Accept What Life Hands You

By: Francis Lloyd Sauza

Photos by: Alex Santiago

You never know from which direction something wonderful will come into your life. You might be so set on one thing in your mind but the universe has something else even more wonderful in store for you. If you are only looking in one direction you might miss it.

For Alex Santiago, a 28-year old Ilonggo Registered Nurse (RN) in Abu Dhabi, we must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.

For him, it’s good to have ideas, plans, and dreams, but they won’t always turn out as you imagine. It’s always best to keep an open mind and anticipate change. “Nursing was not really my first choice because I’m a people person. I was considering taking up Public Relations, Advertising, or Diplomacy and International Relations. I really did not see myself as a nurse when I was younger but we really can’t predict what will happen. My sisters then were the ones who influenced me to take up Nursing and I somehow joined the bandwagon because it was the popular choice among my friends way back in high school. In a scale of zero to ten, [and] ten being the highest degree of love to Nursing, I would rate my love to my career as a nine. I believe that we should all take the path that makes us truly happy. If some graduate nurses would rather not work as a professional nurse, I don’t see any problem with that. I have a lot of classmates back in nursing school who opted to be doctors, lawyers, or entrepreneurs who are now successful in their chosen fields. Being a nurse may be difficult, you have to spend sleepless nights on duty, work on holidays and deal with a diverse set of patients with different needs and demands. But despite of it all, it is very fulfilling to make a significant difference in the lives of people on their way to a healthy recovery or comfort. So, yes, I love being a nurse and I wouldn’t trade it for any career as of the moment.”

Just like Alex, it’s important to be focused on your dreams and visions but at the same time stay open to any and all possibilities.


Sometimes the things that scare us help us grow. Therefore you have to be willing to leave your comfort zone to grow not only as a human being but to push your own boundaries. Alex encourages anyone chasing dreams to be fearless. “Just go for it and leave your comfort zones. By then, you will realize that there is a bigger world out there waiting for you. I decided to work abroad for me to go out of my comfort zone and for practical reasons – to practice nursing according to international standards and at the same time receive a good pay.”

Just like Alex, do something out of your comfort zone today. Go into emotional areas that aren’t always comfortable or comprehensible. You have to be fearless about pursuing your dreams.


It’s so important to maintain the curiosity and sense of wonder that we have when we are young. The more we’re willing to stay open and remain curious about the world around us, the more we can discover and learn.

Alex has been so blessed to be able to travel so much over these last few years. One of the most profound things he witnessed while traveling was seeing how much we take for granted. “I have been working here in the UAE for more than three years now, and so far I did not have any major problems. People stereotyped the UAE just like the other Middle Eastern nations as a strict, no-fun Muslim country. But it’s all wrong. You have to come here to see that those stereotypes are not true. I guess it’s safe to say that it is one of the most cleanest, richest and safest nations in the world that provide expatriates like me some amazing opportunities. As a matter of fact, the UAE is one of the safest, cleanest and richest countries in the world. It is the home of the tallest building in the world, the only seven star hotel, the fastest rollercoaster, the biggest mosque and a whole lot more of world breaking records. From that alone, one can see that the UAE is a very progressive nation. I have been to several countries and even those other first world countries do not have the following: crime rates are close to zero percent, you can walk in the streets in the middle of the night without worrying somebody would just shoot or rob you, there are no beggars here, and every public toilet here is very clean. So, I’m A-okay living here.”

Be an explorer today. Stay open to anything and take a day [or week] seeing a new part of the world. Don’t take anything you see, hear, or touch for granted. Be willing to look more closely at everything and become a student of your environment.


As imperfect beings on this earth it’s important to always stay open, to keep growing and expanding. Growing up is difficult, and just when we think we are done growing, we realized we’ve only just begun. When Alex went to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), he thought his problems were over and done. The truth is he must always keep working on himself. “My life has dramatically changed since I started working here in the UAE. It was like a crash course to adulthood. Unlike nursing that I have been preparing and practicing for years, I did not prepare and anticipate that living away from home would be hard and lonely. Cooking meals, doing my laundry and basically all household chores were a burden to me. I have to learn to do it all. I guess this whole abroad experience has taught me to be independent and conquer the world on my own.”

It’s dangerously easy for us to get too comfortable, so it takes courage to move forward and accept change. Just like Alex, rise above any obstacles placed in your way so that you may become the person that you really are. When we change ourselves and seek to improve our lives we make the world a better place.


Alex doesn’t believe in coincidences. He’s a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. “Practicing nursing in the Philippines is a good training ground for any neophyte nurse. The lack of medical equipments, certifications and training would really push the Filipino nurse to make use of what resources are available and to learn from that experience. It may not be the ideal nursing scenario but at least the Filipino nurse working in the Philippine Health Care setting is ready for anything that may come their way. I worked as an ICU nurse at St. Paul’s Hospital Iloilo and as a Nurse Manager at Medicus Medical Center prior to going abroad. I believed that my working experience in both organizations has equipped me with the proper knowledge, skills and values to be competent in the international health care setting. You will have the same set of job and responsibilities as a nurse wherever you are in the world, the difference I guess would be in the amount of available resources, the practice standards and the clients to deal with.”


Everything that Alex has gone through he could not have done without the love, faith, and support of his family. Being around them brings him joy and he forgets about any problem or fear he has. “I miss my family, my friends and the food in Iloilo. There is no place like home. I still feel homesick every now and then that’s why I make it a point to have a vacation every four months. I think being alone and away with your family are biggest challenges to be in a foreign country.”

Just like Alex, soak up the love of your family today. Love them for everything they are and aren’t.


Our imaginations and the visions we allow ourselves to have are very significant. It’s important for all to feel that we can make our own dreams come true; Alex deeply believes that we can. But it takes work to do this; it doesn’t just magically happen. So let your imagination run wild with everything you want your life to be rather than laughing it away because it seems unfathomable. “I cannot conclude anything by now because literally, things can still change. I might still be practicing as a nurse or may be taking another career path, but one thing is for sure five to ten years from now, I will be with my family and loved ones contented and happy. I picture my dream life to be like this: being with my family and loved ones in my glass house by the lake in a quiet suburban town preferably in Italy (my favorite country) or in Iloilo [of which I don’t know any lakes]. I am still working on that dream life.  I think everyone is working on that goal.”

Allow yourself to think about every single thing you want your life to be. Embrace your vision for your life, and allow it to be the daily goal you are moving toward. It’s in your head for a reason. Just like Alex, make a list of your wishes, resolutions, and hopes for the future too.

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