There were many times I wanted to quit. So many times that I lost count. Despite the laborious amount of work and sacrifices I have to make, I refused to give in. Even when it took me years to see the results I envisioned, I stood up and gave myself the best fight.
It was in 2012 when I first heard the word freelance writing. I was still in college when my classmate introduced it to me.
At that time, I was at the top of the game. I was part of the highest student government in one of the prestigious universities in the country. So, I ignored her suggestion. Besides, my schedule was too full, too hectic, too fast-paced to entertain it.
The next year, I received my university diploma. I forced myself to smile as I shook hands with the big guys. One was my professor, who was then a department head, the university president, and a highly-profile guest.
2013 was supposed to be a great moment for me. Yet, when I faced my fellow graduates, I thought of the kind of life that awaits us after this graduation day. As the adults say, the reality. What is reality? Does anyone of you ask the same thing?
I remembered how anxious I was that I had no energy to throw my graduation cap as others did. While others screamed their joys, I remained silent. It was strange. Rather than feeling excited about what lies ahead, I felt scared.
While the ceremony went on, I was in tears. Fear hugged me so tightly that I had no space for a reward. Why do I deserve it if I failed to get graduate with flying colors? If I had 0.22 more on my GPA, I could have made my parents more proud. I should have done it better so my parents will be proud of me.
Both mom and dad worked so hard that they had no time to play with me. I spent most of the day for 5 to 6 days with my mom’s younger sister, Delia. For years, I only saw my parents once a week.
Though the situation was hard to understand, my aunt never failed to remind me of their sacrifices to keep us alive. It was fun with her around, as if I got used to my parents’ absence.
We often listened to her favorite band. At times, we played the guitar, and she taught me how to play it.
Despite my self-doubt, she encouraged me to spend my afternoon breaks in the school choir. To my surprise, I was the soprano.
When I felt down, she cooked some hot champorado (chocolate rice porridge) for me. The tasty aroma of her well-cooked homemade food filled the house from breakfast to dinner.
Though I barely saw my parents more often than others, I had no bad feelings towards them. Fortunately, Aunt Delia explained our situation and made sure I understood what went on.
Rather than resenting my parents, I respected and admired how they set aside comfort for the sake of us. I felt grateful for their efforts to guarantee to have three decent meals a day. Although at times, we had no choice but to survive with leftover rice and used oil to taste.
If I wished to be greedy, my family would have starved. If I forced one of my parents to stay at home and play with me, we might end up having no food on the table. Plus, my younger sister’s poor health added to the piling debts. So, I placed my needs aside and chose not to become a burden because they already have enough on their plate.
Despite all that, I tried to be as optimistic as I could. As much as I wanted to spend more time with my parents, I understood why it was impossible. The situation was okay for me until Aunt Delia suddenly decided to permanently stay with Aunt Sari, my mom’s older sister.
I had to adjust to the new situation. I knew that when I arrived home from school, no one would greet me or ask how I did that day. It took me years to convince myself that she’s not coming back.
As my parents were often away or arrive home too late, I felt terrified to accept the fact that there’s nobody I could talk to anymore. My aunt’s not there to ask how my day was. Even if I played her favorite music won’t suffice. The house felt empty as I could no longer hear her whistles following the tune of the song.
I missed her. But as much as I wanted to, there is nothing I could do. It made me feel worthless, thinking I couldn’t do anything to convince her to return. Even if I wanted to share my thoughts with my parents, I knew they wouldn’t care unless it’s something that would affect my grades.
As a young child, I had to learn how to suppress my feelings and denied my emotional need. Over time, I was hungry for compliments. I missed my aunt so much that I decided to please my parents.
Maybe, I thought that becoming their perfect daughter will make them say those words I missed to hear again. So, I didn’t mind spending most of my time building a reputation at school. Desperate, I did everything I can to make them say, “We’re proud of you.”
In contrary to what I expected, life betrayed me. My long-list of accomplishments at school was nothing in the real world. I applied to more than 50 schools nearby. I received 50.
No big schools called me back until the new school year started in June. At the last minute, I received a call from a school principal willing to hire me.
Although I only earned $100 per month, I endured working full-time more than 10 hours a day—from 6 in the morning until the classes end at 4 in the afternoon. Excluding the extra hours for lesson planning until midnight.
And the worst part?
The school had no enough teachers to handle extra-curricular activities. So, they assigned them to me.
Sometimes, I thought I was a slave. I never thought that such an accomplished young lady would end up like that. I felt miserable, although I passed two difficult national exams while working full-time.
Albeit my efforts, they seemed inadequate. I tried to be the best in everything. But all they said was, “Do something better.” There was nothing more exhausting and dreading than that.
However, my parents never understood my decision. It was hard for them to imagine an achiever without a job. I mean, a real job. They compared me with other cousins, who are less academically gifted than I am. They felt discouraged to see me staying at home for days to write for nothing. They never listened to me.
In mid-2015, I only saw chaos. It was as if nobody likes me at home and work. And even if I tried to do my best, nothing worked. I often displeased the editors at work and my parents at home.
It was a bad situation for me to the extent that I began to ask myself if I deserve to call myself a writer. Ironically, pursuing what I love had led me to depression and to develop an eating disorder. I cannot blame myself. After all, I already lost control over my life except for my body.
People may see me as a smart woman. But nobody was there to know what kind of life I was heading. Every time I felt pain in my body, mostly self-inflicted, I thought I deserved it. Every time I skipped a meal, it was an accomplishment. And as the numbers on the scale went down, I felt a strange sense of relief.
Recently, I mustered the courage to self-introspect—way back from my earliest memory down to the present. I tried to remember as many details of my life as I could and as long as I could.
When I did, it was like watching old silent films. Every time I remember each moment, tears crawled down my face. I tried to make an effort into experiencing my thoughts without an attempt to control them.
Frankly, it was terrifying to realize how much of those memories you have forgotten about yourself. Never had I imagined how pleasing others could destroy a person like that to the point I almost lost half of my life.
Unless we share similar stories, you cannot imagine how painful it felt to forget those valuable, precious parts to complete the puzzle. It was like your brain stopped processing them because they were too painful to bear.
While going through this painful process, I decided to write about my experience. For me, sharing my story will help you realize the detrimental effects of pleasing others than yourself.
Here’s what I learned over the years. You will never be successful in whatever you do if you have no idea who you truly are.
If you refuse to spend time on things more valuable to you, on what is real to you, it is no different than living underneath the ground to die and decay.