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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,

Exit

Exit: noun. A way out. I had this conversation with a friend a while ago. He told me “sabi nila minsan gagaan if i-try bitawan yung nagpapabigat.” (They said, sometimes, it will be lighter if we will let go of the things that are weighing us down.). Then, we found ourselves talking about exits. This is what I told him, “We have this thing called emergency exit…this exit is for those who want to go out for a while to rest even if they are still far from the final exit. We also have the fire exit… this is for those who need to go out even if they don’t want to yet just because it’s not healthy for them to stay inside. Lastly, the final exit. You can’t avoid this one because this is the end of the road. It’s not important whether you win or lose; what’s important is you reached this point which means you didn’t give up. That still makes you a winner.”

I guess most of us are caught in the middle most of the time. Torn between decisions that could either make or break us. Torn between two lovers. Torn between someone who loves us and someone we love. Torn between pursuing and just admiring from afar. Torn between wants and needs. Torn between staying in a job we hate and passing that resignation letter. Torn between whether to keep going or give up. The line is endless. People will constantly be torn in between things because that’s what life is about; it’s about making decisions, about taking chances, about choosing what is best for us.

“Sa bawat isang bagay na pinipili mo, meron kang libo-libong bagay na tinatalikuran.” (In every single thing that you choose, you have thousand things to abandon.) This is why we should be wise in making our choices because we can’t undo things once it’s done. The only thing left for us to do is to face the consequences of our decisions. But, the truth is, there is no right or wrong decision, we just have to make a decision and make it right. Do whatever it takes to make it right. It’s either you win or you learn.

I am not a risky person. I always play it safe. I always settle. I always think that what I have is exactly what I deserve. Maybe that’s why I don’t always get what I want. That sucks. Yeah, it does.

But, until when should we really fight for what we want? When should we give up? When should we head to the exit? Which exit should we take? Emergency exits are everywhere. It’s an unlimited lifeline. When things get harder to bear, you don’t necessarily have to let go or to stop. Rest is a must. It allows you to think clearer. To think about your next steps until you’re ready to go inside again. Do whatever it takes to win. But, when it really gets too tiring without any sight of the silver lining and you are so exhausted in finding the right way out to the point that you are losing yourself along the way, I guess it’s time to take the fire exit before you get burned. Burns cause permanent scars. Scars are good, though. They remind you that you fought a good fight. A scarred soldier fought the hardest. Good job. Not getting what you want doesn’t mean you lost the battle, sometimes, losing means winning. You’ve just won yourself back. You have learned how to acknowledge defeat by knowing when to stop. Then, here comes  the final exit. This is where it all ends. This is the finished line. This is the sign that you made it. That even if you took the fire exit, it still lead you here. Pat yourself at the back. You were great in there. If you’re lucky enough, sometimes, life lets you go out of the final exit with the prize in your hand. Hold it with pride. You deserve it. Enjoy it. Take care of it. But, really, just the fact that you made it through every agonizing part of the journey and you made it at this point, you’ve already won. Not all winners have trophies, some only have lessons. Take the final exit. Go out with pride. Proceed to the next journey. After all, every exit is an entrance to somewhere else. You’ll never know what the next journey will bring. Maybe you never get what you wanted because you are meant to get something better. Something that you deserve and who deserves you too. Something that will make all the scars, rejections and pain worth it. By that time, I assure you, you will never have to let go.

So, to you, my friend, keep going. The road may still be long but keep going. As what you’ve said, don’t lose a battle without a fight. See you at the end of the line.