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XOXO: A Confession

We all have stories we won’t ever tell.

But, have you ever imagine how liberating it would be once we let that story out into the open?

It was February 26, 2009. A year after my college graduation. I had to miss my nephew’s first birthday. It was my flight to Doha, Qatar. I left my beloved Philippines and put all my hopes in the bag. Hope for the brighter future.

I boarded the plane. My flight was luckily upgraded to business class. It was a comfortable and fancy journey. A good start for my brand new start. It was like an affirmation of what awaits me.

After nine hours, I finally reached my destination. I was greeted by my brother at the airport. The weather was amazing. It was winter. There were flowers everywhere. We headed to a famous shopping mall. I bought the essentials; toiletries, food, etc. After dinner, we went to this Venice, Italy – like spot. We rode the gondola. It was fun.

We headed home just in time for sleeping. Reality sets in. My brother’s place was like a slum. Tenants had to share the toilet and kitchen outside the compound. We lived on the second floor. So we had to go out of our house if we want to cook or use the toilet. It is cold during winter. Taking a shower is a challenge. It is still clear to me when I washed my clothes for the very first time. Our family is not rich but I don’t do my laundry. The washing machine in our compound is not automatic. I had to manually rinse and dry my clothes. I was crying while doing my laundry. But, I told myself to get used to it because I would have to deal with it for quite a while until we transfer into a more decent house. Right there and then I knew my journey won’t be easy and I was not even close to the end.

I came to Qatar on a tourist visa that is valid for a month. I had a hard time finding a job since I had no working experience. All I wanted that time was to work in an office and decorate my little cubicle just like what I see in movies. I sent my CV to every possible company, I ask referals from people. A week before my visa expires, I received an offer letter from a luxury department store. I was offered a sales job. It means I would have to let go of my goal to work in an office and do paper works; I will fold and arrange clothes instead. It was a make or break decision. Decline the offer and go home or accept the offer and stay. I have always wanted to give back to my family. But, I can’t swallow my pride. I may not be the best one in school but I did great during my school years. I studied in a good school. People believed in me. I believed in myself. My hopes were high.

I sighed. I cried. I prayed. I signed the job offer.

April 4, 2009. I removed my shoes. The pain was unbearable. I can’t even feel my legs. It was a gruesome first day of work. I never wanted to come back. A year later, I was still standing on the same spot, greeting customers, assisting them while trying on shoes and clothes. It went on for another year. I swallowed the last bit of pride, it took all my self-esteem. But, not my tiny bit of hope. Two years later, I decided to pursue my goal again. I tried to enter the corporate world. Luckily, I got a job offer. I immediately resigned from my job in sales. To my dismay, I was scammed. The offer isn’t legit. The company just closed. I had no idea why did they have to offer me a job if they knew that they are closing. Oh well. I was crushed. I watched my dreams die right before my very eyes. With nowhere to go. I just cried out loud. I was jobless for 2 months then I was told that if I will not find a new employer, my visa will be cancelled and I would have to go home. I had nothing. I wasn’t even done paying my loan from the bank. I didn’t know what to do. I only knew one thing; I can’t go home. I prayed for wisdom, for opportunities, for help. Then I got a call, the department store manager gave me an option. They will not cancel my visa if I will decide to work for them again. I tried my best to escaped that work and now I am being asked to come back. Maybe that is where I was really supposed to be. Maybe I should forget about my goals and just accept my fate. So I did. Same story. Same hardships. It turned all my self esteem into dust. I continued working without any goal but just to support my family and survive. I can’t even count how many shoes I have removed from people’s feet or how many hours I spent standing even if my knees were trembling and my feet were in pain. I lost count of the times when I had to hide in the fitting room, talk to myself in the mirror just to remind her that there is more to life only if I will give it a try.

By God’s grace, I was able to continue working there for two more years. Those years were hard. I was too proud to admit to my friends the kind of work that I do. Whenever I go on vacation in the Philippines, I would tell them that I work in the sales and marketing department. Only few knew my real work. I had to hide the truth from many people because I just can’t tell them. I was too scared to be judged, to be looked down, to be compared, to receive pity. I remember some of my friends in Doha would often invite me to go out during weekends but I always say no. I would tell them I had prior commitments or I was busy but the truth was I work on Fridays. I only get a day off in the middle of the week because the store is usually busy during the weekend. I often get invited to church activities and I couldn’t go even if I wanted to. I would make up excuses. I kept that as a secret for years. I lived with a fear in my heart that soon they will find out.

It was year 2013 when I had courage to try again. A friend referred me to a contracting company. I applied as an admin assistant and I got in. I permanently left my sales job. I will never forget the things it taught me. It was truly a humbling experience. It humbled me so much. But at the same time, it destroyed me. I was scarred. It left me strong but broken. I started having inferiority complex. I was overwhelmed with insecurities, self-pity, and self doubt. I always think that I deserve less so I always sell myself short. I never ask for more thinking that I deserve less. It still affects me up to this time. I know I have to set myself free.

Yes,  my experience didn’t turn out the way I pictured it to be when I left for Doha. I have never met a strong person with an easy past. I lost a part of myself in the process. But, I gained so much more. I learned to be strong when it was my only option. I learned to survive when there is nothing left to do. I learned that the effect the past has on me isn’t something that I want to carry to my future; even to my present. I want to let go of it. I want to empty myself so I can be filled again with so much greater things.

I have a habit of comparing myself to others. It is tiring. I don’t want it anymore. It’s tiring to please the world. It’s tiring to live a life of proving yourself to the world. It’s tiring to want less than what you deserve because you set limits to what you can achieve. It’s tiring to be trapped in a shell when you are meant to experience the world.

We all have stories we won’t ever tell but sometimes, sharing it no matter how ashamed or afraid you are can result to a beautiful thing called freedom.

Today, I am free. I am loved in spite and despite.

What’s your story?

XOXO,

Monsters In My Head (Under My Bed)

You are not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Not cool enough. You’re not even close to the normal standards of the world. Yes. Go ahead. Be insecure. Feel bad about yourself. Feel sorry for yourself. You are nothing but a tiny lonely dot in this big world. Insignificant. Worthless.

Those are some of the words that I am dealing with each time the monsters in my head get too talkative and start poisoning my mind with negative thoughts which eventually get the best out of me; Because I always believe them. I never thought how much power our thoughts have over us. They can easily swing us from a sunshine and happiness factory to a loneliness producing machine. These monsters usually haunt me in the middle of a quiet night when i am all alone and trying to get a decent amount of sleep. I have always thought that they are under my bed but later I realized that they are inside my head following me everywhere I go; whispering louder than my conscience and the friendly voices until I get convinced that I am nothing but a tiny insignificant dot in this big world. The struggle starts and it is real.

I was never somebody’s first choice. I always have to prove myself to people. I have to prove that I am worth their time. I am worth their attention. I remember growing up, I get compared a lot with my cousins. “How come you never wear slippers? Look at your cousin, she has clean feet because she always wears her slipper. How come you are not close to your dad? Look at how close is your cousin to her dad.” Etcetera. Then, on our elementary graduation, I tried my best to be the class valedictorian but someone is always better than I am so I ended up being just the class salutatorian. It is not that my parents are pressuring me to be the best. My parents are the most understanding parents. It is just that I feel the need to achieve something grand; to do something with significance. To be the first at least once in my life.

Then, I grew up and went to high school. That was the time in my life when I achieved a lot. I was the school’s student council president, I was the school paper’s editor in chief, I have competed and won a series of news writing contests on different levels. I even made it to the National level. My teachers were so proud of me. They strongly believed that I will succeed and achieve more in college. And, for a time, I thought I would to.

Here comes college. This is the time when you will start putting your life in perspective. This is the time when you’ll really start building your dreams. The preparation stage for your future career. This is when you will realize that there are hundreds, thousands or even more people who are better than you. Suddenly, I realized that all my achievements in high school don’t matter anymore. I was the average college student. I am the kind of student teachers don’t know exist unless I make my presence known. I have only made it to the honor’s list a few times but I never really excelled in college. I am just the student who studies to pass not to be on the honor roll. I wouldn’t even pass algebra and statistics if I hadn’t been seated beside one of the top students in our class. The monsters in my head told me I should stop trying to achieve some thing and just be okay with the fact that at least I don’t have any failing grades. So, I graduated college. I am just glad I did. No special awards, no recognition, just a single tiny dot in the crowd of students who can’t wait to conquer the “real world” and start building their career.

 Going out into the real world and stepping out of your comfort zone are not easy. It requires a lot of wisdom and courage. You can’t just apply to any available job just for the sake of experience because each step that you will take is a step towards where you want to be. But, you can’t be choosy especially when you are trying to land your first job. After a series of job applications, I have finally decided to give in to my family’s plan to send me to Qatar and work there instead of using all my energy and money looking for a job that will not pay me enough. A year after graduation, I just found myself taking the flight to Doha, Qatar with all my dreams and high hopes in the bag. My life has never been the same since then.

The “real world” is truly harsh. I won’t elaborate on that but my first few years in Doha was not a walk in the park. It destroyed my self esteem. The monsters followed me even if I flew oceans away from them. “Settle for this job because you can’t do better than this. Accept harsh treatment from people because that’s what you deserve. Sell yourself short because you have nothing better to offer.” So, I settled. I have been settling for years and to be honest, I kinda forgot how to believe in myself anymore. I am not even a work in progress. I’m stagnant. Not moving on; not moving forward; not moving at all.

I have been dealing with these monsters in my head for a while now. They leave me restless. They leave me insecure. They leave me frustrated. They leave me struggling.

Then I thought, maybe someday I will be good enough, smart enough, pretty enough and cool enough. Maybe someday the standards of the world won’t apply to me. Maybe someday these monsters in my head will leave me alone. Maybe someday I won’t settle. Maybe someday I will be somebody’s first choice. Maybe someday I won’t have to prove myself anymore. Maybe someday I will find the significance of the tiny place I occupy in this great big world. Maybe someday I will know to whom I belong.

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I BELONG TO GOD. I AM GOD’S BELOVED.

And, someday I will befriend these monsters in my head.