I once felt really lonely just like this little boat in the middle of the sea, looks so sad and lonely. ©Heang Sokuntheary/2018
Stepping onto the bus was a turning point for me. The morning was clear, and the bus was filled with many people going to Phnom Penh. Not many people in my village could afford to move to the city, so I was lucky.
I was 16 when I arrived in Phnom Penh for the first time. After passing the grade-12 national exam, my heart filled with excitement for university. I packed my bags in one night, and later that morning, I was on my way to fulfil my dream.
To be honest, I didn’t know what my future was gonna hold. I didn’t have any relatives here in Phnom Penh, and I was here for the very first time. Fortunately, I knew a senior from my high school who came to Phnom Penh as well, so I took the chance to ask her if she wants to become flatmates.
In a clear blue sky, the busy construction below roaring around Phnom Penh city. ©Heang Sokuntheary/2018
Coming here, my purpose was to get a scholarship to university and study the major I wanted. So, I laid my hands on every scholarship I could find. Two months before the scholarship examinations, I was preparing so much, especially my English. I didn’t know much English when I was in high school, but I was determined to get better.
I found affordable and convenient preparation courses at one tutoring school (Chey Thavy), and it greatly helped me. I studied in the morning, and afterwards, I would read the English texts, practice grammar, or do the mock tests in my shared house. Finally, I passed the scholarship exam and got into the school I wanted to study in. First goal: success.
All those desperate moments
From the outside, you might only see my small success and seemingly happy life, right? But, there are some things I want to share with you about my early experience coming from the province to study in Phnom Penh. (If you’re from the province and reading this, I’m sure you can relate to me 100%).
First things first, I got really homesick. I would feel sad immediately after coming back from school, opening the door to my dark, silent, and empty room. I got sad because I wasn’t used to this kind of environment. I lived in the open countryside before I came here, and the surrounding was very different.
When I heard kids playing outside, my mind would drift to my little sister and brothers at home. We used to play and laugh together, just like the kids near my room in Phnom Penh. We talk, we argue, we fight, we share and we love each other. And that’s what made me miss them so bad.
The four of us; sibling on the desert in front of our house. ©Heang Sokuntheary/2018
When I was exhausted and hungry, I always hoped I would come home to a tasty homemade meal that my mom prepared, but that was only wishful thinking. Not only was my room dark and lonely, it also had no food. I remember skipping a lot of meals, and replacing them with bread instead.
In the times that I got sick, I wanted to feel the care and love from my loved ones, but there were only a pillow and blanket to keep me warm. I felt desperate and wanted to cry every time I fell ill. And the bad news is, I was sick a lot, mostly from my old illness and high fever. However, still being sick, I had to pull myself together and tell my mom that I was all right.
When I was going through some life problems, I wished I had someone I could talk to. Back in my high school days, my mom and my grandma were my life counsellors. I talked to them about friends at school, peoples’ dishonesty, my studies, and life in general. But when I was here alone, I didn’t know how to think or process all the problems. I didn’t really want to bother them over the phone. It was hard keeping everything to myself.
The lonely path. ©Khun Khemsonita/2018
I used to cry myself to sleep every night, missing my family terribly. At one point, I received the news that my grandma got into an accident and broke her waist bone. Until now she still can’t get up and therefore has to stay in bed. Back then, these news made me go crazy. I really wanted to go to my family, but with exams coming up, I decided to stay focused on my study instead.
Furthermore, I repeatedly ran out of money. Even when I took on some part-time jobs, I could barely cover my living expenses, and had to ask for help from my family. I come from a family of teachers, so the money was tight back at home, too. I was constantly facing financial issues; so often that I learnt not to spend any money on unnecessary items and that the less I spend the better.
But I never forgot to pick myself up.
However, I always picked myself up every time I felt desperate. There were many things I did, which I want to share with you in case you find them beneficial.
- Reading is the best medicine for feeling lonely
Of course, one of the most regular things I did was reading. You’d never know how much a book can help you to escape reality until you get to read one. Back then, my English wasn’t that good, so the books I read were mostly fairy tales for kids and some world encyclopedia books. If you feel lonely, bored or homesick, I recommend you read novels because they activate your imagination and creativity, too.
- Make some time to talk to your family on the phone
Call or text your family members regularly is my second rule. Because I was away, I didn’t want to drift apart from them. I missed them so much, so I always made time to call them at least once every two days, but mostly I did it every day. I highly advise you to maintain a close relationship with your loved ones because I believe “One cannot live alone in the world.” Also staying in touch with your family will make you happy as well.
- Write a diary for your inner thoughts
Keeping a diary is my next advise to you. If you like writing, keeping a daily report of your life is perfect. Not only could writing pretty much ease your mind, but it is a great way to track your life’s journey. Your everyday thoughts, and the life lessons you learn every single day. It’s the solution for most of your problems.
- Do housework and keep yourself busy
Another tip is to do chores around the house as a help to overcome hard times. In my experience, making myself busy actually helped me to forget my worries. If I were in really deep thought, I could even reflect on my daily activities, and plan ahead in my mind as well.
- Spend time alone and reflect
The light inside of your head that could lit up effective reflection of your live. ©Heang Sokuntheary/2018
Besides keeping busy, don’t forget your alone time. I suggest you to pick a day of a week or a month, and reserve it just for yourself to connect with your inner thoughts and reflect on your life. That way, you can get a clear picture of why you are unhappy, or why you are happy, and how to make yourself happy. One more thing, your favorite music is also the best cure for loneliness. Put on your headphones, and enjoy yourself.
- Chit-chat with your favorite people
Talking to people can also help with the healing process. When you talk to someone, you may learn about numerous new opportunities you could add to your life, too. Besides, you are also able to speak your mind, which helps when dealing with problems.
- Do not forget to reward yourself
I especially like to go to this type of place to relax because it very much remind me of my hometown. ©Heang Sokuntheary/2018
Last but not least, treat yourself. Facing every day is hard work, so don’t forget to reward yourself with delicious ice cream or your favorite food at the end of the day. To be honest, I always reward myself for everything I’ve done which I thought was special. It’s a feeling of happiness, and I’ve found it is a great source of motivation for me.
The list is getting longer and longer, but I would like to stop here. I hope all of these experiences I had could help you to live on your own with happiness. By any chance, have you ever felt like I did when you first started to live by yourself? I would be grateful if you shared your stories below. I’d love to hear them!
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.