By Nurse Angie
When I moved to the UK, I was still in my early 20s—A nurse full of passion, full of dreams and admittedly was also full of naivety. My first few years in the UK have been an awakening experience not just for me but also for few of my batchmates who became my closest friends. They, too like me, had to learn how to become proper adults in a foreign country and at the same time work hard for us to reach our goals.
Our journey towards adulting was not easy. Let me share my story, including 3 of my friends who had different perspectives towards life, dreams and finances and how it changed over time.
Angie, the Adventurer
Motto in life: YOLO- You Only Live Once. Todo na ‘to. Bahala na si Batman.
I love travelling to places. When I travel, I go all out. I make sure I eat in the best restaurants, stay at luxury hotels and try out thrilling or exciting activities. Shopping for new clothes is a must for my best Instagram posts. This is for my OOTD (outfit of the day) everyday! I even bought a very expensive camera and always made sure that I have the latest iphone model (I felt I needed to have a back-up just in case my camera does not work.) Admittedly, some of my purchases are beyond my budget, but I will just tell myself “YOLO. Bahala na si Batman.” I had this belief that I had to make the most of my adventures and for me to do that, I had to avail what’s deemed as “best”, even if my budget would not allow. In my first 5 years in the UK, I have been to a lot of places and experienced a lot of great adventures. But because I spent a lot, I was not able to save. I even had to take out loans to pay for my travels.
Did I regret any of my travels? No, I don’t regret going to these places. I still believe that you only live once and you need to make the most out of the time you have. But in hindsight, I could have been smarter with how I used my money. In my travels, I have met people like me who loves a great adventure but unlike me, they know how to spend their money. Some of them do budget travels but still had the same experience as mine. Some do not have the latest camera but their photos are better than what I have. I know because I follow their social media pages. I also realised that whilst it is true that you only live once, I also have a future to plan and live for. My other friends who came few years after us were able to purchase a property or bring their partners or children in the UK, whereas, I’m still paying off the loans I made for my travels. YOLO just made me broke.
Basha, the Bargain Hunter
Motto in life: Seize the opportunity. Minsan lang mag-sale.
Sale is a big word for my friend, Basha. Whenever she sees the word “SALE” all in bold red letters, she goes crazy. “Seize the opportunity. Minsan lang mag-sale.” That’s what she would say when she is asked about her shopping habits. She would buy items as long as it’s branded and on sale, even if she does not need them. Sometimes, she would even find an excuse to buy it.
“I will use it someday.”
“Padala ko yan sa Pinas.”
“Dagdag ko sa box.”
Her credit cards became her best friend. Outlet villages and shopping centres became her go to place during her days off. Retail therapy is her immediate resort for stress relief.
It was only when one of her family back in the Philippines was hospitalised that reality hit her. She is broke. She cannot send any money to help them. She spent most of her income paying for her credit card and had no emergency savings. It brought her a lot of stress and she had to ask help from us. After the incident, she knew she had to do something about it and be prepared for rainy days. Kudos to her! As she had made steps to curb her shopping addiction, she disabled her social media accounts and shopping apps to lessen the urge to shop. She still loves a good bargain but she tries not do impulse buying anymore and has become mindful when it comes to her purchases. Retail therapy is good but is it really effective?
Shella, the Socialite
Motto in life: Work hard. Party harder. Deserve ko ‘to.
Shella is the most hardworking amongst all of us. She can work for 4 long days then do bank shifts after. She does not complain even if she’s asked to do overtime. The problem was, since she knew that she worked really hard she always felt the need to reward herself. During her days off, she will be present on most social gatherings, dinners and parties. She loved nights out and lavish dinners. When asked why she does this, she’ll say “I worked hard. Deserve ko ‘to.” She would end up spending most of her hard-earned money on these parties and dinners. Thus, giving her more reason to work harder.
It was a cycle.
Word hard. Party hard.
Work harder. Party harder.
Social media even made it worse because she has built up a following based on this fake lifestyle she had. Eating out at the best places and partying at the most exclusive clubs needs to be maintained. Shella was enjoying going through the cycle at first but after a few months, she felt tired and wanting. Her stomach is full, but her wallet and soul felt empty. It was all a lie that cannot be sustained.
Popoy, the Family Man
Motto in life: Sharing is caring. Lahat para sa pamilya.
Popoy is single but he loves his family so much. If there are awards for “Ulirang Anak”, “Ulirang Kapatid” and “Ulirang Tito”, I’m pretty sure he would win all these awards. Just like most of us, he wants to make the lives of his family better. But he was on another level, “Panganay daw siya kasi.” Most of his earnings are sent home- to his parents, sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews. “Lahat para sa pamilya.” During his first few years, he felt really happy and accomplished knowing that he can provide for his family back home. But as months passed by, he noticed that the requests for financial support are coming more often.
“Kuya, can i ask for some help for my kids?
“Tito, can you increase my allowance please? “
“Anak, magbirthday na kapatid mo. Pwede ka padala ka pang handa?”
Instead of feeling fulfilled, he started to feel the stress as most of his money are already sent home and it seems that it is still not enough?? He had to work more nights and do extra agency or bank work so that he can send more.
Eventually, the extra hours of work and stress took a toll on him and became unwell for some months. His additional earnings stopped. He had no choice but to say no to his family’s requests and send less. He was broke and his family felt the impact too.
He knows he’s partly to blame. Instead of making his family understand the value of the money, he gave them the impression that money is easy to make abroad. Instead of fostering their independence and helping them work for their own needs, he promoted a culture of over-dependence, which he unfortunately realised late that it is not sustainable and healthy for all parties involved. He literally gave everything but it seems that everything is still not enough, and worse he drained himself until he has nothing more to give.
There is nothing wrong in living your life to the fullest and most certainly nobody should dictate how you want to spend your hard-earned money. However, it’s been very easy for us to justify how we live and spend by simply being trendy or by taking up too much responsibility without any regard for ourselves.
We share our stories because all of us have identified our weakness and are trying to improve and move forward or it may be a way of being reflective on our part. And for the newer generation of Filipino nurses I feel somehow our stories are being replicated. We hope that by identifying these issues one can avoid the pitfalls we have made and that our new colleagues may find their own stories better and more rewarding than ours.
It’s great to have fun and work hard especially being an OFW. But adulting requires that we find balance in our lives. We only live once but not every opportunity is ours to take. And although we and our family deserve the very best in life, we can only give what we can and live within our means. Balance is the key.
**Names are changed.