Even as I utter my honest, albeit showbiz answer, "It was really part of my plan," I couldn't help but feel judged—berated, even—for not pursuing a future every Pinay would've wanted, that I unknowingly let everyone down by giving up on a dream I never set for myself. I should've stayed, right? I had a diploma from a top university, a job offer at a publishing house, and family in Staten Island. Why in the world would I ditch all that?
I took my master's in publishing at NYU in 2010, four years after college here.
I was 24 and consumed by my quarter life crisis, ready to take on a new adventure at all costs.
Studying abroad was an escape, a respite, a solution to everything. And once I had things figured out, I would come back.
New York was amazing. In the two years I was there, I woke up every day feeling like anything was possible. I met Daniel Radcliffe. Ricky Martin. Mr. Big from Sex and the City. I even broke into song with a bunch of strangers in the subway one night! Yes, I was utterly exhausted with an internship at NBC Universal's iVillage.com, a Monday-to-Thursday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. class, a graphic design sideline at NYU, and another part-time job as assistant editor for Working Mother magazine. All these, on top of my hour-and-a-half-long daily commute. But I was happy. I was figuring things out, like I said I would.
After graduation in May 2012, I had the option to stay for an entire year to either get sponsored for a work visa, or use the time for more on-the-job experience. Either way, I'd have to look for full-time employment. My visa didn't make it easy for me, but luckily, my former boss at Working Mother offered me an online position. I declined, sure it wasn't for me. Then I found the managing editor opening at Cosmo.ph.
I left the U.S. in October 2012, six months before my student visa expired. My return surprised even my closest friends—everyone assumed being happy abroad meant staying there for good.
But here's the truth: along with that happiness was an all-consuming panic about where my life was going to be after my visa expired. Did I want NY enough to risk giving up a sure (and frankly, fabulous) job in Manila for something uncertain and possibly disappointing? I decided I did not. Studying abroad was a pit stop; my real adventure was just about to begin.
Many assume I came back for love, but even my fiancé (now husband) would laugh at the idea, saying it was ultimately a career move that made me return. It's true, though—I wouldn't leave NYC six months earlier—or at all, if it weren't for Cosmo. I would've used up my stay, or perhaps asked my sister to petition my permanent residency. There was no way I'd come home without a back-up plan. I owed myself that.
My point is, I came home because my prospects were good—because they can be, for anyone. Especially if you are lucky enough to find a reason that makes every day you are back worth it.
Mine was this job. Taking care of my parents in their old age. Marrying the love of my life. So to those who ask why I came back, I merely followed my happiness. I hope you find your reason to stay, too, wherever your heart chooses its home.
Jillian Q. Gatcheco is Cosmo.ph's Editor-in-chief. Follow her on Instagram.
This story originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine, December 2014.
* Minor edits have been made by Cosmo.ph editors