my choice to be in a long-distance relationship, and I was made aware very early on that as our relationship progressed, I would eventually have to move to Hong Kong. Perhaps I was subconsciously hoping that someday my boyfriend would decide to move back to Toronto, but reality hit me when he decided to buy a home in Hong Kong. As we discussed our long term plans and made decisions for what would be our future home together, the idea of me moving to Hong Kong became more and more real. I tried to be honest and realistic when I thought about my situation. The fact that our entire relationship up until then was mostly through Whatsapp and Skype, I couldn’t see myself eventually getting married to someone I had only ever been in a long-distance relationship with. It was important to me that we had sufficient time to learn how to get along with one another in person before we would even think about marriage. Thus, the decision for me to move was made.

My purpose in Hong Kong was very simple: work on building a good foundation for our relationship. Even though we had already been together for some time, living together is very different from seeing each other once every month or two. Learning each other’s habits and adapting to each other’s way of doing things take time. Just like everything else in life, progress doesn’t happen overnight. Over the course of this year, we’ve made gradual changes to adjust to each other and we’ve learned to communicate more effectively with one another. Although there is still a lot to learn, I think we’ve made progress in what I believe is the basis of any successful relationship.

The decision to move to Hong Kong didn’t come without hurdles, most of which were mental hurdles. It took a really long time for me to wrap my head around the idea of not working because I have always had at least one job at any given time since I started working. Not having a job where I loved every minute of my work felt strange at first, but as I settled into my new life and started using my time to develop other aspects of myself, it became easier to deal with. The pressure I feel most comes from the judgement other people have on me; I understand how easy it is for people to think I am taking advantage of this situation to enjoy not having to work. In most instances, I don’t even get the opportunity to explain myself. Even if I did, not everyone would have the capacity to understand. It’s easy for people to say, “If you can’t work there, why not just stay in Toronto?” But if I did that, what would happen with our relationship? Is having a job more important than building a solid foundation for a successful marriage in the future? I know where my stance is on this, but it will take more time before I learn to not let other people’s judgement bother me. In the meantime I’ll continue to work on building our relationship, as well as my own personal growth.

People often forget that I’m an only child. I’ve had over 30 years to perfect the art of learning on my own and keeping myself occupied. Some people find it odd, perhaps even unacceptable, that I live in such a vibrant city yet I spend most of my time at home. People who know me well won’t find it difficult to comprehend. I tend to read books, usually about the mind and how we think, to develop better thought processes, while watching documentaries and interviews help keep my mind open to seeing the greater picture in life. Organizing things at home is an activity for me to practice my problem solving skills. When I want to explore my artistic side, I turn to crafts, music and writing. And of course, there is always cleaning to do around the home to keep it well maintained. There are so many opportunities to learn every day at home, doing various activities, that I don’t crave to go out very often. With that said, it’s crucial that I learn to appreciate doing things outside the home as well, so I hope to work on that, along with adapting a healthier living through diet and exercise.

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