Today, a reader from the Philippines sent me a very emotional e-mail. She said her mother won’t support her dreams of traveling the world; that her mother thinks traveling is a waste of time and money; that there is no future for her when she goes out here; that she should work hard and focus on being rich.
I paused. Of all the reader questions I’ve answered in the past year, this one seemed to be difficult. I clicked “reply” but couldn’t type any word. I don’t know what to say and I haven’t answered her until now. I wanted to help her. I wanted to talk to her mother but then, I remember you told me to never judge a parent on how they raise their children.
Where we are from, everything is built on societal pressure. You should be this, you should be that, you should do this, you should do that. Now I am wondering why I am allowed to live so freely while the majority of my age are struggling to earn a lot of bucks, just because they were told it’s the ‘right thing to do.’
How did you do it? How did you accept the way of life that I chose? How can you raise someone like me who always thinks the other way and who’s always hungry for experiences? I remember when I was 13, I begged you to allow me to go to a rock concert in Manila (4-hr bus ride from home) and you said “no.” Just this moment, while writing this, I came to realise I never understood the word “no.” I told myself, if I don’t go now, I will miss my favourite rock band on the planet and just cry myself to sleep at home. If I go, yeah, you will be mad, you will definitely shout at me and ground me but I will fulfil my dream of going to the most amazing concert of my teenage rocking years.
I took the bus and went to Manila without telling you. I did not take drugs, don’t worry but let me tell you, I had the greatest time of my life. The following day, I came back home — armed for your yelling and maybe slapping but you did not say anything. The day just went normal and I became more guilty of being a difficult teenager. I behaved well and did my best in school. Well, that wasn’t the last time. I did a lot of crazier things growing up that can pass to be a telenovela piece. I definitely abused your silent treatment. “Oh, look! She doesn’t mind if I do crazy things”, I thought. Do you remember how much crying I’ve put you through? Or how much energy I sucked the hell out of you just because I cannot stay put?
How did you do it?
You always said I am the bomb of the family. I come home with different surprising things. I can explode anytime. One minute I wanted to be a doctor; another to take scuba diving lessons; then quit my tennis career; the list goes on.
Then one day, I came to you, out of nowhere and said, “I got accepted in a Fashion University in Italy.” I don’t remember if you gave me the what the f*ck face or the other way around. I told you two months before school started with the Italy-is-close-to-home-kind-of-tone. This daughter is crazy! She speaks like Italy is just 4 hours away! I know it was wrong but I didn’t want to tell you not unless I was sure I was getting in the program. Oh, I remember you looking at me and saying, “yes, you will go” but I was really worried because I know you didn’t have much resources to send me to school abroad for such short notice.
After that, you didn’t say any word about finances. I got really worried. Can we afford this? Should I back out? I then talked to Papi and told him how I felt about going to school in Italy. You know what he told me? “Do not worry about the money. That’s our problem. The only thing you need to think about is getting there and finishing school.”
Then I lived in Europe. Not feeling I was lacking anything. How did you do that?!
Milan was a beautiful experience and I got to travel to a lot of cities in Europe while I was studying. I came back to the Philippines and you were very happy. I got job offers in the Fashion Industry left and right. I lived in the capital for a long time and I only went home for the holidays. You accepted that. I was doing very well with my job and how I live.
After a year, I dropped the bomb again.
“Mom, I have to tell you something.”
“Are you pregnant?!” You assumed because I was then dating this boy whom I thought I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. “No, I am moving with Francisco.” It was long pause and I didn’t know what you were thinking. She’s moving to where? To Argentina? What? With who? With that boy I barely know? What about her career in fashion? We sent her to Europe to study and now she wants to do a different thing again?
But still, you let me be. You helped me sell all my stuff before finally moving and starting a life on the other side of the globe. Were you worried? South America is freaking far from our home! Did I make it difficult for you to sleep at night? I was doing well with Francisco but then, I dropped another bomb. Damn, these bombs keep coming!
This must be the most terrifying bomb I dropped all your life. Francisco and I broke up and you asked me to go home. To reconnect. To heal and be surrounded by family. I don’t have any idea why I didn’t take it. That sounds very comforting but I know, again, I broke your heart when I said, “No. I am staying and I will continue traveling.” As always, you let me be. I think I learned a lot from you letting me be. You’ve always given me the chance to explore life; to get up on my own when things go wrong. Best of all, you’ve always had the trust I am capable of doing things.
Look, I am here in South America for nearly two years now and I made it! I am alive and kicking! Though you still send me links of bad news about South America every now and then, I know you are already confident I can make it anywhere. Thank you so much for being so supportive. Growing up, I never felt being restricted by you. Not even a little. I’ve been always free to choose what I want to do. You let me discover things on my own; you allowed me to make beautiful mistakes and learn from it. I can never ever ask too much from you. I am sorry for all the pain I put you through, just to find what I want in life. I have made choices that are very different from yours and I know that any mother who watches her child do something she hasn’t done herself is scary. But as you told me, the more you see me in this world, the prouder you are. Thank you so much, mami!
Now, I am 26, with no boyfriend, no rent to pay, no plans of where to go next and probably dropping another bomb soon — always remember, my home is wherever you and Papi are.
Cheers! Let’s keep dancing.