All the recent self-help books talk about the importance of boundaries in our life. To maintain your own inner peace and harmony, you got to set boundaries, especially with the closest people in your environment. Mothers, fathers, siblings, partners, children, friends. Boundaries are needed when you feel unwanted influence, interference, or undesirable participation in your life.
Up till the age of 32, I have never set up healthy boundaries. I’ve let myself be affected by other opinions, judgement, advice, criticism, and influence. My flexibility or even dependence has played a bad joke on me. I’ve struggled to make my own decisions, always doubting myself and seeking advice from the closed ones. When my close people criticized me, I instantly agreed with them, without questioning for a second. I could not defend myself when I heard hurtful things I did not agree with. I did things for friends or family even though I was against them. I listened to everyone without hearing my own voice. I let people decide what kind of life I should have and what kind of person I should be.
Only now I have started realizing that and setting up my own boundaries. I am slowly teaching myself to listen to my heart first and then hear others opinions. I am learning to pause before agreeing right away. If my partner gives me the instant solution to my problem, I do not follow the advice immediately. I ask myself: Is this really what I would do without his advice? When my sibling pours negativity in the message, I answer with a simple positive statement without letting myself get drowned in the pool of pessimism. If my parents or his parents judge how I live or what I do, I stop myself from reacting to that and keep doing what I want to do. I am learning to say ‘No’ more often. I am learning to protect myself from unwanted guidance or emotional impact.
It is hard. Damn hard because people get hurt. They think that you distance yourself from them. That you don’t want to be close anymore or that their opinion means nothing to you. In these moments, you want to break down and let it go. Agree and follow. Isn’t it easier for everyone? For who? For you? Or for them? Exactly in these moments, the hardest times, you have to stand strong and resist the temptation of being the old you. You are your new self. You are setting the boundaries even if you think it is too late. Better late than never.
Relationships with the city you are living in are as complicated as relationships you are having with a loved one. Sometimes it is love at first sight. Often times, love fades away and you see another side of the city.
The first time I saw Taipei from the window of the airplane, I instantly felt it was a city of insane energy and endless fun. I fell in love with it the minute I landed and took the first breath of city air. A strange, unfamiliar smell promised a new adventure and a different life. I was in love for the first time. In love with a person, and in love with a new city. Every day I woke up with the feeling of excitement to be living in one of the coolest metropolitan cities in Asia. Hundreds of events were happening in all parts of the city. Every day I tried a new restaurant, and every day I was pleasantly surprised by something new. I was deeply in love, and I felt the city loved me back. I liked how cheap street food was. How sunny and hot the days were. How different the fashion style people had. How beautiful the palm trees looked at the university I was studying at. I loved how often I got compliments about my looks. How friendly all the vendors were. How organized the public transport was. How much of the nightlife I had. I liked everything and everyone at this moment. I was in love.
I loved this city for the whole one year. I broke up with my first love in a year, and something happened to my relationships with the city as well. Involuntarily, I started seeing a different side of it. And I hated it. I hated the intense, never-ending humidity when nothing ever dried out overnight. I hated having ants and lizards in my room (hello, subtropical climate). I hated the bland taste of steamed vegetables in the restaurants. I hated having rice 3 times a day. I hated being always the tallest person in the bus. I hated the times when people wanted to take a picture of me without trying to talk to me or be my friend. I hated the fact that no matter how much I studied the Chinese language, I could never have deep conversations and form close friendships with Taiwanese people. I hated meaningless parties, hangovers, and phone numbers of random guys who never wanted commitment. I hated being alone without family and friends. I hated being a foreigner. I fell out of love.
It was love-hate relationships with the city. Many years later, when I moved to live in another city, another country, I formed new relationships with a new city, but I never forgot Taipei. It was my first pure love – beautiful and ugly at the same time. And even though I left the city on a bad note with many heavy feelings in my heart, I remember it now in warm, bright colors. And I do want to give this city another chance. After all, don’t we all deserve a second chance?