Francesca Bocalan: 10,798.70—that is the distance, in kilometers, between London, England and Laguna, Philippines. That’s 6,710 miles. The moment I calculated that distance for the first time was in 2018 with my English visa in my Philippine passport. And in two weeks I would be leaving my hometown, and everything and everyone in it.
After a little over a year of adjusting to living alone and working in London, the pandemic starts. I work as a speech and language therapist for children. So once the UK declared a national lockdown, schools were closed and we had to resort to other means of providing our services. The initial ‘woohoo’ to working from home and not commuting to work turned into a never ending sigh of ‘when will this end?’
I started noticing that although I was just at home, I found it hard to focus. I found ways to distract myself—cue in the pandemic workouts, pandemic baking, pandemic cooking, pandemic instruments, pandemic arts and crafts.
I found it hard to sleep even though I was exhausted; I would sleep very late at night only to find myself waking up in the wee hours and not able to get back to sleep. My mind was always running with random thoughts, it was a constant blur.
It came to a point that I felt like I almost did not sleep at all. This affected my functionality at work because I was having random palpitations, migraines, and shortness of breath. The day eventually came that I had to consult the doctors. That’s when everything made more sense. In just one consultation over the phone, I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder.
How in the world can you possibly relieve your anxiety and escape a spreading virus that’s causing a global pandemic? I had no idea. What I believed in was, at least being home with your family is a good, if not the best, place to be during a once-in-a-century situation. But my family was 10,798.70 kilometers away, remember?
So I had a choice: instincts telling me to go home and find a way back and away from the world that was falling apart. Or, continue here. But what was at stake, really?
See, for years my dad worked abroad to support my family in the Philippines. And now, as one of the older children, it was my turn. If I went home, the consequences to my family’s condition would have been discouraging. If I was to go home and leave everything behind, including the challenging yet stable job I was blessed with – my family’s life is going to be uncertain.
When I left home to work abroad, it was my goal to bear responsibility, and specifically for my dad to be able to retire and come home. Every feeling that I was feeling and every weight that I was bearing, could never equal all his sacrifices all throughout the years. This always overpowered everything else in my mind. I could not get past the idea knowing that his sacrifices may need to continue for longer just because I could not do it anymore. And so, I had to make a decision.
But how do you choose what’s right for you in the middle of a pandemic when your mind hasn’t rested and your body hasn’t slept for days?
This was my prayer to God: I prayed for sleep. I prayed for rest in general—for my tired mind and body. I prayed for protection for me and my family. I prayed for peace of mind and a clear path for me to follow. I prayed for my job—for me to be able to sustain it.
I prayed for inspiration and an even stronger faith so that I can continue to help myself and others.I prayed for endurance one day at a time.
God blessed me with the gift of retrospection and introspection. I realized I was so thankful for the little things that I hadn’t noticed or hadn’t fully understood before. Things such as: needing to move to another house and it went smoothly, changing jobs, losing opportunities, and fighting all the homesick days. In those situations, as I look back, I got to know more about the person that I was—the one who still has a faith, unwavering. A faith that has grown with me, keeping me safe and calm.
So, here I am: in London. I stayed. On one hand my identity and responsibilities as a daughter have shifted these past few years, but on the other hand it stayed much the same. I’m still a daughter of God who relies on Him when I’ve done all I can do: when I’ve moved 10,000 kilometers, when I’ve endured a pandemic, when I couldn’t stay awake any longer.
And even as I sat alone in a country far away from my people, 10,798.70 kilometers, 6,710 miles away from the people who love me the most in the whole world, I knew that that distance was filled with God’s presence.
And all I had to do was to call to Him—the same God who holds the whole world, and everything and everyone in it—and I am home.
Thank you for listening.
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