I spent my December holidays back in Metro Manila with friends and family. I had a lovely time catching up with everyone; next time I’ll plan better though, as there were a lot of folks I didn’t get to see.

To be quite honest though, I felt a bit like a stranger in a familiar land. I mean, true, I haven’t been gone for long; however, there were things I hadn’t thought I’d forgotten about. In particular, almost all of my heuristics for path finding and navigating through the metropolis, as well as my strategies for just plain dealing with the low-level background stress levels of Metro Manila, were shadows of their former selves. I discovered quite quickly that I had gotten used to living in Sydney.

I mean, for instance: I had completely lost any idea of how long it’d take to get from point A to point B. Before moving, I’d have been able to plot at least a reasonable guesstimate about how long travel would take – maybe I’d be off by 15 minutes or so, but I’d be at least within some reasonable distance from reality.

I’d planned to meet a friend for dinner somewhere in Ortigas; I’d be coming from my parents’ house over in Las Piñas, about 25km away. I left at 1:30pm, intending to be in Ortigas at 4:30pm – after a brief stopover somewhere in BGC, about 5km from Ortigas.

I ended up meeting my friend at 6pm, which wasn’t great; he was thankfully understanding, especially with the traffic situation around the holidays.

I hadn’t really realized that I had unconsciously dropped all those strategies I had developed over the years of being a denizen of Metro Manila. I had thought that those were ingrained, that I’d find them the moment I went back. I was so wrong on that front – and maybe, in a way, I could chalk it up to my own adaptability.

In the 15 months of living in Sydney, I had adapted by developing other heuristics and strategies; I had learned to deal with the subtle differences and expectations of social contact; I had internalized them enough that they were part of the background noise of the everyday.

Of course, I completely understand in hindsight why things played out as such; after all, the entire idea of us humans living our lives with such heuristics is to reduce the cognitive burden of daily life. If we had to think through every single action we made, we’d be overwhelemed. We instead use these shortcuts instead to deal, and my brain just decided that the old shortcuts no longer were needed (for the most part).

Previously: Going Dark